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Salem residents create web series 'Salemia'

October 17, 2011
by Rob Owen
Special to The Oregonian

Salem friends Dave Jenkins and Mike Perron watched "Portlandia" in January and began making funny, knowing observations about their own town, tagging them on Twitter with #Salemia. Their growing Twitter conversation has led to a web series, "Salemia," which laughs about life in Oregon's state capital.

Jenkins, a screenwriter and IT project manager, was working in Sacramento the night "Portlandia" premiered and was chatting on social media with Perron and other friends back home.

"Let's come up with a Twitter hash tag for life in Salem," Jenkins said, explaining the origin of #Salemia. Early tweets included Perron's prediction: "Regulars angry that they must wait for a 4:30 p.m. table after Olive Garden wins 'best Italian restaurant' again. #Salemia #CherryPity."

David Rosales, chef-owner at Salem French Bistro La Capitale, tweeted, "Trader Joe's finally opens to overwhelming crowds but soon closes because 'the wine was too expensive.' #Salemia."

"Then we thought, what if Salem had its own show," Jenkins said. "The whole concept came from people who had been drinking and were bored."

The first two episodes of "Salemia" will premiere at the Salem Film Festival, 7:45 p.m. Oct. 19 at Salem's Grand Theatre, 191 High St. N.E. A Q&A with Jenkins and Perron will follow the screening.

"Salemia" will eventually be available online – a series website remains a work in progress – and updates are available on Twitter (twitter.com/SalemiaOR) and Facebook (facebook.com/Salemia). Clips from the show, including the theme song (music by Salem band Axolotl Daydream), are on youtube.com/CenterStreetFilms.

While "Portlandia" skewers hipster culture across a broad spectrum, "Salemia" sticks to poking fun at Salem.

"Salem creates its own comedy just being who it is," Jenkins says.

As an example, he points to a converted railroad bridge that was opened with great fanfare to bikes and pedestrians in April 2009 before temporarily closing again in November 2009 for six more months of work.

"'Hey, come to our new pedestrian bridge, but we've got to paint it and close it for a year!'" he said.

The #Salemia hash tag is also used on Twitter even when it has nothing to do with the web series.

"A guy just rode by on a bike while playing a banjo #Salemia," posted @robmcguire.

"It's a fun, community romp," Jenkins said.

"For us that are stuck here because we can't move because our homes won't sell, you have to make the most of it and I think that's what we've done," Jenkins said in a KATU interview.

The pair began writing what would become the pilot episode of "Salemia" in February. Characters include a mayor, played by a 2008 candidate for Salem mayor, Lloyd Chapman (who was not elected). The "Salemia" mayor has two bumbling interns tasked with correcting Salem's image problem.

The show also features two women who love to protest and picket the opening of Salem's first Trader Joe's. They fear Trader Joe's will hurt business at a locally owned natural food store.

Perron is an amateur filmmaker and painting contractor-turned-stay-at-home dad. He's only seen two "Portlandia" episodes. Jenkins, who watched the entire first season of the IFC series, is a professional writer with a thriller screenplay that's attracted some interest. They met about four years ago, bonded over family life and a shared sense of humor, and now they're collaborating on this zero-budget web series.

"We come up with these ideas and say, what kind of resources do we have available as penniless filmmakers?" Perron said.

The answers are all around them. "A friend from my soccer team is from Kenya and he speaks Swahili," Perron said. That led them to a sketch about Salem losing its sister-city in Kenya to Roseburg because Salem is not cool enough.

Just don't ask the fortysomething pair how to pronounce "Salemia." Sah-lemia? Say-lemia? They haven't decided.

But they are sure of one thing: "What has Salem ever successfully copied from Portland? Nothing," Jenkins said. "We'll never be 'Portlandia' and we're cool with that."

The brains behind "Portlandia" are cool with the notion of "Salemia."

"I love it," said "Portlandia" star Fred Armisen, noting that "Portlandia" began as the web series "Thunderant." "Please tell them to keep going."

"Portlandia" co-star Carrie Brownstein was equally enthusiastic.

"We feel like we're just part of an ongoing conversation that artists in Portland have had with the city and that artists and creative people in other cities in the U.S. and the world are having in the places that they live," she said. "We don't see ourselves as separate or special; we're just one voice among many. We're inspired by other things constantly and it makes us happy that people would be inspired by 'Portlandia.' "

Salem Film Festival's Offerings Delight Film Aficionados

October 16, 2011
by Timm Collins
Statesman Journal

The Salem Film Festival reached back to the glory days of serial movies Sunday with a screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation."

In 1982, filmmakers Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, then elementary students in Mississippi, set out to recreate one of the most popular films of all time, director Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

During a question-and-answer session after his film's Sunday screening, Strompolos said he was so moved by the original film that he talked his friends into doing a scene-by scene recreation using home video equipment and acquaintances instead of a professional crew.

