PUFF: Keeping Portland weird

Indie film fest - Features, docs and shorts show off the festival's individualistic flair

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 SHAWN LEVY

New month, new only-in-Portland-style film festival.

Thursday through Sunday, the Clinton Street Theater will be home, as it is every year, to the Portland Underground Film Festival, a core sampling of deeply independent features, documentaries and shorts from around the region and the nation.

This year's edition is slightly plumper than past festivals, with 10 programs and an opening-night party. But it retains the attitude of irascibility, intrepidity, leanness, meanness and fun that has been the hallmark of previous PUFFs.

Take opening night, for instance, when everything you might associate with the word "family" gets tossed away like an empty gum wrapper. "Random Lunacy" is a film composed of videos shot on the road by the Neutrinos, a self-dubbed family that's kind of like a ragtag performance art project making its way around the world. Directors Stephanie Silber and Victor Zimet will be on hand to offer testimony and explanations. That film is followed by "Palace of Stains" by Portland director Bob Moricz, a story of family feuds that has been compared to the early work of John Waters. After all that, the opening night party hosted by a vodka distillery may seem less like an option than a way to come back down to earth.

Much of the rest of the weekend bears a similarly adventurous tenor. There's "Bike Porn," a collection of short movies involving the pugnacious members of Portland's bicycle lifestylist community (nudity not necessarily involved). There's "Reynard the Fox," a feature film taking the form of a series of interviews with a young man imprisoned for murdering his sister. And there's "Black Bridge: '84 Year of the Banger," another feature about murder, this one set in the world of Canadian heavy metal fans.

As at many film festivals, it's the nonfiction side that looks particularly promising. At PUFF, two enticing highlights are "Rural Rock and Roll," about the DIY roots music scene of Northern California, and "Don't Eat the Baby," about the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Taken as a whole, it's a collection of films unlike any showing in town or, I would reckon, on Earth during the coming weekend, a living instance of the imperative to Keep Portland Moviegoing Weird.

Shawn Levy: shawnlevy@news.oregonian.com