The Rainier Independent Film Festival is focused on film – and on filmmakers.
Filmmakers and festival co-directors Win and Sarah Whittaker of Ashford created the event after their own time on the festival circuit.
“It came from looking at the different film festivals that we went to, and thinking, ‘Wow, it would be neat to have something like that up at Mount Rainier,” said Win Whittaker, who directed the 2002 documentary “Sherpa: The Proving Grounds.” “We took what we liked about each festival and left what we didn’t like.”
The result is a festival that focuses on filmmakers. This year’s festival, happening today through Sunday in Ashford and Mineral, will show 28 films in a variety of styles and lengths.
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“We roll out the red carpet for everybody – even if you made a 3-minute short film,” said Sarah Whittaker, who is Win’s wife and was the cinematographer for “Sherpa.”
In addition to having years of film industry experience, the Whittakers own Whittaker’s Bunkhouse and have connections with other area hotels.
“We can provide a free place to stay,” she said. “Most independent filmmakers are maxing out their credit cards to get their films made, and when Win and I went to festivals, we had to pay for our own places to stay.”
Twelve of the films screened will have filmmakers in attendance. “What sets the festival apart is the great opportunity it provides to meet and mingle with film industry people,” Win Whittaker said.
The festival has been praised for its focus on quality. “In the foothills of Mount Rainier is a rarity – a film festival actually focused on film,” wrote Rebecca Winters Keegan, a correspondent for Time magazine.
“We show films based on the quality of the film and not because maybe there’s a big name that’s in the film, which a lot of festivals do,” Win Whittaker said. “That’s not what we’re about.”
“What we’re looking for is a good story,” Sarah Whittaker said. “We’ve had several filmmakers attend who have been on the festival circuit, and they tell us how impressed they’ve been at the selection of films we have.
“We’ve seen films that we have rejected play at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival.”
For the filmmakers who attend, the setting is an added attraction.
“A lot of people have come who have never been in this sort of environment,” she said. “We had a filmmaker from New York two years ago. He’d never seen a squirrel or a deer in the wild, and he was completely blown away by it.”
Rainier Independent Film Festival
What: The fourth annual festival will offer 28 independent films in an array of styles, genres and lengths.
Where: The towns of Ashford and Mineral, near Mount Rainier
Tickets: $5 per screening (consisting of one longer film or multiple shorts), $15 per day, or $35 for the full weekend
“Calvin Marshall” (6:15 p.m. today): This feature film about baseball, directed by Gary Lundgren, stars Steve Zahn. Followed by the opening gala.
“Canoe Way: The Sacred Journey” (11 a.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday): This documentary explores the annual tribal journey taken by Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Includes Q&A with filmmaker Mark Celletti.
“Burma: Reflections on a Hidden Land” (1 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday): This documentary, directed by Sean Cassidy and Patricia Keith, explores the truth behind the country’s carefully managed faade. Includes filmmaker Q&A.
“Back to the Garden” (3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday): This documentary answers the question “Where have all the flower children gone?” Includes Q&A with director Kevin Tomlinson.
“God Willing” (5 p.m. Saturday): This documentary explores a 35-year-old American religious sect known as “The Church.” Includes Q&A with director Evangeline Griego.
“New Day” (8:45 p.m. Saturday): This mystery, directed by Jason Williams, follows the story of a man who’s been told his wife died on Sept. 11, 2001, aboard American Airlines flight 77.
Warren Etheridge workshop (1-2:30 p.m. Sunday): The author of the Warren Report reveals how to conduct a great interview.
“The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle” (6 p.m. Sunday): This feature, directed by David Russo of Seattle, blends surreal science fiction and light-hearted comedy. Followed by the awards ceremony and closing gala.