Robert Horton is a guest blogger for season 3 of Reel NW.
Welcome to Doe Bay
By Robert Horton
Last year when the jury members for the Reel NW prize at the Seattle International Film Festival got together, we were strongly agreed on Megan Griffiths's film Eden as our top pick. But it would've been a short meeting if we hadn't at least kicked around our next-favorites, and so we did.
I made a next-best case for Welcome to Doe Bay, a cheerful, hang-loose account of the annual Doe Bay musical festival on Orcas Island. I have never attended this weekend music fest, having been born between the hippies and the retro-hippies and thus slightly out of key demographic range, but this documentary conveys some of the vibe of being there.
The movie's built around performances from the Head and the Heart, Pickwick, Damien Jurado, Maldives, and Lemolo, among others. Lots of performers are Northwest-based, and the setting for the festival is one of those green waterside perches in the San Juans that seem designed to entice outsiders to seek out this part of the country. There's also a lot of conversation and explanation from the organizers of the event, whose entrepreneurial spirit is somehow both laid-back and savvy. In some ways the D-I-Y approach of the Doe Bay organizers and participants, emphasizing smallness and specialness over huge commercial ambitions, is like a mirror of the Northwest film scene: Don't wait for someone else to give you permission, don't go gigantic, and don't worry about looking weird.
Extend that a little more. A question that rises in Doe Bay is how the event can handle its growing success and still keep its funky, anti-corporate character. In Seattle, that was a dilemma that came up with the explosion of the music scene in the early 1990s (if you're a Seattleite, big-time success seems to trigger an immediate sense of embarrassment and mortification). If something similar happens to the filmmaking scene hereabouts—and it hasn't quite happened yet, but we seem to be on the verge of something—look for the same soul-searching if the scene gets a similar level of national attention.
If you like Welcome to Doe Bay and are interested in concert movies in general, you're in luck, because there are many such titles available. And if you haven't seen Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads) or Shine a Light (Rolling Stones) yet, stop whatever you're doing right now and find them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Horton is a film critic for KUOW (Seattle's National Public Radio station) and the Herald in Everett, Washington; he is also a longtime contributor to Film Comment and other magazines. He curates the Magic Lantern film-discussion program at the Frye Art Museum, teaches film at Seattle University, and is a guest speaker for Smithsonian Journeys and Humanities Washington, as well as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. His books include Billy Wilder: Interviews, the upcoming Frankenstein, and the zombie-Western graphic novel Rotten and its prose spin-off The Lost Diary of John J. Flynn, U.S. Agent, and he blogs on movies at The Crop Duster and What a Feeling!. This year he is curator of the Museum of History and Industry's "Celluloid Seattle: A City at the Movies" exhibit.