The first full evening of screenings for the 14th-annual Spokane International Film Festival ended early this morning as the last of the partygoers filed down the stairs of the Simply Dance Studio. Most were headed to bed, presumably, though some were no doubt thinking ahead to today's full program.
And some were reliving what they'd experienced Friday night. Films played at two locations, the Bing Crosby Theater and the Magic Lantern, and I opted to stay at the Bing because I didn't want to miss one of this festival's highlights: a 7 p.m. dialogue between Jess Walter and Matthew Modine. The evening at the Bing began with a program titled "Best of the Northwest Shorts," and the title wasn't misleading: Every film was a worthy view, and at least four of them were good enough to play at festivals anywhere. My favorites: "High Strung" by Tommy Thompson, "blood/sweat/tears" by Kevan Funk, "Comet 63" by Jason McKee and the music video "Spokane's Finest" by Rajah Bose.
Walter, the nationally acclaimed author of "Citizen Vince" and "The Zero," introduced Modine, a veteran actor who has worked with some of the great American directors (Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick among them) by reminding everyone that he had a long-standing relationship with Spokane: Modine had starred as Louden Swain in the 1985 film "Vision Quest." Walter led Modine through a look at his career, during which the actor presented himself as a good-natured, thoughtful and passionate artist — all character aspects that were evident in the film short that he wrote and codirected, the engagingly titled documentary "Jesus Was a Commie."
A late showing at the Bing featured the offbeat Swiss comedy "Der Sandmann" ("The Sandman"), which was about a not-very-likeable guy who, one day, unaccountably finds that he is trickling bits of sand everywhere. Things get progressively interesting, to the point where his apartment begins to resemble a beach full of sand dunes.
And afterward, those who viewed "Der Sandmann" joined those who'd spent the evening at the Lantern to meet with the filmmakers — including Modine — and talk movies.
It starts again 11:30 this morning with a program of "World Shorts" at the Magic Lantern, includes a noon screening at Riverpark Square's AMC Theatres of the Oscar-nominated "A Cat in Paris and features a 7 p.m. screening of "Vision Quest" at the Garland Theater. Click here for the complete schedule.