"We thought we could knock it out in a summer," he said. "It ended up taking seven years."

Troy Munsell said the film was a high point of the festival so far. Munsell said he watched four films on Saturday, so Sunday was almost a day off.

"We love independent films and have been supporters of the Salem Film Festival since it began," he said. "It's really something good for Salem."

Susan Arbor said one of the reasons she has attended the festival is because she likes to support High Street Cinema.

"I miss the Salem Cinema in that location. I have so many memories about seeing great movies there," Arbor said.

She also said she enjoys going to movies in the fall and prefers the cooler weather for viewing.

"It's more conducive to settling in for a film," she said. "I don't know. It's just a cozy way to spend an afternoon."

Jeanne Griggs and Mark Gustafson had to rush off to catch their next movie but said they are film festival regulars.

"It's hard to compare from year to year because the selection changes," Gustafson said. "I think I've been going for six years, and I've never been let down."

Griggs said she wouldn't miss the festival, calling it a "must-do."

"The best advice I can give is get the VIP pass," Griggs said. "It's the only way to go."

The festival will continue through Friday with screenings at Salem Cinema, 1127 Broadway NE; Grand Theatre, 191 High St. NE; and High Street Cinema, 445 High St.

SE.

Salem Film Festival opens with local feature

October 14, 2011
by Stacey Barchenger
Statesman Journal

For Peter Vanderwall, tonight's opening of the Salem Film Festival has an extra special meaning, and extra pressure.

The South Salem screenwriter’s film, “A Year in Mooring,” had it’s local debut.

“It’s like the movie is coming home,” Vanderwall said, surveying a group of  people gathered outside Salem Cinema.

About 60 people lined up well before the film’s debut. For festival director Loretta Miles, it had all the signs of a good opening night.

“Opening night just feels like the big payoff” after a lot of hard work, she said. “We’ve worked really hard to find films that appeal to everyone. ... I’m just really excited to see all of our hard work come to this point.”

Gathered at the front of the line outside were Burt and Louise Bogart, of Salem. They first attended the festival last year, and impressed by the good quality of the films, planned to see 10 movies this year.

“We want to support the festival,” Burt Bogart said. “It’s a local institution, it really needs to be supported.”

The festival has many components, from meeting filmmakers to music-filled afterparties. Even for filmmakers, the movies remain the draw.

Producer Michael DeLiso, of New Jersey, is in town for the weekend. His drama, “The Mulberry Tree,” tells the redemption story of a convicted murderer dying of AIDS.

It’s DeLiso’s first time at the film festival and in Oregon. His plans?

“Watch films, that’s pretty much it,” he said. “As many as I can.”

Many opening night filmgoers gathered for Vanderwall’s movie.

“It debuted in Austin, we’re lucky to have it here,” said Chuck Smith, who knows Vanderwall.

“We hear the screenwriter is great,” echoed his wife, Christin Smith.

Vanderwall’s film tells a story similar to his own. It stars Josh Lucas (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “A Beautiful Mind”) as a businessman who escapes personal tragedy — losing a child — while fixing up a sailboat. More than a decade ago, Vanderwall lived for weeks restoring a vessel moored on the Columbia River.

Then, in 2008, three years after he’d written the script, Vanderwall’s son, Kenny, died suddenly.

“To write about it fictionally doesn’t prepare you to live through it,” Vanderwall said.

Finishing “A Year in Mooring” became a sort of healing process for Vanderwall.

The movie filmed in Michigan in November 2009; Vanderwall called it miracle the weather was clear.

“It didn’t snow until the last day when we were ready for it,” Vanderwall said. “I always thought that Kenny, my son, was watching over it like a guardian angel.”

Throughout October, film festivals pop up like autumn foliage in Oregon

October 13, 2011
by Shawn Levy
The Oregonian

Somehow, October has become unofficial film festival month in Oregon. 

We’ve already had BendFilm in the center of the state and the Portland Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and “Reel Music” is currently underway at Portland’s Northwest Film Center.  But there are more and more diverse (both thematically and geographically) festivals in store in the coming days and weeks.

Tonight marks the beginning of the Salem Film Festival, which runs through October 21 at several locations in the capital city.  The lineup includes regional premieres of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialisme” and the American indie “Take Shelter,” as well as such locally-made films as the overpowering “The Welcome,” about combat veterans learning to voice their minds and hearts, and the romantic comedy “Did You Kiss Anyone?

On Thursday, three festivals launch.  In La Grande, the third annual Eastern Oregon Film Festival kicks off with “Resurrect Dead:  The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles,” a kind of horror documentary; the festival runs at the Granada 3 Theater through October 22.

