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Navigating the Tacoma Film Festival

With the local festival in its 10th year, here's some guidance for screening as much as possible

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of what has now become the definitive film event in Tacoma: the Tacoma Film Festival. Since its humble beginnings a decade ago, the Tacoma Film Festival has grown into a globetrotting roundup of the best and the brightest in film, as well as stubbornly remaining a celebration of local talent.

This year's installment will be pulling out all the stops, with appearances from directors and an evening with John Ratzenberger, of Cheers and Toy Story fame. On top of what is already an abundance of content, this year's Tacoma Film Festival is absorbing another Grand Cinema staple, the 25 New Faces of Independent Film Festival. Every year, Filmmaker Magazine compiles a list of up-and-coming actors, directors, writers, cinematographers, and other artists of note. The Grand Cinema then uses the list as a guidepost for assembling their festival.

What makes the 25 New Faces of Independent Film Festival so thrilling is its mix of established artists branching out into new areas, as well as fresh-faced young filmmakers making a big splash with their first outings. Now that 25 New Faces has been incorporated into the Tacoma Film Festival, the wide array of options for moviegoers is ridiculously daunting. With a week packed full of choices, including very tempting "secret screenings," it can be hard to decide which films to make your priority. It's like the Three Stooges all trying to go through the same door at once.

It's generally accepted, though, that you should find time to hit up the opening and closing films, at least. This year's opening film is When I Live My Life Over Again, which stars Christopher Walken, and that should really be all I need to tell you to get you to attend this screening. Walken plays the over-the-hill singer father of Amber Heard, who has come to visit after big city life has become too overwhelming. In addition to the film, there will also be a post-film mixer, which will be a great way to get connected with some of the filmmakers in town, and maybe to get some insight on how best to map your next week of marathon movie-going.

Autism in Love. Photo credit: Tacoma Film Festival

The next day, the Tacoma Film Festival really kicks into high gear, with a documentary look at romance on the spectrum (Autism in Love), a psychological thriller riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers (They Look Like People), and the West Coast premiere of Tumbledown, a dramedy starring sure bets like Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis and Blythe Danner.

Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis star in Tumbledown. Photo credit:

There are simply too many promising films to list here, but two that stand out to me are two very different documentaries about timely subjects. First, Drag Becomes Him profiles to incredibly talented Jinx Monsoon, a Seattle-based drag performer who rose to prominence after winning the drag queen competition show, RuPaul's Drag-Race. Drag Becomes Him follows the life of a person who was born for the stage.

Another timely documentary is Killing Them Safely, which covers the rising use of tasers in the police force, which resulted in 500 taser-related deaths in the US between 2001 and 2012. Movements to hold police accountable to unnecessary use of force have been really gearing up for the past couple years, making Killing Them Safely a valuable film to be shown in 2015.

Really, though, what I've learned from festivals is that it's best not to make a plan. Allow yourself to be flexible, and you'll end up seeing something great that you wouldn't have otherwise. The Tacoma Film Festival has done all the work for you; all you need to do is show up.

Tacoma Film Festival, Oct. 8-15, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett St., Tacoma, 253.593.4474, for film listings venues, post film events, and ticket prices

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