Hollywood Grows Series into Film Festival

Portland EcoFilm Festival

The rockstar of movie theaters in Portland, the Hollywood Theatre, just announced the line up for their Portland “EcoFilm Festival.” The festival started in 2013—and its name was a bit confusing, because it was a theme-based film series that screened over 5 months. But this year, they’ve stepped up and organized it like a traditional festival, spreading the screenings over a long weekend. The festival will be held April 9-12, 2015—with screenings during the night on Thursday through Friday and all day activities Saturday and Sunday.

The festival kicks off with an an opening night screening of “How to Change the World,” a documentary about the origin of Greenpeace, followed by an after party at Velo Cult, a bicycle store located a few block away.

The idea behind the festival came to Executive Director of the Hollywood Theatre, Doug Whyte—he noticed that “Portland is one of the greenest cities in the country with a plethora of independent movie theaters and festivals, yet there was no film programming focused on environmental and nature films.” As soon as he realized how much work it entailed, he enlisted now Festival Director, Dawn Smallman. For Smallman, her involvement with the festival hit while directing a film about Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier, “I interviewed glaciologists on top of the Juneau Icefield [the apex of 140 glaciers.] Hearing them talk about how human-induced climate change is rapidly melting the world’s ice—and the realities of what that means for the future of all living things—lit a fire beneath me.” Smallman returned home from the shoot and decided to find ways to incorporate environmental activism in her life. The Portland EcoFilm Festival was her outlet.

The festival focuses on environmental and social based issues but doesn’t seem to require recent release status as it’s second film, “The Epic of Everest,” is a 1924 film restored by the British Film Institute. The film follows George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s fatal climb of Mount Everest but includes a new sounds score.

Of the 200 submissions this year, Smallman noticed a shared theme of “water,” and the fact they were produced by Canadian production companies. Besides the commonality, she hopes to “build a reputation for visionary environmental programing—to show the very best films that are newly released, as well as important repertory films.”

It seems like a winning combination for the active lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest. Festival Director Dawn Smallman, a long time documentary filmmaker in her own right has “made films about glaciers, karst caves, old growth forests, bears, watersheds in the Mojave Desert, bird migration, biologists studying bat populations, Native American’s and Alaska Native’s traditional subsistence use of plants and animals.”

Smallman noted that the festival, “celebrates human connections to nature and the love of outdoor pursuits. ”

As a kid, I fondly remember going to the Hollywood with my grandmother; I always hated having to hold her hand as we walked up the inclined steps and ramp. Unfortunately, she passed away a few years back, but I can still go climb that ramp. For me the Hollywood embodies human connection to a bygone era. Hollywood is a piece of “Portlandia”—get out and support their newest venture of the Portland EcoFilm Festival.

Josh Leake
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Josh Leake

Executive Director at Portland Film Festival
Portland-based producer and director Josh Leake is the founder and executive director of the Portland Film Festival, which MovieMaker Magazine named one of the world's "coolest" film festivals. He produced "Glena," a feature length documentary that premiered at Slamdance ’14 (now available on Showtime and VOD). His film "Emptys," a short documentary about people who collect beverage containers as their principal source of income, won first place at Tropfest New York. With his production company, Mindpollen, he's currently developing an adaption of Chuck Palahniuk's "Lullaby." Follow him on Twitter @joshleake and @portlandfilm.
Josh Leake
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