Utah has Park City. After this weekend, Oregon can say it has Cottage Grove.
Park City, of course being the home of the famous Sundance Film Festival that draws thousands to the small town of 8,000. It served as a source of ambition for Len Blackstone when he decided Cottage Grove needed a little something.
Enter, the Bohemian Film Festival.
It’s three days of movie screenings selected from more than 100 entries from 18 countries — including entries from award-winning filmmakers.
“Three years ago, I asked, ‘What can I do to help Cottage Grove?’” Blackstone said. He’s been a resident of the city for 33 years and has acted, most recently, as a real estate broker, responsible for the sale and subsequent revival of the Stewart Building on Main Street earlier this year. “So, I met with Mike Dilley at the Axe and Fiddle,” he said. “It was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting. It ended up being three hours.”
An idea had been hatched at that meeting. Why couldn’t Cottage Grove host a film festival?
“We’re not trying to be Park City, Utah but I do see potential,” Blackstone said of the little town that adds to its population 10 times over each winter for a few days.
The Bohemian Film Festival will already have a head-start on attendance by combining its efforts with the local chamber of commerce’s 40th anniversary celebration of “Animal House,” a film made popular in the 1970s that has maintained a following given the local ties to Oregon — it was filmed at the University of Oregon with some select-few scenes filmed in Cottage Grove as well.
The Healing Matrix, community center and the Opal Center will become hubs of cinema beginning on Aug. 17.
A nearly non-stop schedule has films showing at all three locations with a break on Saturday for a showing of “Animal House.”
“We have filmmakers from 18 different countries,” Blackstone said. “Bobbi Jo Hart, do you know who that is? She is a graduate of Cottage Grove High School in the 1980s. Her film will be shown.”
The film, “I Am Not a Rockstar,” follows a Juilliard-trained pianist through the United States, Canada and Europe as she comes of age. It’s been the recipient of two Canadian Screen Awards since its release in 2013.
Hart’s film made the cut from more than 100 entries.
A volunteer group of approximately 20 people screened all of the films that were submitted before narrowing the field down to 62.
“All of the judges were regular people,” Blackstone said. “No movie critics, that was important.”
Movie-goers can choose from feature-length films to films that fit into the timespan of a coffee break.
At the end of the three-day festival, there will be a winner in each category and an overall winner who will take home a $3,000 prize.
“It’s not the best time of the year to hold a film festival,” Blackstone said. “But we’ll see what happens, we’ll see how it goes.”
Tickets (ranging from $8 to $49) can be purchased at bohemianfestival.com. A schedule of movies as well as trailers for the films are also available on the site.