Filmmakers, Film Lovers Descend on Ashford for 7th Annual Rainier Independent Film Festival

By Lisa Broadt / lbroadt@chronline.com

519102c34b231.imageASHFORD — On Friday, Pacific Northwest cinephiles gathered here, at the Mount Rainier Lions Theater, for the 7th Annual Rainier Independent Film Festival.

Since its debut, the Film Fest has become known for providing “true, independent filmmakers” the opportunity to showcase their work in a unique venue. Attendees at the three-day fest also have the opportunity to participates in filmmaking seminars and workshops.

“Located in the shadow of Mount Rainier, the Ashford Valley provides the perfect setting for this festival,” festival organizers wrote on their website. “Our screening venues range from an authentic circular Yurt, an elementary school built in the 1920’s with capacity of 400, to an intimate setting in the prestigious Nisqually Lodge.”

All projection is shown in the latest in digital technology, according to the organizers.

Work shown ranged from 3-minute shorts to 90-minute features and was created by filmmakers from as close as Tacoma and as far as Nepal.

Of the more than 30 films shown, nearly half of their creators attended the event. Indeed, the Fest is known for providing the chance for attendees to watch films with the artists who made them.

Among those filmmakers in attendance was Lydia Smith, the director of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” which helped to close the festival on Sunday.

At Friday’s Opening Night Gala, Smith described the process of making her movie as a labor of love.

“I walked the Camino myself in 2008,” Smith said about the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostelain Galicia in northwestern Spain. “I was reluctant and at first I said absolutely not — it’s sacred and amazing. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get in the middle of that.”

But with prodding from a friend, Smith, of Portland, became convinced the compelling stories of the Camino needed to be told. To fund the project — which follows the stories of six pilgrims — Smith took a gamble and sold her house.

“I threw myself in one hundred percent,” she said. “To see the stories of the pilgrims resonate with people who have walked the Camino, and to see those who haven’t benefit from the screening is really exciting.”

Already, the film has won the audience award at the Palm Springs Film Festival and the outstanding achievement award at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Also enjoying Friday’s opening night gala was Brook Kirklin, a graphic designer who for the last three years has made the trip from Portland to Ashland to attend the Rainier Fest.

This year, Kirlin attended as a movie viewer. Previously, however, he was involved with a film screened at the Fest about one man’s quest for the perfect mountain climb.

Since the start, Festival Director Win Whittaker — son of the famed mountain climber Lou Whittaker — has been adamant about keeping the event an independent film festival, not a mountaineering movie festival.

But due to the strength of the narrative, Whittaker made an exception for the film in which Kirklin was involved.

“All of these films,” Kirklin said, “are personal stories.”

Though his time is now consumed by his graphic design business — he created the festival’s logo — Kirklin has long been passionate about filmmaking, he said.

“I started in junior high,” he said. “I made the movies on 8 millimeter film. To edit I’d cut it apart and tape it back together.”

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