Movie News & Reviews

Festival channels 'Philosophers'

"The Philosopher Kings" is among the works featured in the Olympia Film Society's Documentary Film Festival, which opens today. It explores the wisdom found at universities and colleges.

What’s interesting about that?

The film shares not the wisdom of professors, but that of custodians.

“We wanted to juxtapose the places we most often pursue wisdom with those we most often ignore,” said Greg Bennick of Seattle, the film’s producer. “We were curious what would happen when we listened to those people who are often ignored by society.”

Bennick and Patrick Shen, the director, will introduce the film and answer questions afterward as part of the festival, the first documentary festival put on by the society.

In previous years, the society culled a festival from the films shown at the Full Frame Festival in Durham, N.C., but those films are now delivered digitally, which requires equipment the Capitol Theater lacks. So OFS film programmer Helen Thornton did research, kept lists, took suggestions from film society members and volunteers, and created her own festival lineup.

As film festivals go, it’s pretty simple: eight films, four days, each with a separate standard admission fee.

But there’s quite a bit of variety, from a film about the handcrafting movement, to one about a cove where dolphins are killed for their meat, to one about an “American Idol”-style program in Afghanistan.

“It’s about people competing to be singing stars,” Thornton said. “It’s been going on for a number of years in Afghanistan. It’s fascinating.”

And there’s “The Philosopher Kings,” which is in contention for awards at several film festivals.

So what did the eight philosopher-custodians featured in the film have in common?

“One of the things we heard most often is that these people are happy,” Bennick said. “They were happy being custodians. We tend to think of people like custodians, maids and bartenders as being in their position because they can’t do anything else.

“But the custodians were there because they wanted to be there. They were loving the idea of cleaning. They were loving being dedicated to an institution. Many had been in their jobs for years or decades.

“They wanted the dedication to doing something that they really enjoy.”

Documentary Film Festival

What: The Olympia Film Society presents its first locally selected documentary film festival that includes a long weekend of films plus a filmmaker Q&A.

When: Today through Sunday

Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia

Tickets: $8 per film, $5 for film society members, $3 for children 12 and younger; for the matinees, $7 general admission, $4 for society members, $3 for children.

More information: 360-754-5378 or

For films, turn to page 4.

The films

“Herb and Dorothy” (6:30 p.m. today) tells the story of a New York City couple – a postal worker and a librarian – who amassed a great art collection.

“Handmade Nation” (9 p.m. today) explores how quilting, knitting and other traditional crafts have become cool.

“Afghan Star” (6:30 p.m. Friday) follows an “American Idol”-style reality show in Afghanistan.

“The Philosopher Kings” (9 p.m. Friday) collects wisdom at universities – but from the custodians, not the professors. With a director and producer Q&A.

“The Cove” (6:30 p.m. Saturday) explores a cove in Japan where dolphins are trapped and killed for their meat. Winner of the Seattle International Film Festival’s Golden Space Needle Award and the Sundance Audience Award.

“Say My Name” (2:30 p.m. Sunday) tells the stories of the some of the women of hip-hop and R&B.

“A Friend Indeed: The Bill Sackter Story” (5 p.m. Sunday) tells the story of a disabled man who grew up in an institution, then found friendship and finally success as a coffee-shop owner.

“Malls R Us” (7:30 p.m. Sunday) examines the growth of the enclosed shopping mall, from architecture to economics to sociology.