In Portland, the fifth Portland Latin American Film Festival begins that same night at the Hollywood Theatre with the Mexican film “Chicogrande,” which concerns that country’s war for independence.  A variety of films from Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina follow in the ensuing six days.

And in the Willamette Valley, the Eugene International Film Festival is scheduled for October 20-23. Information was scanty at press time, but keep banging the web site for updates.

Finally, a one-night event that’s not exactly a festival but rather a look into the filmic minds of one of our city’s great artists.  Portland writer-director Todd Haynes (“Mildred Pierce,” “Far From Heaven”) will show two films that have influenced his life and work on Saturday at the Hollywood.  “Vertigo” is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece about a man obsessively remaking a woman in the image of his lost love.  “Performance,” co-directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, is a criminally underseen 1970 drama starring James Fox as a gangster on the lam and Mick Jagger as a reclusive pop star in whose home he takes shelter.  The double feature begins at 7 p.m. and Haynes will be present to introduce each film.

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The Themes of Salem Film Festival

October 13, 2011
by K. Williams Brown
Statesman Journal

What would a film, or film festival, be without themes? A shapeless mish-mash, we'd have to assume. However, happily, the Salem Film Festival, which will kick off Friday and run for a week, arrives with not one, not two, but three themes that fit elegantly with one another.

Theme One — A sense of place

 It is the Salem Film Festival, after all, and it boasts lots of films with local and state ties.

Perhaps the most local is the comedy "Salemia," which stars locals and, of course, our fair city. There's also opening night feature "A Year in Mooring," which was conceived right here in town when filmmaker Chris Eyre was speaking at Willamette and met Salem screenwriter Peter Vanderwall, who will conduct a talk before the film's second showing on Saturday. "Dot" and "The Welcome," are two documentaries that take place in Ashland. "Home: The Story of Valsetz," is a documentary about the decline of a small town located in the mountains somewhere between Monmouth and Depoe Bay. If you're the fiction type, there's "The Oregonian," a horror flick whose name says it all.

Theme Two — Music and films about music

This will kick off at the opening night party, which will feature the music of local favorites Tent City and Tonya Gilmore.

"Whenever you listen to an independent filmmaker talk about their budget, inevitably they say one of the most expensive parts of making their film were getting music rights," said festival director Loretta Miles, adding that many turn to the work of "young, independent, maybe the hungry-type musician."

In addition to the live music, there also will be several films about music, including "Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone," "The Wanteds" and shorts shown in the package "The Magical Marriage of Music and Movies: A Collection of Short Films."

Theme Three — Filmmaking

The one and only thing that the hundreds of films that comprise the festival have in common is that they required the blood, sweat, tears and, most importantly, time of their filmmakers.

So this year's schedule features lots of behind-the-scenes talks in addition to the question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers that are a festival hallmark.

One of the highlights will be the showing of "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation," which will include an extended Q&A with filmmaker Chris Strompolos, who will initially discuss the film before opening up the discussion to filmmaking in general.

The festival ends with a bang when Salem Film Festival alum Gil Kofman screens "Case Sensitive," a psycho-thriller set in China.

"He's coming back with that film, then talking about his over-the-top experiences of trying to make a film in China and being under the thumb of the Chinese government, dealing with language barriers and that sort of thing," Miles said. "They're going to be filming us watching that and participating in the discussion, and the footage will wind up being in their documentary ... it should appeal to film lovers, and it should appeal to anybody who is in the process of making movies."

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A Year In Mooring to screen at Salem Film Festival

October 11 , 2011
submitted by Vince
Oregon Film | The Confluence

I’m never big on talking about the projects that “got away” from Oregon but in this case I want to make an exception.  “A Year in Mooring”, written by Salem writer Peter Vanderwall and directed by Chris Eyre who was born in Portland.  A few years back my office was contacted about this film as the original story was set in Oregon.  Unfortunately between bad timing, competing projects and a scarcity of incentive funds, the project went to Michigan and is now set in Michigan.

Regardless, I’m happy to hear the film got made and with a cast like Josh Lucas and James Cromwell, I’m looking forward to seeing it.  I worked with Chris Eyre on a film in my past life and he’s truly a one of a kind director with a unique vision.  He’s also a thoughtful and generous person.  This week “A Year in Mooring” is screening at the Salem Film Festival and there is a bonus free panel discussion with Peter and Chris on the making of the film.  Be sure to check it out!  All details can be found here.

-Vince

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See the Valsetz documentary at Salem Film Festival

October 8 , 2011
by Cappi Lynn
Statesman Journal

The ‘Story of Valsetz,’ a documentary film that was featured in Forward This in June, is entered the Salem Film Festival.

