In these films, dont be afraid of the unusual

Portland Documentary and Experimental Film Festival
by: COURTESY OF PERIPHERAL PRODUCE, Part of the PDX Film Fest’s first shorts program, “People in Order: Age” is one of four films by Lenka Clayton and James Price arranging people in a certain order — the others are “Birth,” “Love” and “Income.”

For moviegoers, the word 'experimental' can be the cinematic equivalent of the explorer's 'here be dragons.'

But the local outfit Peripheral Produce has consistently curated collections of experimental films that are cool, interesting, entertaining and funny.

Since 2002, Peripheral Produce has been organizing the Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival, also known as the PDX Film Fest. This year, it's five nights of programming ranging from the mildly edgy to the downright bizarre.

Opening night's 'Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell' (7:30 p.m. Wednesday) is a more or less straight-ahead documentary about a little-known composer and music producer.

A true eccentric, Russell's talents put him in the middle of the underground scene, from his early days hanging out with poet Allen Ginsberg in San Francisco to the wild New York nightclubs of the disco era.

Russell's instrument of choice was the cello, and many of his songs have a spacey, quirky, low-fi quality that make them sound like they were recorded yesterday by some indie rock up-and-comer.

Director Matt Wolf presents the film in person.

Others filmmakers in attendance during the festival include featured artists Travis Wilkerson and Shana Moulton.

Wilkerson is a documentary maker with a focus on activist filmmaking. For the fest, he screens his 'Injury to One' (6 p.m. Friday, May 2) and short films, and stages a multimedia performance of 'Proving Ground' (9 p.m. Thursday), which premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival. He also will teach a workshop on documentaries at the Northwest Film Center.

Moulton offers a workshop on working with green screens, which allow filmmakers to manipulate the background of scenes. She also presents short works from her series 'Whispering Pines' (8 p.m. Friday, May 2). These are deeply strange, free-associative works with a lonely, cynical bent.

Showing its playful side, the fest recruited local filmmakers to create homages to the strange idiom of the karaoke video.

Not to be confused with their slick MTV counterparts, the music videos that play along with songs at some karaoke bars are a campy world of their own. Sign up to sing along with a world premiere (10 p.m. Friday, May 2).

Every year, a highlight of the fest is Peripheral Produce Invitational, aka 'the World Championship of Experimental Film.' The audience picks the winner. Last year's champ, the nonagenerian George Andrus, returns to defend his title (9 p.m. Saturday, May 3).

See for locations and a complete schedule.

- Anne Marie DiStefano

Wednesday-Sunday, April 30-May 4, films at Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd., other events at Gallery Homeland, 2505 S.E. 11th Ave.,, $7 or $40 for a festival pass (available at the Hollywood Theatre box office or at