Oregon film industry

Derek Sitter: Exploring the ties between privilege and trauma

The Bend filmmaker hopes his ‘Tutu Grande,’ in the upcoming McMinnville Short Film Festival, will spur discussions about power, greed, and consequences

Derek Sitter’s film Tutu Grande is little more than 12 minutes long, but it’s surely the most excruciating, difficult-to-watch of the 127 films the McMinnville Short Film Festival will screen later this month. It’s also one of the best. Given the #MeToo movement, it’s in sync with the cultural zeitgeist. The film has won a slew of awards on the festival circuit and is nominated for a Grand Jury Award at the McMinnville festival, which begins Feb. 18. Watching it is like pulling the pin from a hand grenade and waiting for the explosion.

I very nearly didn’t watch it, because even a glimpse of the poster or the trailer suggests that one will be subjected to torture porn. Indeed, the opening shots offer visual cues — a man bound to a wooden slab, a stash of surgical equipment on a nearby table, and the snapping of rubber gloves by the captor — that seem swiped from Hostel or Saw. The narrative (spoilers ahead) consists of little more than a darkly comic monologue masquerading as a conversation (and a mostly quiet one at that) delivered by a father to the young man who raped his daughter.

When the grenade does explode, it’s not as you expect. A surprise awaits the rapist, sitting in the shadows.

Derek Sitter, director of "Tutu Grande," has spent more than 30 years doing stage and film work and also owns the Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend (currently closed because of COVID).
Derek Sitter, director of “Tutu Grande,” has spent more than 30 years doing stage and film work and also owns the Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend (currently closed because of COVID).

Sitter wrote the story and directed it with cinematographer Taylor Morden behind a single camera. He also plays Jesse, the father, in an understated but pitch-perfect performance. His wife, Jeanne Sanders, plays the rapist’s mother. A few short shots hold her in the frame for less than 30 seconds, but that’s possibly the most agonizing and emotionally truthful segment of the film.

Jared, the young man who spends Tutu Grande prone at a roughly 45-degree angle, is played by Nathan Woodworth. He speaks few lines but with extraordinary subtlety and nuance conveys oceans of meaning, largely with his face. Woodworth has done film and theater work in Oregon and California, including the lead role in Johnny Got His Gun, a stage production a few years ago in Los Angeles by The Actors’ Gang and directed by Tim Robbins.

Sitter is something of a rock star in Bend’s cultural scene. Family connections brought him there a decade ago, and he spent a year and a half remodeling a concrete warehouse and wood mill into the 2,500-square-foot Volcanic Theatre Pub on the city’s west side. Bend Source Weekly’s reader poll has regularly named it the city’s favorite indoor venue since it opened in 2013, and the theater is a hotbed of creativity — live music, stand-up comedy, film screenings, and live theater — from The Blasters to David Mamet’s American Buffalo. It hosts, in a non-COVID year, some 225 events. Sitter also teaches acting classes there, and for several years, Woodworth was among his students.

Continues…

McMinnville Short Film Festival is long on innovation

This weekend's eighth annual event includes 50 films from around the world

On any given day, Coming Attractions Theatres’ multiplex in McMinnville screens 10 films. But this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9 and 10, in the theater’s 208-seat auditorium, you can see 50 – and you don’t have to sit for 18 hours straight to do it.

This weekend’s 8th Annual McMinnville Short Film Festival is a considerably larger and more polished affair than when it began with a single screening that included “movies” clearly shot on iPhones. This year’s crop comprises high-quality shorts shot by professionals on high-end equipment with full production crews. Portland is represented well, obviously, but an impressive international showing includes movies from Israel, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and Germany. Each of the four screenings runs from 80 to 110 minutes, no film runs more than 20, and you can talk to many of the filmmakers at the end of each show.

A common thread that emerges from talking with both filmmakers and festival attendees is that once they go, they’re likely to return. “I have been to the McMinnville festival, and I’m a fan,” said Tim Williams, who heads the state agency Oregon Film. “I love that they get so many filmmakers there, I very much enjoy their keynote speakers, and I love that it is in the middle of wine country, which means there’s good food and drink in your free time.”

Nancy and Dan Morrow spent years running a successful and eclectic video store in McMinnville. Today, they’re helping keep film alive by hosting the McMinnville Short Film Festival.

How did this happen? Why did it happen here?

The festival is the brainchild of Dan and Nancy Morrow, who until a few years ago owned the coolest video store in Oregon outside Movie Madness in Portland. Operating out of a house built in 1908 across Oregon 99W from Linfield College, the Morrows over 15 years built Movietime Video into an essential resource for hard-core film buffs. Sure, they had the latest Hollywood blockbusters and mainstream fare, but they also packed the shelves with foreign and art films, cult classics, Americana gems from the TCM Vault, and manga.

The TV wall alone was astonishing and offered the same breadth and variety available in every other section. Not only could you get Game of Thrones or The Sopranos, but you also could find throwbacks like Adam-12, Perry Mason, or even Tenspeed and Brownshoe. (Full disclosure: For a couple of years, I did some freelance writing for the store.) When Movietime shut its doors in April 2016, joining the nationwide wave of locally owned indie video-store closures, it felt like a funeral. (They have since converted the building into The Gallery at Ten Oaks, which features work by Oregon artists.)

The Morrows started the festival in 2011, building on the experience of a film competition they’d sponsored earlier that year for McMinnville’s UFO Festival. One screening was held in the local community center. Year by year, the event grew. Submissions started to climb and the films kept getting better. They partnered with Coming Attractions so audiences could see the work on a big screen. Screenings were added. The festival also booked speakers; in 2015, filmmaker Will Vinton gave the keynote address.

Continues…