Vashon Island Film Festival is set to unspool

Offerings include noted documentaries, coming-of-age stories, a civil war epic, a 1950s creature feature throwback, pandemic comedies, and a character study about grief, to name a few.

The Vashon Film Institute (VFI), a new non-profit organization dedicated to fostering independent filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest, has announced the feature slate for its inaugural Vashon Island Film Festival (VIFF), taking place from Aug. 12 to 14, at Vashon Theatre.

VIFF will screen 10 features and 10 shorts that have recently distinguished themselves on the festival circuit and present a selection of other film-centric events, including an Opening Night Gala, Saturday Night Soiree, and two seminars delivered by notable film industry guests.

Founded by local film producer and island resident Mark Mathias Sayre, The Vashon Film Institute was originally founded to host a summer film intensive for youth, including scholarships for students who might not otherwise afford to attend.

“We’d originally hoped to create a community event that also supported the youth program, and this is how the Vashon Island Film Festival was born,” said Sayre. “However, our goal posts have shifted slightly for our inaugural year: 100% of the net profits will go to the family-operated Vashon Theatre, a cultural landmark built in 1947 which, like many other theatres in a post pandemic world, has struggled to keep their doors open. We still plan to institute the youth program in 2023, but plan to finance that primarily through grants and donations.”

VIFF will screen an array of esteemed features, eight narratives and two documentaries, curated by Sayre and the VFI programming team.

“Programing the festival ourselves offered us the advantage of quality control — we sought out a handful of varied and exceptional films that have resonated with audiences on the festival circuit,” Sayre said. “As such, we have some of the best performing films on the circuit this year, including the features that won SXSW and Tribeca, so in many ways this is a festival showcasing 2022’s crème de la crème.”

Offerings include noted documentaries, coming-of-age stories, a civil war epic, a 1950s creature feature throwback, pandemic comedies, and a character study about grief, to name a few.

“I think there’s something for everyone in this year’s program,” Sayre said.

All screenings will take place in person. Narrative features include:

Nick Richey’s “1-800-HOT-NITE,” follows 13-year-old Tommy (Dallas Dupree Young) after he loses his father to a drug raid and embarks upon a dark urban odyssey. The film most recently captured the 2022 Dances with Films Audience Award for Fusion Features, and Filmocracy’s award for Best Narrative Feature.

“Crabs,” by Pierce Berilzheimer, brings a talented cast together in what Sayre calls an astonishingly scary horror film featuring the invasion of a sleepy coastal town by murderous crab monsters during prom night. One critic called “Crabs” an “improbable but successful cross of “Goonies vs. giant monsters.”

Brett Smith’s Civil War epic, “Freedom Path,” details the heroics of a Union soldier and a Black man who is part of a community of free slaves running a portion of the Underground Railroad.

Winner of the Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, “Good Girl Jane,” by Sarah Elizabeth Mintz features the award-winning actress Rain Spencer (Best Performance, Tribeca) as a lonely young girl who falls in love with a drug dealer. Critic Richard Propes said, “The film should make Hollywood knock on Spencer’s door and pave the way for a brilliant acting career.”

Inspired by writer/director/star James Morosini’s true life experiences, “I Love My Dad” follows Chuck (Patton Oswalt) who desperately wants to reconnect with his estranged, depressive son, Franklin (Morosini). The film won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award of the 2022 SXSW festival, in Austin.

Katherine Dudas’ “Juniper Mack,” has also won critical praise. Film threat said the film was “a solid entry into the mumblecore genre…thoroughly a female-centered [and created] film.”

Set against the isolation of the first COVID lockdown, “Traveling Light” tells the story of Caddy, an Uber driver in search of his son who has been missing on the streets. The film is directed by Bernard Rose (“Candyman,”) and executive-produced by Oscar nominee and Seattle native S. Leigh Savidge (“Straight Outta Compton.”)

In “Wes Schlagenhauf is Dying,” a mockumentary by filmmakers Parker Seaman and Devin Das, the filmmakers set out to document their journey to see their friend Wes one last time, all in the name of Hollywood success.

Critics have praised the film as a “feel-good buddy comedy” with “laugh out loud” bluntness, Sayre said.

Documentary features include:

“Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts,” which explores the often-contradictory role played by Black soldiers throughout American history. The Stranger’s Charles Mudede hailed the documentary as “expertly edited and researched.”

When a wild tiger kills men who enter his territory in Warren Pereira’s “Tiger 24: The Making of a Man-Eater,” he is declared a man-eater and locked up in a zoo. Film Threat called the film “a compelling and dramatic story for animal lovers and fans of crime procedurals.”

Festival features other events

At VIFF’s Opening Night Gala, badge holders can mingle with filmmakers, and its Saturday Night Soiree features live music, street food, and a beer/wine garden.

VIFF will also present two seminars/lectures by industry professionals, including “From Script to Screen: The Evolution of an Edit,” presented by Vashon-born and bred director, Anthony O’Brien, and “An Introduction to the Motion Picture Industry,” by Mark Sayre, covering the business of filmmaking.

Throughout the planning for the festival, Sayre said his goal was to focus on programming a high-quality line-up of truly independently-produced films.

“We also think our visiting guests and patrons will find something residents already know: that the island is one-of-a-kind,” he said.

Find out more and get passes and tickets at