Bellingham Music Film Festival

Music + movies = true love


What: Bellingham Music Film Festival

When: 9 am Thu., Apr. 6 -8

Where: Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St.; Make.Shift, 306 Flora St.; Sylvia Center, 205 Prospect St

Cost: Free-$10.75


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bellingham—indeed, this whole region’s—love of all things musical has been well-established. While some places deal with a dearth of musicians or venues or musicians and venues, Bellingham has the exact opposite problem: so much happens so constantly, it’s impossible to take it all in. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all. From folk to funk to classical to jazz to punk to hip-hop to garage rock, you can get a fix of your musical drug of choice with very little time, effort or money.

Lesser known is the city’s affinity for movies. Bellingham is a decent-sized town, but the fact that it supports a whopping 19 movie screens (more, when the occasion calls for it) is certainly noteworthy. I’ve spent enough years slinging movie tickets at the Pickford Film Center to know full well that, for many people here, movies are not just a way to pass the time, they are a way of life. We love seeing films so much that when summer comes along (finally, finally), we don’t stop going to the theater, we just move our movies outside and watch them under the stars.

It stands to reason, then, that someone would find a way to capitalize on this three-way love affair. And so someone has.

The someone in question is actually a couple of arts nonprofits, the aforementioned Pickford Film Center and Make.Shift, who came together last year to create the Bellingham Music Film Festival, a weekend during which we can all live at the nexus of music and movies, instead of being torn constantly between the two. Not surprisingly, that first festival was enough of a success to try the whole thing again, and so this year’s event will take place Thurs.-Sat., April 6-8, at the Pickford and Make.Shift. The Sylvia Center will also get into the act this time around, throwing a party to close the whole thing out.

But you must first have a festival before you can have an after party.

The Bellingham Music Film Festival begins Thursday at the Pickford with an opening-night screening of Contemporary Color, the documentary that introduced the world to David Byrne’s unexpected affection for the art of the color guard. In 2015, Byrne staged a huge, one-night-only color-guard extravaganza, inviting 10 stomping, flag-twirling, dancing teams to perform in collaboration with people like St. Vincent, Ad Rock, Nelly Furtado, and more. Who knew the dude from the Talking Heads had such a thing for color guard? Live and learn. Short films from places as far flung as Germany and Montreal will precede the documentary.

The action shifts to Make.Shift Friday evening, which also happens to coincide with the April installment of the Downtown Art Walk. While newly minted gallery director Jessyca Murphy welcomes people to the “Capturing Community on the Road” exhibit upstairs, the Bellingham Music Film Festival will be showing more than 25 music videos on rotation in the Make.Shift basement. The video submissions came in from all across the globe, but lest you think Bellingham talent might get lost in this worldly crowd, you’ll be happy to know that half of the shorts that will be on display were made by local filmmakers.

The Bellingham Music Film Festival finds itself back at the Pickford on Saturday, for a full day’s worth of musical theater—but not the kind that comes to mind when those words are normally paired together. The program begins at 1pm with another roundup of music videos, coming this time from Belgium to Bellingham, with an encore showing of Torrey Pines, a stop-motion, coming-of-age story made by former Bellingham resident and onetime Stranger Genius Award nominee Clyde Petersen. Following that, at 3:30pm, is the U.S. premiere of Burn the Place You Hide, a documentary about Norwegian alt-country musician Thomas Hansen—or St. Thomas, as he was more commonly known—who gained popularity in his homeland, all the while struggling with mental illness. Music videos will kick off that screening, and the next, which happens at 6pm and is where awards for the festival’s best short film, music video and feature will be handed out, along with showings of the winning movies.

After all that, it’s time to hit the road again, for a short stroll to the Sylvia Center for the Arts, which is, as previously mentioned, the site of the Bellingham Music Film Festival after party. No movies will be shown, instead you’ll be treated to musical performances by Seattle’s Briana Marela, Cumulus (aka erstwhile local Alexandra Niedzialkowski), and I Love You Avalanche (aka sometime local Anna Arvan).

When the party ends, so does the Bellingham Music Film Festival. Which means we’ll once again have to endure this push-pull between music and movies. At least until next year, that is, when everyone involved in this love triangle will get together and have a good time all over again.

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