Garrett Bradley

Portland International Film Festival preview: 5 picks to click from (virtual) PIFF

Marc Mohan picks a handful of favorites from this year's 44th annual festival, much of which is online

Last year’s Portland International Film Festival was among the first cultural events truncated by the spread of COVID-19, and at the time it seemed impossible that the pandemic would continue to be inhibiting normal life when the 2021 edition rolled around. Nevertheless, here we are, albeit with more than a glimmer of hope that seeing movies in public with strangers might once again be possible relatively soon. Then again, that’s what we thought 11 ½ months ago…

“Minari” screens as part of PIFF’s opening-night celebration

In any event, the Northwest Film Center has made PIFF, like many other film festivals, a mostly online experience. Unlike most other film festivals, PIFF has a ready-made, pandemic-friendly resource at its disposal—namely, the Drive-In Theatre at Zidell Yards, where it has hosted popular outdoor screenings over the last several summers. With any luck, fickle March weather won’t put too much of a damper as Zidell Yards hosts both the fest’s opening-night Cinema Unbound Awards on Friday and a diverse lineup of crowd-pleasers for the duration, March 5-14.

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The big news this week was the announcement that, as of Friday, February 12, Portland’s movie theaters, like its restaurants, will be able to reopen on a limited basis. None of the metro area theaters have announced plans to sell tickets or rentals to the public immediately, but it is at least a small symbolic step back toward normalcy. Let’s not screw it up this time, eh?

Cinema Unbound Awards

With the 44th Portland International Film Festival on the virtual horizon, the Northwest Film Center has announced the recipients of the second annual Cinema Unbound Awards, which will be presented at a drive-in ceremony on March 4 (which will also be streamed live online). Gus Van Sant, the director who put Portland on the independent cinema map, will get one. So will British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen (“Small Axe,” “12 Years a Slave”), filmmaker and artist Garrett Bradley (whose “Time” is one of the best documentaries of the year), producer Mollye Asher (the Oscar contender “Nomadland”), and animation producer Alex Bulkley (currently overseeing Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion, Portland-shot “Pinocchio”). Presenters will include del Toro, “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao, and Portland icons Walt Curtis and Thomas Lauderdale (gee, I wonder who they’ll be presenting to?).

‘Two of Us’

Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa in “Two of Us”

This Golden Globe nominee, Oscar contender, and late-career highlight for star Barbara Sukowa centers on two women who’ve been neighbors, and secret lovers, for decades. Now that Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) has been widowed, they have a chance to move from Paris to Rome and live out their lives together. But Madeleine, despite pressure from Nina (Sukowa), hesitates to reveal the truth to her adult children. When she suffers a debilitating stroke, Nina undertakes a bittersweet masquerade to remain close to the woman she loves, and who she knows loves her.

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