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'Be the change' at the Friday Harbor Film Festival

December 06, 2022 by Maryrose Denton in seattlerefined

Reprinted by permission.

Movie goers watching 'Fire of Love' with Katia Krafft on screen at Friday Harbor Film Festival (Photo: Richard Schmitz)

A call to action permeated through this year's Friday Harbor Film Festival (FHFF). Cinephiles were eager for the in-person return of the FHFF, bringing together filmmakers and fans in an intimate setting.

The FHFF illuminated eight screens across four theaters in the heart of Friday Harbor, Washington, making the festival easily accessible and walkable from any stay on the island. We stayed at Island Inn, literally steps from the Washington State Ferries terminal, with an adjacent staircase leading up to the center of town. Every theater, restaurant and cafe was a five-minute walk, plus we met our quota of steps for the weekend.

The artisan town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island(Photo: Richard Schmitz)

A stay at Friday Harbor's Island Inn is 'Off the Coast of Ordinary'This film festival entertained, enlightened, and inspired viewers to be, as founding member Karen Palmer stated during the opening night gala, “The change we want to see in ourselves and in the world."

It is the mission of FHFF to exhibit "high-quality documentaries that tell crucial and timely stories, inspiring viewers with hope, and cultivating a call to action that will make the world a better place."

I can attest they hit their mark with this year's line-up of films, many of which were released this year.

Film festivals hold a special quality beyond the binge factor. This special ingredient is the filmmakers themselves. With 29 of the filmmakers in attendance at FHFF, participants heard directly from the creators and storytellers in the form of Q&A sessions, as well as a Filmmakers Forum, where moviegoers could learn about the filmmaking process firsthand. Both of these additions enhanced the festival experience and fostered a personal connection with the films.

The opening night gala bringing filmmakers and moviegoers together(Photo: Richard Schmitz)

The FHFF Board of Directors labor over the selection of films to be presented each year then slate them into one of three categories: Explorers and Adventurers, Tales From the Heart, and Things To Consider. Here is a sampling to watch for, coming to a theater (or streaming on-demand) near you.

The documentaries chosen draw upon human interest, telling stories of heroic adventures, everyday people reaching to find connection, striving to better the world we all inhabit. Sometimes, along the way, they change in the process. Each of these films takes you on that journey, touching your heart and soul. Transformed by the movie's end, you are a better person for watching. At least I found this to be true.

Opening night began with a gala and screening of "Waterman," directed by Isaac Halasima. A story of personal determination, this film recounts the life of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian, five-time Olympic medalist, and father of modern-day surfing. As the film reveals, Duke overcame many struggles and prejudices yet always maintained his core essence of "Aloha," extending his kind and gentle nature to all he met. "Waterman" will be released in theaters later this year.

Festival participants enter the Palace Theater to see the next film at Friday Harbor Film Festival(Photo: Richard Schmitz)

"The Long Rider" by director Sean Cisterna won FHFF’s Best Picture Award. This story delves deep into our own inner journeys as we follow the journey of Filipe Masetti Leiti on his epic trek of 8,000 miles from Calgary to Brazil, all on horseback. The film looks at loneliness and isolation so poignant to many struggling with these in our society. Yet ultimately, it offers hope and inspiration as we all journey together on this planet.

Speaking of planets, "Hunt for Planet B" takes an esoteric look at life on earth and the possibility of life out in the stars. The film is told primarily from the perspective of the female scientists working on the construction of the James Webb telescope, which launched last December. This film raises many questions regarding the essence of life, including our own connection to each other. The backdrop as this story unfolds is the construction of the largest and most ambitious space observatory telescope ever built.

We may look up into the starry night sky with awe, but for scientists Kaita and Maurice Krafft, awe-inspiring beauty came wrapped in the fiery explosions of volcanoes. These two French vulcanologists loved two things in the world: each other and volcanoes. Seen through their film footage and heard through their words, this is a love story of their life and quest to unravel the mysteries of our planet. "Fire of Love" by director Sara Dosa is played in select theaters.

Movie goers watching 'Fire of Love' with Katia Krafft on screen at Friday Harbor Film Festival (Photo: Richard Schmitz)

Taking a stand in the form of political action is an underlying theme in two very different films. "Haida Modern," directed by Charles Wilkinson, tells the tale of renowned Haida sculptor, Robert Davidson. Using art, Davidson educates, inspires, and awakens a new generation to the plight of Indigenous culture and our environment.

In award-winning "The Boys Who Said No!" directed by Judith Ehrlich, we hear interviews with Vietnam War draft resisters - not draft dodgers. As teenagers, these young men faced going to battle for a war they did not believe in. Making the conscious decision to burn or destroy their draft cards, they declared their stance for peace, even when it meant going to prison. Many of them did. In the process, they also began a movement.

Peace may very well be cultivated at home, beginning within our own communities, as we see in the film "Take Hands" by local Seattle director Doug Plummer. Through the social circles of two very different dance communities, Contra Dance and Square Dance, protagonist Stacey Rose brings together these different communities in small-town Coos Bay, Oregon. Stepping in time to the dances and weaving in and out of familiar patterns, members begin to understand they are more alike than they are different. A heart-warming story capturing the connection our human hearts long for.

What a world this could be if we all became "the change we want to see in the world."

See for yourself. Go to the movies. Watch on-demand. And plan a trip to Friday Harbor for the FHFF next October.

The amazing view at Island Inn, steps from the ferry in Friday Harbor(Photo: Richard Schmitz)


MaryRose Denton is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. While the products, services and/or accommodations in this story were provided without charge, the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.

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