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Celebrating great stories

In its fifth year, Destiny City Film Festival brings a typically dynamic and varied selection of outstanding cinema

Oscar nominee Edith+Eddie profiles America’s oldest living interracial newlyweds, and it’s a highlight of this year’s Destiny City Film Festival. Photo credit: Kartemquin Films

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Beginning in fall, the quality of movies in theaters increases exponentially, and as pageants like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards approach in the spring, ambitious and beautiful movies are suddenly on the tips of everyone's tongues.

Here in Tacoma, the Destiny City Film Festival began its life as an August event, perched on the edge of autumn's influx of prestige film season. Now, in its fifth year, it has moved to the dwindling days of February, as awards season fervor overtakes us. From Feb. 23-25, DCFF will be offering a diverse and intriguing selection of films; most (though, excitingly, not all) of these films aren't in the Oscar discussion, but they're still a dizzyingly accomplished group of some of the best of today's cinematic landscape.

Opening the festival is The Song of Sway Lake, starring Rory Culkin, the most underrated of the Culkin brothers. The film features Culkin a jazz collector who finds himself obsessed with possessing a rare and valuable jazz record, which just so happens to be in his grandmother's collection. DFCC closes with 42 Grams, a documentary about the uphill battle a chef fights to open a fine dining restaurant.

It's in the nature of film festivals that the opening and closing night screenings are granted the most attention. DCFF executive director Emily Alm is on hand to shine a spotlight on some other movies being screened that everyone ought to see.

"I'm particularly excited about our annual shorts grouping, ‘The Stories We Tell,' which features two 2018 Academy Award-nominated short films (Edith+EddieMy Nephew Emmett)," says Alm. "Along with some great documentaries -- Monkey BusinessAll the Wild Horses, and more -- we've got some really strong narrative films this year. Gook took home an Audience Choice Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and takes storytelling and the collective memory creation process to a new, insightful and creative place. Becks is a great ‘date night' film, and stars Mena Suvari and Lena Hall as new acquaintances who become bonded through music."

There's such a huge breadth of tone and subject matter, just in those few movies; three of them (Edith+EddieGook, and My Nephew Emmett) explore race in America, in one way or another. Monkey Business is a documentary about the creators of Curious George, and the incredible way he came to be. Becks is the kind of warm, humanistic romance that is a magnet to open-hearted film lovers. Saturday's After Dark Shorts features a mix of horror, sci-fi and comedy, with Prenatal (about a woman who mysteriously finds herself pregnant) being ominously tempting; also featured that night are Mixtape Marauders and Emiko, two entries from local filmmakers.

Lena Hall in Becks. Photo credit: Blue Fox Entertainment

And that just scratches the surface of a positively packed year for DCFF. Besides the movies, there is also a free screenwriting panel, with storyteller and author Patric L. Rogers moderating, and local writers Heather Hughes, David Margolis, Kevin Rexroat, and Kristi Simkins on the panel.

"At the heart of every great movie is a great story, and DCFF celebrates these stories every year," says Alm. "We connect with each other, and understand each more when we share our stories, and the craft of storytelling is vital to creating a dynamic film. Attendees of the screenwriting panel will engage directly with working local screenwriters to discuss various aspects of crafting a story, and creating an impactful story for the screen."

As with any festival of this sort, you'd do best to trust your gut and take chances on as many screenings as possible. With DCFF, their track record is so solid that I'd be happy to throw a dart at their dynamically curated selection and see whatever they're offering.

DESTINY CITY FILM FESTIVAL, Friday-Sunday, Feb. 23-25, $6-$10 at door, Blue Mouse Theater, 2611 N. Proctor St., $20-$60, VIP tickets can be purchased online,

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