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Destiny City Film Festival: The Stories We Tell

Tacoma's new film festival lives through narrative

Photo caption: I Am Big Bird: Discover the man in Sesame Street's Big Bird costume at the Destiny City Film Festival. Dude is 80 now. Photo courtesy of copper pot pictures

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The unspoken joke about Tacoma being nicknamed the City of Destiny is that there's no destiny to be found here. We earned that nickname through the notion that our port would be the main hub of import and export in Washington. Instead, Seattle won out. There's no guarantees of anything in Tacoma, and no destiny. What we're left with, instead, is a meritocracy. You get back as much as you put out. People expecting to find success in the arts are encouraged to put as much of themselves into the scene as possible.

One of the most labor-intensive arts to enter into - among any community, but especially Tacoma - is filmmaking. A huge overhead for a one-off piece of art that isn't guaranteed to be seen by anyone is a lot to ask. Over the years, filmmaking has begun to dig its place into the Tacoma landscape. The Grand Cinema, as well as its various projects, including the 72-Hour Film Festival and the Tacoma Film Festival, have worked to ingrain film into our local landscape. This weekend, the Destiny City Film Festival will stake its claim in the culture of Northwest film.

"I've been working on film festivals for six years," says DCFF founder Emily Alm. "I used to be the director of the Tacoma Film Festival. When I left that job, I wanted to continue working with film festivals, and I really wanted to stay in Tacoma, because I love Tacoma. This is what I love to do, and there's so much support and potential for independent film in this area, so I thought I had to find another platform for that."

For its first annual edition, the DCFF boasts an astonishing array of events and films, easily packing the four-day duration of the festival. In addition to the 29 short and feature-length movies being showcased at the Blue Mouse Theatre the entire weekend, there are certain extracurricular activities that aim to expand and deepen the audience's relationship to films.

"We had a short screenplay competition, as well, and the winner of this year's competition will have a live reading of her work, as the first part of Story Alchemy, which is our storytelling event," says Alm. "After the reading, we have a curated lineup of storytellers. We have Megan Sukys and Tad Monroe from Drunken Telegraph, Jackie Casella from Creative Colloquy, and then Brooke West from Post Defiance. They're all going to tell stories based around the short screenplay's theme, which is ‘Transformed by Compassion - Sharing Stories of Empathy as Catalyst for Interpersonal Change.'"

Before the free storytelling event, there is also a free screenwriting workshop. And, if you have a story of change to tell, you can sign up for Story Alchemy's open mic, which will follow the professional speakers.

Still, the main draw to the festival is the abundance of independent films that will be flowing into the Blue Mouse. Over the past few months, Alm and team have dug through more than 100 movies to arrive at their final list, which includes submissions from the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

"Opening night is Warren (7 p.m., July 31), which started playing festivals in the spring, and it has a great cast and a nice slice-of-life story," says Alm. "Closing night is Copenhagen (7 p.m., Aug. 3), and I just loved watching that movie. It's one of the best I've reviewed this year. That won Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance, earlier this year. ... We also have a short one from Tacoma, called Look Up in the Sky, that'll play on Saturday before a Seattle film, called BFE."

The list of films is too lengthy to get into in this short amount of space, but let it be said that Alm was not hesitant in listing a number of great films that'll be screened this weekend.

"We have a dedication to good stories," says Alm. "That's the origin of movies, and the origin of every type of entertainment like that. We really wanted to highlight and emphasize the importance of stories."

As anyone who's lived in Tacoma for long enough will know, there's no shortage of stories - ones that get passed from person to person, ones that live on longer than their tellers did, and ones that have yet to be told. Film remains the wondrous conduit through which to convey these stories, and it's festivals like this one that help them to live on.

DESTINY CITY FILM FESTIVAL, Thursday, July 31-Sunday, Aug. 3, The Blue Mouse Theatre, 2611 N. Proctor, Tacoma, $65 VIP pass, $20 four film punch card, $10 opening and closing nights, $5-$8 single films,

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