BendFilm 2022 — A Delight for the Senses & Balm for the Soul

(Let There Be Drums directed by Justin Kreutzmann to screen at BendFilm 2022 | Photo courtesy of BendFilm)

Whatever you’re feeling right now, BendFilm has a movie for that.

If you’ve felt a bit of wanderlust, handcuffed by societal norms, curious about the wider world or wanted to live a day in someone else’s shoes, save the date for the 19th annual BendFilm Festival coming up in theater venues October 6-9 and streaming from home October 10-23.

This year, screenwriter and Head of BendFilm Festival Programming Selin Sevinc is daring audiences to dive into the festival program and allow the experience to be a visceral ride.

When asked about the types of films that make the cut for the film festival, Selin said, “I gravitate toward films that are layered, complex and artistically daring. There are stories in the program that you feel on a cellular level, rather than just simply watching.”

With 33 feature films, 80 short films, eight music videos, five panels and live performances curated into this year’s program, the possibilities for exploration and connection to new topics are endless.

To open the festival, BendFilm selected the head-scratching and crowd-pleasing documentary The Pez Outlaw. It follows a man from rural Michigan who spent the 90’s smuggling Pez dispensers into the U.S. from Eastern Europe and making millions of dollars off his efforts. The conflict comes along when his arch-nemesis ‘The Pezident’ decides to destroy him.

“It’s been two years since we’ve opened the Festival to a sold-out Tower Theatre full of people ready to engage, laugh, celebrate and enjoy everything there is to enjoy about watching a film in person with our community,” Todd Looby, BendFilm executive director said. “When it came to selecting our Opening Night film, we knew The Pez Outlaw would be the one to remind us of the spirit of what this Festival is all about.”

To close the festival, audiences will love Catherine Called Birdy, written and directed by Lena Dunham. The comedy is set in medieval England and follows Birdy (played by Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones) who thwarts her father’s plans to marry her off to a wealthy suitor.

Reacting to the film, Selin said, “Lena Dunham’s quirky intelligence and unashamedly on the nose treatment of ‘the state of the girl’ subject matter makes this film irresistible. An unmissable parody of the period film.”

In between the opening and closing nights are countless thought-provoking, heart-felt and entertaining stories. Music lovers will enjoy Let There be Drums by Justin Kreutzmann (son of the Grateful Dead’s drummer, Bill Kreutzmann). The film highlights some of the world’s greatest drummers in the world where you hear firsthand about the personal struggles that so many of these musicians and their families have faced, the nature of how music passes from generation to generation and the essential role that drumming plays in human life. Sweet Disaster is a relatable comedy that speaks to the strength, humor and tenacity of women regardless of the circumstances.

BendFilm always has a slate of timely documentaries that dive deep into current news headlines. Check out Shouting Down Midnight about the fight for women’s reproductive rights and Navalny about Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny who survived an assasination attempt and chose to return home. And audiences can’t miss Retrograde which provides an intimate and apolitical look at the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest is strong and the program features several films with Oregon connections: Acidman by Alex Lehmann, Necessity: Climate Justice and the Thin Green Line by Jan Haaken and Samantha Praus, Sam Now by Reed Harkness, Sweetheart Deal by Elisa Levine and Gabriel Miller and Takilma Stories by Philip Lauri and Steven Oliver.

The BendFilm Festival online film guide has a sort feature so audiences can narrow down the films they want to see based on genre, category and venue. But BendFilm staffers will be the first to encourage audiences to try something they don’t normally watch.

‘We all consume a lot of media, and to me an independent film festival’s role is to lead audiences to rise above all the noise, to feel challenged, nourished and moved in ways that are not normally available to them,” Selin said. “The films we select dare to be different, dare to confront issues head on and subvert expectations both thematically and artistically. My hope is to give the audiences this gift of emotional and intellectual elevation.”

During the festival, keep your eye out for filmmakers, jurors and special honorees wandering the streets of Downtown Bend and the Old Mill. Audiences will be treated to a discussion with writer-director Tamara Jenkins and former director of the Sundance Film Festival, John Cooper. As the IndieWoman of the Year and First Features Honoree, Tamara Jenkins will discuss her career and the making of her feature films Slums of Beverly Hills, Private Life, The Savages and more.

This year, two indigenous filmmaking honorees Tatanka Means and Gary Farmer will add their voices, humor and experience to the festival through workshops and live performances. And since both actors appear in the hit FX show Reservation Dogs, the BendFilm Festival will treat Madras audiences to a screening of two episodes with these insiders in attendance.

Tatanka Means is an award-winning actor, motivational speaker and stand-up comedian representing the Navajo, Lakota, Dakota and Omaha Nations. His most recent film is Killers of The Flower Moon, directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese and is set to be released in the fall of 2022. Gary Farmer has more than 100 credits to his name and is best known for his role as spiritual Native American guide Nobody in Dead Man. Farmer reprised the role for a cameo in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, also directed by Jim Jarmusch. He was nominated for Independent Spirit Awards for his roles in the movies Powwow Highway, Dead Man and Smoke Signals.

As an Oscar Qualifying festival one of 27 festivals in the USA and 64 festivals in the world BendFilm is in a unique position to support filmmakers on their journey to connect with audiences in meaningful ways. The festival will once again give $12,000 in prize money directly to filmmakers and the winners in the narrative, animated and indigenous short film programs at BendFilm are eligible for the Academy Awards which is the ultimate honor for filmmakers of all levels. BendFilm has been recognized for more than just savvy and cutting-edge programming. The atmosphere at BendFilm landed the festival on Movie Maker Magazine’s lists of Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the World and Top Festivals Worth The Entry Fee.

‘Connection’ or reconnection is the overall theme for the festival this year.

“Connection is paramount to the human experience,” Todd Looby said. “Not only are we looking forward to gathering in person to reconnect with our community, we are also anticipating the discovery of connection to new stories, issues and subjects explored in the vast program. One film at a time, we hope to foster more empathy, awareness and genuine connection to one another and the natural world”

Passes and individual tickets are available now at

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