Five-day Port Townsend Film Festival kicks off Sept. 21

Enjoy some of the top independent films at “Sundance by the Sea.”

The 24th-annual Port Townsend Film Festival returns to delight and entertain with films and filmmakers from all over the world, with more than 50 films over five days: Thursday, Sept. 21-Monday, Sept. 25.

Attendees can enjoy screenings at five indoor venues within walking distance of one another and free outdoor movies on Taylor Street. Monday’s activities caps the festival with a grand finale performance by the Indigo Girls.

Celebrating music

The 2023 season features a focus on music and musicians, both on the screen and in the streets.

From “Omoiyari: A Song Film” to “Joan Baez: I Am A Noise” to the amazing wildness that is “Chaotic Noise” leading the Filmmakers Parade, the festival offers an earful and eyeful for music lovers.

The music celebration continues with two Indigo Girls-related films: “Glitter & Doom,” followed by a dance party on Friday night, and “It’s Only Life After All,” a documentary all about the icon folk-rock duo, directed by Alexandria Bombach — a Port Townsend Film Festival alum and past Filmmaker in Residence.

“In my nearly 30-year career covering, organizing, and promoting both film and live performance, the Indigo Girls have played a major role: agreeing to interviews when I was young journalist working for alternative weeklies, playing my first ‘big name’ concert at a newly renovated Indiana movie palace, and now helping launch a new era of the Port Townsend Film Festival,” festival executive director Danielle McClelland said.

”When the documentary on their lives and career premiered at Sundance this year, we knew it would be a perfect fit.”

The legendary folk-rock duo Indigo Girls will perform at Fort Worden State Park’s McCurdy Pavilion in Port Townsend on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. This is the grand finale event of the Film Festival and requires separate tickets (sold out).

Beloved festival traditions

The Port Townsend Film Festival offers several activities, including the Filmmaker Parade, dining on Taylor Street (which gets closed to vehicular traffic), the filmmaker Awards Party, and free outdoor movies on Taylor Street.

• Filmmaker Parade

5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22

Washington and Taylor Street

A festival tradition created and organized by Jim Arrabito, the parade highlights the community’s classic car collection. This year, attendees will join in the parade with visiting filmmakers and special guests by dressing as their favorite movie character and dancing down Washington Street to the beat of Chaotic Noise, a Seattle-based renegade marching band. Filmmakers arrive in their chosen vintage car, then step onto the red carpet near Haller Fountain.

• Awards Party

8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

Vintage by PT Vineyards

All Deluxe and Festival Pass holders are invited to celebrate with festival visiting filmmakers and special guests at this wine and hors d’oeuvres event by the water.

• Daily Dinner Break

5:30-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday-Sunday

Taylor Street

This year features a new spin on a Port Townsend Film Festival tradition. Attendees can enjoy grab and go picnic meals from participating restaurants between films or as they gathering for the outdoor movies. Live music from Chaotic Noise, Jonathan Doyle Trio, and others will accompany the dinner break. Bar Car will be offering craft cocktails, beer and wine on Taylor Street 3-9 p.m.

• FREE Movies on Taylor Street

The heart of the festival has always been watching outdoor movies at the Taylor Street Outdoor Theatre. Newcomers will be welcomed to a Port Townsend community tradition. Attendees can join the fun for free.

Photo by Mark Saran/PTFF / Attendees of the 2022 Port Townsend Film Festival enjoy an Outdoor Movie series selection.

One of many memorable experiences of the Festival, audiences look out towards the Port Townsend bay while snuggling together on benches and outdoor chairs. Films start at 7:30 p.m.

The outdoor film schedule includes:

• “James and the Giant Peach” (1996, PG) — Friday, 7:30 p.m. — 80 minutes

An orphan who lives with his two cruel aunts befriends anthropomorphic bugs who live inside a giant peach, and they embark on a journey to New York City.

• “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971, G) — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. — 98 minutes

A poor but hopeful boy seeks one of the five coveted golden tickets that will send him on a tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.

• “Matilda” (1996, PG) — Sunday, 7:30 p.m. — 96 minutes

A girl gifted with a keen intellect and psychic powers uses both to deal with her mean, distant family and free her kind teacher from their cruel headmistress.

• Filmmaking Forums

This season features a robust line-up of filmmaking seminars, panels, workshops, and networking opportunities for film lovers and industry professionals, collectively called the PTFF Forums.

Several of the presenters are PTFF alums. The offerings include:

● “Documentary Lab” with Doug Blush and Lisa Klein

● “Mini-Pitch Workshop” with Kiwi Smith

● “Music Supervision” with Jessica Berndt

● “Screenplay Crash Course” with Mark Schwartz

● “Acting for the Screen” with Amy Hesketh

● “Filmmaker Panels” with a variety of visiting filmmakers

Forums will take place Friday, Sept. 22-Sunday, Sept 24.

Features Festival Films

• Opening Film: “Red, White & Brass” (2023) — 85 minutes

A Tongan super fan will do whatever it takes to get tickets to the Tonga-vs.-France Rugby World Cup game — even if that means promising to deliver a brass band for the pre-match entertainment. Only problem is, the band doesn’t exist and he has four weeks to make one. Inspired by a true story.

Playing at 8 p.m. Thusday, Sept. 21 at the American Legion Theatre, and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Rose Theatre.

• Centerpiece Film: “Joan Baez I Am A Noise” (2023) — 113 minutes

At the end of a six-decade career, legendary singer and civil rights activist Joan Baez takes an honest look back and a deep look inward as she tries to make sense of her immense, history-making life, and the personal struggles she’s kept private, until now.

Playing at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, both at the American Legion Theatre.

• Spotlight Film: “Glitter & Doom” (2023) — 115 minutes

Ride along on a surreal, glittery musical romance, all set to the hits of the iconic, Grammy Award-winning Indigo Girls. Serious musician, Doom, and free-spirited circus kid, Glitter, fall in love over summer camping trips, late-night conversations, and plenty of song and dance.

Playing at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, at the American Legion Theatre, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept, 24, at The Starlight Room.

• Closing Night Film: “It’s Only Life After All” (2023) — 123 minutes

Blending 40 years of home movies, raw film archive, and intimate present-day verité, a poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the iconic folk rock duo Indigo Girls. A timely look into the obstacles, activism, and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.

Playing at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Rose Theatre, and 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, at the American Legion Theatre.

Virtual festival

For those unable to attend the Film Festival in person, the online Film Festival will be available the day that the in-person festival ends (Sept. 25). Attendees can watch from the comfort of their home, online viewing is available Sept. 25-Oct. 1.

Helpful links

General information:

Passes and tickets:

Film guide:

Festival schedule:

How to fest: