The Ellensburg Film Festival and “Cement Suitcase,” a feature-length comedy set in Yakima Valley wine country and directed by a Granger native, are perfect for each other.
The festival, which celebrates its ninth year this weekend, has always emphasized local and regional productions. And “Cement Suitcase,” written and directed by Rick Castaneda, was shot with the intention of drawing focus to how beautiful the Yakima Valley can be. It has already succeeded in doing so, says Castaneda, who has screened the film at several festivals.
“It’s doing really well,” he said in a phone interview this week. “People have been telling me they really like the visuals we had in the Yakima Valley. They’re like, ‘Wow, I really want to visit there now.’”
The film won the Audience Award at the Dances With Films festival in Los Angeles in June. It just screened at the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival and is scheduled for six more festivals. The Ellensburg festival is the closest to home.
“I’m really happy that people will get a chance to see it,” says Castaneda. It’s something special when you get to see the place where you live on screen.”
Members of the film’s cast and crew will be on hand for a Q&A session after the screening, and Portland singer-songwriter Nick Jaina, who wrote music for the film, will perform. Having that sort of event surrounding the screening is in keeping with the festival’s mission, says Ellensburg Film Festival board member Karen Fredericks.
“The goal of the festival is to promote films that are made locally, so we are thrilled to have something like this,” she says.
In addition to “Cement Suitcase,” there will be bigger, nationally distributed films such as Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” Lynn Shelton’s “Touchy Feely” starring Ellen Page, and “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen. But there will also be smaller films and documentaries that you won’t see anywhere else. Plus there’s “Show Us Your Shorts,” a collection of local films shot locally by aspiring filmmakers over three days back in May.
— Pat Muir