The film premiered this past summer at a reunion of one-time residents of Valsetz, the timber town in southwest Polk County that was razed when Boise Cascade Corp. ceased operations there. My column published just before the reunion.

The documentary will show in the Salem Film Festival at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Grand Theater. Ronan Feely, who wrote, produced and directed the film, will do an introduction before and a Q&A session after.

Advance tickets for the film festival are on sale at Salem Cinema and Travel Salem.


Big Changes for Salem Film Festival!

February 25 , 2010
submitted by Anthony Tham
Salem Katu

Autumn brings in beautiful fall foliage into the Salem area. This year, and from here on out, autumn will also mark the arrival of the annual Salem Film Festival to take place on October 15-22, 2010!

Unlike years past, the festival will take place on the third weekend in October instead of in April. The change allows organizers additional time to create what is already a dazzling event, and to increase awareness of this festival to the local community and visitors from out-of-town.

The Salem Film Festival showcases a broad scope of films. Independent films are mostly featured, with a diverse mix of international and professional films, and features and shorts. According to their website, the Salem Film Festival aim at bringing in outstanding films and filmmakers to Salem for the purpose of “showcasing independent film talent, providing educational opportunities for amateur and student filmmakers, fostering film appreciation in the community, strengthening the local economy, and improving Salem’s quality of life.”

Also new this year, organizers are planning to expand the number of venues that will showcase the films and filmmakers. Last year, the festivities took place exclusively at Salem Cinema located on 1127 Broadway NE, Salem. This year, there are plans to add venues such as The Grand Theater and Ike Box.

Loretta Miles, festival coordinator and owner of Salem Cinema, says they are just wrapping up all the details such as submitting films. Visit their website beginning in March for all the info.

So mark your calendars for the Salem Film Festival in October. You don’t want to miss this!

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Salem Film Festival moved from spring to fall
A Series of 'Creative' Fundraisers will lead up to the event

February 14 , 2010
by Barbara Curtin
Statesman Journal

The fifth annual Salem Film Festival will take place Oct. 15-22 instead of during April, as in the past.

"It would give us more time to raise funds, as the sluggish economy continues, and it's our goal, as we move into our fifth year, to create a sustainable community event and one of high quality," said director Loretta Miles in announcing the decision.

Supporters hope to raise about $175,000 this year, or twice as much as in the past, she said.

Miles promised a series of "creative and unique fundraisers leading up to the film festival that will provide a higher profile and more community awareness."

Ever since the festival began, organizers have toyed with the idea of moving it to the fall, Miles said. There are fewer film festivals during that season, making it easier to book celebrity guests such as directors and screenwriters.

In addition, she said, organizers considered "how absolutely gorgeous Salem is in the fall, and one of our goals is to create an event that will bring out-of-town visitors to town."

Unlike last year, when the festival took place entirely at Miles' new Salem Cinema, 1127 Broadway NE, this year's program may involve several locations.

"We have always seen the festival as community event," Miles said. "If it's only at Salem Cinema, people will see it as my event. It's not."

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Gays On Film
The Salem Film Festival presents a trio of above-par features

April 17, 2009
by Gary Morris
Just Out

The sheer number of queer film festivals is just one sign of how far we’ve come as a community. As windows into contemporary gay culture, they’re hard to beat. But there’s also something to be said for straight fests that include a small, select group of queer films. Such is the case with the Salem Film Festival, whose 2009 lineup showcases a trio of fine features exploring different areas of the gay experience.

Dustin Lance Black made waves with his Oscar-winning screenplay for Milk. His script for Pedro, directed by Nick Oceano, is a similar, loving biopic of a legendary gay activist. Pedro Zamora (1972-1994) became world famous as “the gay guy with AIDS” in pioneering MTV reality show The Real World.

Pedro’s story spans countries and cultures. His childhood in traditional Cuba offered scant preparation for young manhood stateside, where he navigated family homophobia and a new world fraught with possibility, and danger. Pedro’s life, as depicted here, was brief but intense—from the tragedy of being wrenched from half his family by Cuban authorities to the triumph of his AIDS activism.

Director Oceano has a sure touch with the actors. Justina Machado and Hale Appleman excel as, respectively, Pedro’s supportive sister Mily and his devoted friend Judd. But it’s Alex Loynaz who holds the drama together with his incisive performance. Loynaz is as charismatic as Pedro Zamora was and brings a gravitas to the role that keeps all eyes on him. Showtimes are 6:15 p.m. Fri., April 24 and 3 p.m. Sun., April 26. Loynaz will be in attendance.

Ready? OK! doesn’t open promisingly. A voiceover spews Hallmark clichés like bullets: “For anyone who dared to dream…” And the first glimpses of the characters—overwrought mom Andrea, her dysfunctional brother Alex, Andrea’s precocious 11-year-old son Josh—suggest another emotionally manipulative feel-good movie about a hyperactive little queen-to-be. But something happens along the way. Ready? OK!’s predictability vanishes, and characters who seemed more written than real emerge as likeable and ultimately poignant.

