A hot new music documentary, currently picking up prizes on the festival circuit, will squeeze in a Vashon stop between its two showings at Seattle International Film Festival.
The film, “Enormous: The Gorge Story,” will have a single screening at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at Vashon Theatre. The evening is presented by islander Debra Heesch.
Through scenic cinematography and up-close interviews and footage of rockers and music-makers, including Dave Matthews, Dierks Bentley and Jason Mraz, the film tells the story of one of the world’s greatest music venues and how it came to be tucked into a rural expanse of Eastern Washington farmland. With sweeping and majestic views of the Columbia River and its canyon, the outdoor amphitheater has now been a destination for more than 7 million music fans.
Reached by phone, the film’s director and its producer, Tim Williams, both said the film is stuffed with remembrances of iconic performances by the likes of Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but it is also a chronicle of the fans who keep coming back to performances at The Gorge.
“Someone told me at our last screening that this is more than just another rockumentary — that it has a heart,” Williams said. “A big focus is on how The Gorge has affected so many different people in different ways.”
Williams also said the film delves into the geological and acoustic miracle of the gorge itself — a dramatic landscape carved out 50,000 years ago when an ice dam in Canada broke and sent floodwaters raging down the Columbia River.
It also tells the much more recent story of how the concert venue was established in the 1980s, almost by accident, when Seattle neurosurgeon Vincent Bryan II and his wife Carol Bryan purchased the several-hundred-acre parcel of land to start their own vineyard and winery, Champs de Brionne. To lure people out to the hinterlands to sample their wines, they built a simple stage, carved seats into a sod terrace and hired local bands to play. Over the years, the Bryans continued to develop the site, presenting increasingly elaborate summer music programs and eventually turning over operations to Media One, the concert company that founded the amphitheater in 1987.
For producer Williams, the making of “Enormous: The Gorge Story,” was a five-year-long labor of love, sparked by a chance viewing of a YouTube video of a band performing at The Gorge. He’d never been to a concert there, but within days, he had booked a trip to Seattle to meet with Jeff Trisler, president of Live Nation Northwest, the company that currently manages the George. Trisler has a deep history with the venue — in the 1980s, as vice president of Media One, he had helped found it.
Williams told Trisler that he was convinced that the story of this amazing place would make a remarkable film.
Director Nic Davis also recalled meeting Trisler, saying the music promoter’s love of The Gorge came through in interviews when Trisler teared up talking about the venue’s impact on bands, music fans and him personally.
Willliams, Davis and Trisler will all be present at the Vashon screening of the film. A question-and-answer session will take place after the film.
“Enormous” premiered at the prestigious Santa Barbara International Film Festival and has gone on to win Best Documentary Feature at both the LA Indie Film Festival and the Spokane International Film Festival.
Its screenings at Seattle International Film Festival are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at the SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater, and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Lincoln Square in Bellevue.
Tickets to the Vashon screening are $10 for adults and $9 for children, seniors, and members of the military. Buy them in advance at vashontheatre.com. For more information and to see the film’s trailer, visit the Facebook page for “Enormous: The Gorge Story.” The film is rated G.