A Festival Favorites Top 5 List

It’s that special time of year at Northwest Film Forum when our staff shares their “Top 10 Lists” from the past sun-round.  Some are styled on the more traditional Top 10 Best Films lists we see regularly in the media at this time of year. And some push the boundaries of the Top 10 format. From our film loving hearts to yours: happy holidays, and here’s to a film-filled 2014.


After eight glorious years watching, re-watching, introducing, enjoying, exploring, imbibing, and intoning the cinematic riches within a cinema-frenzied city, 2013 will forever be the year I left my programming post at Northwest Film Forum.

I was a steward of one of the nation’s finest homes for film going, making, learning, and appreciating. The ship of course remains steered by a cast of eight extraordinary human beings, whose dedication and passion for cinema should be praised from the rooftop of the Smith Tower—themselves stewards piloting the ship, until their time on the deck has equally stayed its welcome.

The organization belongs to the city—no, the cinema—and the egos of its halls should never be synonymous with the temple where we worship. Like a pastor, a rabbi or a mullah we provide guidance to the teachings of the creators, offering praise, providing a pathway to cinematic redemption. But it’s you, the beloved filmgoer, filmmaker, film scholar, film critic, whom we work for.

As a year of creation, 2013 was sumptuous. Consider this my spiritual guidance for the future, these five films I saw at festivals in 2013 and imagine will end up on a number of Top 10 Lists in 2014.

1) What Now? Remind Me by Joaquim Pinto

First person cinema at its finest: this account of director Pinto’s year spent going through experimental HIV treatment is the best and most intimate account of the virus ever put to film.



2) Manakamana by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez

A formal feat unlike any I’ve seen, these eleven shots (lasting the exact length of the gondola ride up a Napali mountainside) offer us an insight into a nation.



3) The Strange Little Cat by Ramon Zürcher

Better than the now infamous Cat Video Festival and created while in a workshop with Bela Tarr, this portrait of a day in the life of a family provides the kind of intimate offering I’ve grown to love from the European art house.



4) A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell

A utopian inquiry into the possibilities of a spiritual existence, within an increasingly secular Western culture. Russell and Rivers have both been on my best of the year lists previously.



5) Stemple Pass by James Benning

A few years back, James Benning constructed two cabins on his property in California. One was an exact replica of Henry David Thoreau’s house on Walden Pond; the other was a replica of Ted Kaczynski’s (the Unibomber) cabin in Montana. Stemple Pass is a rumination on the latter,  contrasting Waldenesque imagery with the voiceover writings of Kaczynski.

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