Josh goes to an uptight Catholic school, where he tries valiantly to butch it up on the wrestling team. But his real passion is cheerleading, and Sister Vivian won’t hear of a boy with pom-poms. Andrea wants to be supportive but is disturbed by Josh’s fascination with French braids and dolling up as Maria von Trapp. Things come to a head when Alex steals the money Josh raised to attend cheerleading camp and Andrea reveals a homophobic streak to a sympathetic gay neighbor.

This bare-bones description doesn’t capture the movie’s surprising pleasures, which include solid performances by Carrie Preston as Andrea, her real-life husband Michael Emerson as the gay neighbor, and especially Lurie Poston, simply wonderful as Josh. The film is based on writer-director James Vasquez’s experiences as a Catholic second-grader who tried unsuccessfully to become a cheerleader, and it shows. Showtime is 12:15 p.m. Sat., April 25.

The Lost Coast is a new entry in the “mumblecore” movement – low-budget, often digital video films about the lives of bewildered twentysomethings, played by nonprofessional actors. Think Elliott Smith in cinematic form. This doesn’t sound encouraging, but The Lost Coast is a memorable entry in the genre. Written and directed by Gabriel Fleming, The Lost Coast follows a group of former high school friends as they wander through San Francisco on Halloween night, looking for Ecstasy pills but finding a lot more. Gorgeous, gay Mark had a high school affair with straight Jasper. Mark’s former girlfriend Lily and best friend Caleb complete this wayward quartet.

The drama here is understated, even muted, which gives the more emotional scenes—as when Jasper and Mark finally confront each other, or find a dead body—an unexpected power. Mood is everything in this film. While viewers expecting a driving narrative will be disappointed, those who respond to themes of loss and regret, conveyed with subtle power, will be rewarded. The Lost Coast is one of three good reasons to head to Salem this week. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. Fri., April 17.

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Mylan showing Oscar-winning film today

April 18, 2009
by K. Williams Brown
Statesman Journal

Just on objective measures, the opening night of the [fourth] annual Salem Film Festival was a good one.

The first two films sold out, and the third — "Once More With Feeling" — was well on its way.

Theater-goers and filmmakers alike gushed about Salem Cinema's new digs, and at press time, everyone at the opening-night party looked quite satisfied with a spread that included sublime-looking apples with a gorgonzola dipping sauce.

The festival has grown to 10 days from last year's three, and most of the films are being shown at the new Salem Cinema, 1127 Broadway NE.
Today, the festival continues with the showing of Salem native Megan Mylan's Oscar-winning documentary “Smile Pinki” at 4:45 p.m. at The Grand Theater, 191 High St. NE. Cost: $8. There’s also a 7 p.m. public reception in her honor at Alessandro’s Ristorante & Galleria, 120 Commercial St. NE.
In addition, other films will be showing at Salem Cinema throughout the afternoon and evening.

Dana Glover and Michelle Carter were in from Austin, Texas. The filmmakers were here to show their movie "Jollenbach," a thriller about acouple that goes missing.

The two are partners in Midian Films and said they were delighted by the welcome they've received and by the theater itself.

"Most of us independent filmmakers don't have venues like this …" Glover started.

"To go to," Carter finished.

Inside the door, Gayle Tacchini was handing out passes. This is her first year volunteering at the festival.

"It seems really exciting. I think they have some really important filmmakers and cinematographers," she said. "I'm surprised, to tell you the truth."

Jeff Lipsky is one of those important filmmakers. He and his cinematographer, Ruben O'Malley, were showing their film "Once More With Feeling," which recently was shown at Sundance, and being excited that legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond was around.

Earlier, during a film-cutting ceremony, Lipsky said that Zsigmond is one of his heroes. He and O'Malley craned their necks and speculated whether Zsigmond would sit in on their film. Read more...

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Salem linguist preserves endangered tongues
Dr. Gregory Anderson travels the world to document rare languages

April 19, 2009
by Barbara Curtin
Statesman Journal

The Salem-based Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages has projects in the works from Siberia to rural India to the mountains of Bolivia.
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But ask to interview Dr. Gregory D.S. Anderson, who has two degrees in linguistics, and you'll wind up at a table in the Coffee House Cafe. That's because the institute's base is the den of the southeast Salem home that its director shares with his wife, their two sons, a cat and a dog.

The institute's heart beats in a desktop computer that is temporarily inaccessible due to a remodeling project. So Anderson hauls his laptop to the cafe, along with earphones in case his interviewer cares to hear a few words of Chulym, a nearly extinct language of Siberia.

