Sit Back and Watch

Seattle’s Couch Fest Films Goes Home

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that on any given day a film festival is brewing in some corner of the world. But in our small slice of Western Washington, they all tend to congregate in the autumn months. With the exception of the Seattle International Film Festival (a May/June affair), between September and November you can keep yourself pretty busy (and broke) buying passes to all the fests in this area. One barely has time to breathe between the Port Townsend Film Festival (Sept. 23-25), Local Sightings at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum (Sept. 30-Oct. 6), Tacoma Film Festival (Oct. 6-13), Gig Harbor Film Festival (Oct. 14-16), and finally the Olympia Film Festival (Nov. 11-20) before things cool down for a while.

I still haven’t gone to Port Townsend, but I can vouch for another fest held that same weekend worth taking in: the Seattle-based Couch Fest Films. For one day only – Sept. 24 – the concept takes films out of the traditional, formal theater setting and into a homier atmosphere – basically, folks’ living rooms. Each home signed up hosts its own batch of shorts, grouped into various genres (comedy, animation, etc.) that repeat every hour from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. I went more than once, and found something goofy and refreshing about strangers warmly inviting me into their homes, intimate spaces where I huddle with more strangers and together watch good movies on a tiny screen.

The Couch Fest motto sums it up: “Awkwardly Awesome.”

Filmmaker and CFF founder Craig Downing told me from his current residence in Reykjavik, Iceland, that his idea evolved from a modest goal. “Couch Fest Films was just a sneaky plan to get people from Seattle to open up and talk to each other,” he says. “I figured cozy living rooms would be a great place…There we could surely open our doors to each other both physically and metaphorically.”

Moviemakers have increasingly cozied up to the festival’s down-to-earth and community-focused vibe. About 200 submissions (a record in the event’s four-year history) arrived from across the globe. Downing and his volunteers also scoured other fests and personally sought out the best works to include in their own lineup.

Local movie lovers have come forward and offered their private pads as host sites. Currently five locations within Seattle are locked (exact addresses will appear on the CFF website on Sept. 22). These places should be close enough that you can bounce around on foot or bicycle, see more and pay less on gas and parking.

Not only will Seattle host, but cities in other states and beyond have shown interest as well. Portland, San Diego, New York, London, Istanbul, Cairo, Reykjavik and many more – yep, Couch has for the first time gone global. Says Downing, “We are so excited about how much interest there has been worldwide.” His ambition to plop a film-friendly couch on every continent continues: “I was hoping (this time) to host…in the South Pole – next year, next year.”

You won’t find many festivals as committed to opening your mind as relaxing your rump. But Downing firmly believes his patrons’ dear derrieres possess political value; by attending Couch Fest, he says, “your rump could be part of a worldwide film festival revolution. Yeow!” So next Saturday, check your social awkwardness at the door, sit back and enjoy global cinema in a unique way.

Find ticket prices and updates on host locations at

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