An Intimate Look at Humanity – Local Filmmakers at BendFlim

by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor

As excitement builds for what promises to be another inspiring year at the ninth annual BendFilm Festival, film lovers are pouring over the festival lineup which features approximately 90 films showing over four days. Cinema aficionados can choose between narratives, documentaries, conservation films, shorts and student shorts.

ethelThe festival kicks off Thursday night with the opening film, Ethel. A documentary directed by her daughter, Rory Kennedy, the film takes a deeply personal look at the life of Ethel Kennedy through extensive interviews with Kennedy and seven of her eleven children.

Deadfall, a special preview and west coast premier on Friday night (not in competition), is a Magnolia Pictures film starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson in an icy thriller; following a casino heist and a run to the Canadian border, the characters are on a collision course in the middle of a deadly blizzard.

Friday night festivities will continue with a dance party featuring DJ Bryan Swett at one of the new festival venues, Cascade Theatrical Company.

Three local filmmakers will have a presence at the festival this year with tales of Ugandan orphans, Tunisian skateboarders and the healing nature of horses. “We definitely try and include local filmmakers in the festival each year,” said BendFilm Director Orit Schwartz. “The selection committee doesn’t always know they are local films though, it really varies year to year.”

lostfoundLost & Found
In this west coast premier, Director/Writer Sandy Cummings and her husband/Writer Bruce share the story of a pair of courageous former high school teachers from Central Oregon. On a visit to Uganda in 2000, Bob and Carol Higgins were introduced to a group of orphans targeted as recruits for Joseph Koney’s rebel army. The Higgins were inspired to create a safe haven for the children in what would become an orphanage, Otino-Waa Children’s Village.

On a trip back to their home in Tumalo a few years after founding the orphanage, the Higgins were invited by the Prison Chaplin at the Snake River Correctional Institution to share their story; the inmates were so moved that they wrote to prison officials and asked to be able to create art and donate the proceeds to the orphanage.

“My goal was to inspire people to help others in any way they are able,” said Sandy. “I was deeply moved by the sacrifices made by Bob and Carol Higgins when they decided to take in orphans targeted by Joseph Kony’s rebel army knowing it would mean they would have to stay in Uganda, 9,000 miles from their family.”

Lost & Found is Sandy’s second film to be shown at BendFlim. She formed her own production company, TV Storyteller, LLC, in late 2009 and produced her first independent documentary, Finding Fremont in Oregon: 1843, which appeared at the festival in 2010, though not in competition. A former senior producer for NBC, Sandy produced numerous programs for Dateline NBC and oversaw news events coverage for the network.

“The film could not have been made without the incredible support of individuals who volunteered time and talent, funds, even airline miles to get us to Uganda to film at the orphanage,” Sandy commented. “Getting funding for documentaries these days is extraordinarily difficult.”

A film panel will take place on October 13 from 1:30-3pm at The Nature of Words (224 NW Oregon Ave.) with both Sandy and Bruce Cummings; Bob and Carol Higgins; Douglas Omara, assistant administrator of Otino-Waa and former child soldier and orphan, Charles Otto.

Hot Box Betty (903 NW Wall Street, Bend) will exhibit original artwork created by the Snake River Correctional Institution inmates featured in Lost & Found. Proceeds from the sale of the art help support the orphans of Otino-Waa Children’s Village in Uganda.

Lost & Found will show on October 12, 10am at The Oxford Hotel.

tunisiaPUSH Tunisia
Local Director Nathan Gray is making his second appearance at BendFlim with his new short, PUSH Tunisia. Featuring a group of skateboarders and street artists from Jordan, Egypt, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., the ‘artivism’ film covers the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution – the birthplace of the Arab Spring. The eclectic group, know as theBedouins, turned the looted house of incarcerated politician Imed Trabelsi, nephew of former first lady Leila Ben Ali, into a makeshift skate park and street art exhibition.