Anderson is fighting to keep this language and others from disappearing. That has been happening, on average, once every two weeks with the world's 7,000 languages.

With each lost language goes the key to a people's unwritten history and their unique way of seeing the world.

That's why a lot rides on "The Linguists," the 65-minute documentary airing Thursday at the Salem Film Festival. It shows Anderson, 41, and his colleague, 42-year-old David Harrison of Swarthmore (Pa.) College, racing against time to document endangered languages.

The men go house-to-house in a remote Siberian village, shouting in the ears of baffled elders to find the last speakers of Chulym. Against all odds, their 52-year-old driver speaks up, and once he does, a few others do as well. Still, they find just nine speakers of the language, and only five are alive today.

In India, they find children from 60 minority groups being taught in English in a central school — an efficient way to educate, but the likely doom of their tribal languages. Visiting the state of Orissa, Anderson and Harrison discover that one of these languages, Sora, has a counting system based on 12s and 20s, which is just as normal for that society as base-10 counting is in ours.

A segment in Bolivia shows the team's work to learn more about Kallawaya, a language that describes the uses for some 10,000 medicinal plants. Fewer than 100 native speakers remain; the team finds one who agrees to perform a healing ritual for them.

The film only hints at how much cross-cultural bridge-building it takes to get this kind of access for two linguists and their film team. In Siberia, for instance, Anderson must wear contacts (eyeglasses are considered unmanly) and be prepared to drink a lot of vodka. In east-central India, the manhood test involves eating super-spicy food — "chilis with your chilis," he says.
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The film is edited to bring out a bit of "Indiana Jones"-type excitement — Harrison ignores warnings of guerrilla danger in order to spend the night with his subjects in India; Anderson becomes deathly ill at 14,000 feet in Bolivia and is cured by the medicine man's herbal brew.

True, all of it, but a far cry from the tedious computer work that is more typical of a linguist's day.

Anderson can live with the filmmakers' version if it translates to more support for the institute's efforts to train and equip native workers to save their own languages.

Unfortunately, it hasn't. Since the film debuted at Sundance in January 2008, it has helped raise awareness and encouraged some people to volunteer. But "The Linguists" hasn't done what the institute needs most: raise serious money. And that is driving Anderson nuts.

If the right person or foundation saw the film, Anderson said, he could get a grant to hire 50 linguists and 100 graduate students to fan out and interview speakers of rare languages around the globe.

Within five years, they would be completing major projects such as "talking dictionaries" with photos and audio files; grammar books; children's storybooks with illustrations; Web sites using endangered languages; and journal articles to share these discoveries with the world.

Instead, the reality is that Harrison works on institute business between academic terms at Swarthmore, and Anderson handles everything else from his den.

"Every day, people are passing on, and it's not coming back," Anderson said with frustration.

"There are times I wish I didn't have to sleep or that there were 36 hours in a day."

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Oscar winner pays visit to Salem
Old friends, neighbors of Megan Mylan part of film festival crowd

April 19, 2009
by Barbara Curtin
Statesman Journal

There aren't many occasions when a genuine Oscar gets upstaged. But the Academy Award's gold man did Saturday evening at the Grand Theater.

The heavy gold statuette was introduced to the Salem Film Festival crowd as "Megan Mylan's date."

But after the first ripple of excitement, all attention moved from the symbol to the former Salem resident who won the prize for best short documentary for her film "Smile Pinki."

"There is nowhere I would rather be showing this film," said Mylan, 39, to open the question-and-answer session that followed her 40-minute documentary, shown as part of the 10-day Salem Film Festival.

Her ties to Salem run so deep, she said, that the 130-member audience felt more like extended family than friends.

That's saying a lot for a woman whose family moved to Texas when she was 11 years old. But Jack and Irene Mylan, her parents, have kept a house in South Salem and returned every summer.

Megan Mylan still treasures the memories of those visits, with her parents' friends gathered around the table for hours each evening, listening with attention to her ideas and those of her sister, Julie.

"It's the emotional base from which I risk doing anything," she told the audience.

Among those accomplishments: Her feature-length film "The Lost Boys of Sudan," which opened the first Salem Film Festival in 2006, and now "Smile Pinki." The documentary follows a little girl with a cleft lip from her life as a village outcast, through surgery, to acceptance by her peers and hope for a normal future.

The film's Oscar has meant a huge surge in donations to SmileTrain, the organization that provides free surgery for children with cleft-lip in 76 countries, using the services of native medical personnel.

It also transformed life for Pinki, who got a scholarship, and for her village, which got new wells and improved housing thanks to the increased attention focused on their poverty, Mylan said.

But her own life has continued pretty much the same. There may be an Oscar sitting on the mantlepiece of her studio apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, but she still does her own wash at a laundromat where the attendant grumbles if she doesn't have change.

