February 3rd, 2023

The McMinnville Short Film Festival Returns

A movie theater is nearly packed with patrons.
Photo courtesy of McMinnville Short Film Festival.

The best and most memorable film I saw in 2022 had a running time of 19 minutes and was made for less than $4,000.

Doug Roland’s beautiful, based-on-a-true-story Feeling Through, about a late-night encounter between a struggling teen and a deaf and blind man who needs help finding his way home, was the film I was telling everyone about, and it was screened right here in McMinnville at a film festival.

Because you know we’ve got one of those, right?

The McMinnville Short Film Festival, which runs Feb. 23-26, is light years beyond the amateurish, shot-on-a-phone fare that was in abundance when it launched more than a decade ago. Feeling Through snagged an Oscar nomination and deserved it, and that’s the level of quality you can expect when you sign up for a 100-minute or so film block over several days.

“This year’s festival is shaping up to be a whirlwind weekend with more films, mixers, and activities than before,” said MSFF Executive Director Heather Older. “Every category this year is outstanding, and I’m really looking forward to showcasing these films for our audience.” 

Highlights this year include something special for animation fans: A new documentary about McMinnville’s own Will Vinton, who died a few years ago after an amazing career in which he gave the world the California Raisins, Domino Pizza’s Noid, and many other pop culture favorites that he sculpted with clay and then brought to life on screen. Claydream will be screened at McMinnville Cinema 10 by director Marq Evans, who, along with other filmmakers, will take audience questions. 

“We’re proud to bring Claydream home,” said Older. “It’s a chance for the community to join us with Marq to celebrate the life of Will Vinton.”

Also, a heads up for fans of A Christmas Story: Ralphie is coming! Peter Billingsley, who starred in the 1983 holiday classic and produced the first Iron Man, will serve as one of this year’s judges and is the keynote speaker. Portland’s Sean Parker, who has the finger puppet TV series FogTown in the works, will participate in a special “breakfast with a filmmaker” event. 

As an arts journalist, I’ve covered the MSFF film festival for a few years, and I can promise you it’s a remarkable event where, no matter your film tastes, there really is something for everyone: Comedy, drama, documentaries, Indigenous works, LGBTQ+, horror, environmentally-themed films and, of course, animation.

Visit the MSFF website for the schedule, ticketing packages, and more information about what they’ve got lined up for Feb. 23-26.

A cartoon of David Bates

David Bates is a McMinnville writer who has appeared in Gallery Theater productions since 1998.