PUSH Tunisia was a natural progression from my last two films,” Gray commented. His previous films  were Sour (2007), a documentary which brought together skateboarders from Lebanon and Israel together during the war of 2006, and Smile (2006) a story of teaching skateboarding in one of the poorest slums in Bangalore, India.

“[The film] used a lot of inspiration from my past experiences, specifically connecting cultures through skateboarding and working with some of the individuals that I met during Sour and my travels through the Middle East.”

Gray, who grew up in the Middle East, developed a passion for bridging religious and cultural differences which lead to the formation of his non-profit, theBedouins, which uses skateboarding and the arts to create peace and positive interactions for youth around the world.

The film came together with the help of many international skateboarders and collaborations with Jesse Roberts, founder of Rise Up International; Todd Nims, camera man and filmmaker; Euijin Gray, artist and art director and Teo Gray, Nathan and Euijin’s son, a future artist and skateboarder.

PUSH Tunisia will show on October 12, 10am  at Regal Old Mill and October 13, 12:30pm at The Oxford Hotel.

smosaicMeeder’s Mosaic
In the category of Student Short, Elizabeth Tennant’s film, Meeder’s Mosaic is a documentary based on local Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch founder, Kim Meeder. Created as Tennant’s senior thesis at the Art Institute of Portland, she strove to tell the story of finding faith and healing through horses and ultimately share the message that “we are capable of being the change we want to see in the world.”

Tennant found filmmaking in the middle of her college career, “I quickly became fascinated with anything and everything film…I find filmmaking magical, it’s a beautiful conjunction of all things creative, but it’s not for the faint of heart. You literally pour sweat, blood and tears into the process. I don’t care if it’s a student project or a feature film, our passion is what drives us filmmakers.”

The drive behind creating the film came down to three things for Tennant, “First, I wanted to create something that I was really passionate about. Something I could really get behind and would be proud to show…Second, I wanted to prove if not to my peers, teachers, family and friends, than to myself that I was capable of producing something worthwhile. Lastly, once I knew I was going to make a documentary on Kim Meeder’s life, my main goal was to capture her and her story in such a way that would move and touch the hearts of viewers long after watching the film.”

Meeder’s Mosaic will show on October 12, 9am at McMenamins and October 13, 3pm at CTC.

familywithoutparentsAnother film with ties to Central Oregon is Family without Parents from director Desiree Robinson. Following the journey of two sets of siblings that have been separated in the child welfare system, Family without Parents focuses on Camp to Belong Northwest which reunites the siblings for a six day summer camp in Silverton, Oregon. “One of our board members volunteers at the camp,” Schwartz said. “The film is incredible, it gave me goosebumps.”

Family without Parents will show on October 12 at 5:30pm at The Oxford Hotel.

“Through the years we have some really great local filmmakers be a part of the juried program,” said Schwartz. “It’s always nice to see talent in town, we are excited that we have these projects as part of the festival.”

For other local filmmakers wanting to submit their work in future festivals, Schwartz advised against having Central Oregon screenings prior to the festival. “We need to have premiers,” she commented. “For all films. Every year we have local filmmakers that have shown the film already and we can’t take it.”

For tickets, schedule information and more visit

On the Cover – Ethel
BendFilm’s opening night film, Ethel, is a feature length documentary that takes a deeply personal look at the life of Ethel Kennedy. Directed by her Emmy-Award winning daughter, Rory Kennedy, the film features interviews with Ethel and seven of her eleven children.

A portrait of Kennedy’s political awakening, her marriage to Robert F. Kennedy and the years following his death, Ethel offers a rare look inside a political dynasty strengthened by family bonds, a compassion for others and a wisdom forged from both hardship and triumph.

Ethel will be showing Thursday, October 11, 5pm at the Tower Theatre with an encore presentation Saturday, October 13, 10am at the Tower Theatre.

BendFilm Offers New Indie Pass
With the Indie Pass in hand, five filmgoers will be able to access any film, party or festival event during the four days of BendFilm. The pass secures premium seating without having to wait in line (when seating is available) up to five minutes before start times. Only five passes available for $1,000 each.

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