Oscar or no, there are few dollars and few TV stations that support documentary filmmakers, and she already was known to that circle.

"It will mean more people will watch the film; my work will get a second look," she said.

What means a lot to her, she said, was what was happening outside the GrandTheater on Saturday as old classmates, old neighbors, old friends of her parents strode up to exchange hugs and reminiscences.

"My favorite thing," Mylan said, "has been getting all the people in my life to connect over something happy."

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Salem Film Fest and Portland Jewish Film Fest Continue Oregon's Spring Harvest of Movies

April 11, 2009
by Shawn Levy
The Oregonian

Having spent last weekend enjoying movies, movie talks and the company of filmmakers and film buffs at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, I'm especially keen to see that Oregon's seemingly ever-flowing stream of film events shows no signs of slowing.

This weekend, two film events will kick off, one in Portland and one in Salem, both offering enough diverse and intriguing work that you wouldn't blame a soul for at least entertaining the thought of making a few trips between the two cities to catch a bit of each.

Salem Film Festival

The Salem Film Festival marks its fourth year by breaking in a new location, the Salem Cinema (1127 Broadway NE ), which gives organizers three screens to work with over the 10 days of the festival. As a result, there are not only more films than in previous years but also more chances to see them -- not to mention the instant creation of a buzzy central point in which all the festival activity can transpire.

On opening night Friday, for instance, festivalgoers can choose among "The Great Buck Howard" with John Malkovich, "Once More With Feeling" with Chazz Palminteri and the prizewinning documentary "Before Tomorrow" before rushing off to attend an opening night party.

In the ensuing days, dozens of feature and short films, several of which have connections to the Willamette Valley and the Northwest, will screen at the Salem Fest.

These include "The Linguists," which concerns the work of a Salem scientist who discovers, records and preserves dying languages; "On Paper Wings," a documentary about a meeting between women who built bombs in Japan during World War II and the Oregonians whose home soil those bombs touched; "Monster Road," about visionary Seattle stop-motion animator Bruce Bickford; and "Andrus: The Man, the Mind and the Magic," a documentary about Jerry Andrus, an Albany illusionist and filmmaker whose work became known only when he hit his 80s. All are recommended.

But if you're going to drive to Salem for a single festival event, you might consider the evening of April 18 and the "Celebration of Cinematography," during which great cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond will present clips and tales from his long career (including such highlights as "Deliverance," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Deer Hunter"). Zsigmond will be accompanied by another nationally known cinematographer, James Chressanthis, and their joint appearance would seem a must-see.

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Festival showcases local, Northwest talent screen talent

March 31, 2009
by Eric A. Howald
WillametteLive

When Kaitlin Saunders isn’t working on her film, “Caroline,” she’s thinking about working on it.

It’s that quality that makes her precisely the sort of person for which the Salem Film Festival was conceived. The festival features 10 days of innovative and independent films, April 17-26. Films to be shown will span genres from drama to comedy, documentary to animation, shorts to feature-length presentations.

In addition to the films themselves, festival highlights this year include visits by director Jeff Lipsky, Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Salem's own Oscar winner Megan Mylan, who took home the Academy Award for best documentary short subject earlier this year.

"The level of diversity and artistry represented in this year’s film selections and visiting filmmakers is nothing short of exceptional," said Loretta Miles, owner of Salem Cinema and coordinator of the film festival.

Some local musicians will be getting a unique opportunity to work with a claymation legend. Animator Bruce Bickford has invited a group of local musicians to create an original soundtrack to his silent film, "Cas’l'." The group will perform its score for the audience while the film rolls on screen.

A scene from Saunders’ film will screen during the youth and amateur portion of the festival. She wrote the script for “Caroline” at age 16. She and her brother, Kevin, even filmed a version of it.

“We’d always made movies together from the time our mom brought home a big boxy video camera she got from a garage sale for $5,” Saunders, now 22, said. “But that early version was really bad and cheesy.”

She was looking for a new film project last year when her mother suggested dusting off the “Caroline” script, a Jane Austen-inspired period piece about a young woman whose plans for the future are derailed when she hears through the rumor mill that the object of her desire might be engaged to another woman.

“I made a bunch of changes, but the biggest was adding characters so we could include all of our friends,” Saunders said.

Saunders submitted a scene depicting a duet with the two lead characters for the festival.

“Usually we hear about all the cool things happening in Portland, so to have something like a hometown film festival is important. Anyone can make a film, but sometimes we need to see other people doing it first,” Saunders said.

While small films make waves, several Northwest filmmakers are poised to make a big splash as part of the Northwest Emerging Filmmakers series.

Corvallis director Robert Neary’s film, “Andrus: The Man, The Mind & The Magic,” is one of five selected for the honor.

Neary met his documentary subject, Jerry Andrus, a magician and all-around tinkerer, through local a skeptics group. The film explores Andrus’ passion for life and the forces that forged his unique perspectives.

“Jerry was a man who lived with great intensity, with a sense of wonder and appreciation for all the beauty of life, and he found ways explore those through magic and illusion,” Neary said. It was those qualities that made Andrus, the man, more important than any of his tricks, he added.

“He didn’t believe people were fooled because they were dumb, but because the brain is doing so much work behind the scenes,” Neary said.

Film festivals are an integral part of the local art community, according to Neary.

“There’s a lot of creativity floating around everywhere,” he said. “Local festivals, like the Salem Film Festival, showcase that talent for the rest of the world.”

For more information about the Salem Film Festival, see the festival guide inserted in to the April issue of Salem Monthly, or visit http://www.salemfilmfestival.com.

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Arts provide a necessary part of life
They offer us a way to escape from daily stresses

February 25, 2009
by Karin Holton
Statesman Journal

I had a conversation with someone the other day about how I can promote the arts in our economy. Their argument was that the arts are "fluff," something unnecessary to our basic needs and I had to disagree.

While it is true that the arts are not food, clothing or shelter, they do provide these things to the many people who work as artists, actors and musicians, as well as those who make their living as guiding groups committed to bringing these very things to you, the end-consumer.

The arts also provide a different type of nourishment, a type that is every bit as important to our existence as the food that we eat. The arts nourish our soul and our being. They provide an outlet for us all to escape the stresses of our daily lives.

It is during times of economic unrest that many local arts organizations were formed as people were looking for something bright and cheerful amongst the often dark and dreary news of the day.

For example, Community Concerts, the national parent organization to Salem Community Concerts, was started during the Great Depression as a means for folks to enjoy some of life's simple pleasures.

There are an astounding number of people in this community who work in the area of arts and culture. We are also blessed with a large population of very talented people who enjoy sharing these gifts with all of us.

I understand that we are all looking at ways to cut back, but I hope that your enjoyment of local arts performances is not one of those areas. These events feed us in so many ways. Go to www.artsmartsalem.org for a listing of events for the current month.

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Oscar winner has Salem roots
Documentarian wins for film of girl with cleft lip

February 24, 2009
By Barbara Curtin
Statesman Journal

Just being one of four nominated for an Oscar in the short-documentary category was a huge honor, said former Salem resident Megan Mylan — but "it sure was fun to win."

A day after accepting the Academy Award and operating on three hours of sleep, Mylan spoke about her win with the Statesman Journal from Los Angeles as she was about to catch a red-eye flight to New York City, where she now lives.

Her film, "Smile Pinki," tells the story of an Indian girl whose life changes dramatically after she undergoes surgery for a cleft lip. The child, now 8, attended the Oscar ceremony with Mylan, as did surgeon Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh and Mylan's family — father Jack, mother Irene, and sister Julie Mylan.

"I felt so clearly that it was not just a reward for my filmmaking but an acknowledgement of their humanity, their generosity and what Dr. Subodh did," said Mylan, 39. "It was all of us walking up there; I was representing everyone."

Mid-Valley residents will have a chance to get to know Mylan and her work better in late April. She expects to appear at the Salem Film Festival, she confirmed for the first time Monday.

"That's my plan, although life as a documentarian is never 100 percent certain," Mylan said.

Her mother, Irene Mylan, said post-Oscar parties had kept the family up late.

"We're too old to stay out until 4 in morning," she said a little ruefully earlier in the day.

Irene Mylan said she had just come from a photo shoot with Megan and Pinki, 8.

"(Pinki) only speaks Hindi, but we found a generous couple who translated for us," Irene Mylan said. "She's very poised for an 8-year-old and has an engaging personality."

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Former Salem resident's Oscar win has town buzzing

February 23, 2009
By Barbara Curtin
Statesman Journal

Salem’s newest celebrity — Oscar-winning former Salem resident Megan Mylan — will visit the Salem Film Festival in late April, her mother, Irene Mylan, confirmed today.

The town is buzzing about Megan Mylan’s win in the short documentary film category during last night’s Academy Awards. Irene Mylan spoke from Los Angeles, where she had just come from a photo shoot with her daughter and 8-year-old Pinki, the subject of Megan Mylan’s film “Smile Pinki.” The film tells the story of an Indian girl who undergoes surgery for a cleft lip. Although the Mylan family moved to Texas after Megan finished elementary school, Jack and Irene Mylan kept their home in southeast Salem, and they return to visit each summer. “The whole neighborhood was on the phone last night screaming and crying,” said Carolyn Byard. “We can’t believe that a little girl who went to McKinley School won an Oscar.”

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