Northwest Film Forum, the nonprofit cinema and film education center located on Seattle's Capitol Hill, welcomed Courtney Sheehan as their new Program Director this past November. The fresh energy is sure to make 2014 an exciting time to be a part of the 17-year-old film arts organization.
Sheehan will program Northwest Film Forum's year-round cinema exhibition programs, which include annual series, festivals, quarterly programming, retrospectives, filmmaker visits and new live work (including the innovative Live at the Film Forum series, and the ongoing commissioning of live scores). She will also oversee the Film Forum's unique film distribution program, which distributes two independent films each year to up to 20 U.S. cities.
Courtney Sheehan comes to Northwest Film Forum after programming for venues and festivals in the U.S., Spain, the Netherlands and India. Sheehan interned at the Film Forum in 2009, during Children's Film Festival Seattle, and was subsequently awarded a prestigious Watson Fellowship for international research. She spent 2011-12 investigating the organizational structures, community roles, and programming strategies of twenty film festivals across eight countries.
The public can expect a continuation of the unique and impressive programming the Film Forum is known for, including movies often overlooked by mainstream multiplexes, or hard-to-find foreign and independent finds. Sheehan also plans to bring her own passions to the mix.
She says to expect "a taste shaped by a year spent meeting many film communities while traveling to film festivals in eight countries. Look out for political documentaries from India and old and new cinema cinema from the countries of former Yugoslavia. In the immediate future, my calendar kicks off with a world theatrical premiere of a stunningly gorgeous film about snowmobile racing, of all things. Also in February, we'll host two visiting filmmakers, including Tony Buba, a fiercely funny Pennsylvanian who makes films about his small blue-collar hometown. He was recently honored with a retrospective at Anthology Film Archives. And we've got the perfect date movie for Valentine's Day with a new restoration of Mauvais Sang by Leos Carax (Holy Motors)."
Despite major changes in the film industry, including changes in the way the public consumes media, Sheehan is enthusiastic about what she sees in the world of movies. "The two main sources of my excitement come from the web and the ground: ongoing changes in the film world, and the opportunity to connect with communities in Seattle," says Courtney. "The mediums and methods for making movies are changing (in turn, shifting our very understanding of what film is). This opens up room for experimenting with how to share and show new work. I look forward to exploring these possibilities in our cinemas, in addition to continuing the Film Forum's long tradition of screening excellent independent films from many eras and industries. Through community collaborations on events, I'm excited by the chance to open the Film Forum to the many passions, curiosities and causes that make Seattle such a fascinating place to live."
Sheehan has written about film, festivals and filmmakers for a variety of publications, including Bitch Magazine, Senses of Cinema, The Independent and NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies. Subjects have ranged from the world’s largest documentary festival (IDFA in Amsterdam), to South America’s largest animation festival (Anima Mundi in Rio de Janeiro). She is also co-founder and creative director of Cine Migratorio, a migration-themed film festival in Santander, Spain. Although her taste in film ranges from satirical Estonian animation to 1980s rock ‘n’ roll fables, lately she has especially enjoyed contemporary Balkan cinema and activist documentaries from India. She holds a degree in Visual Culture from Grinnell College.
Courtney is replacing long-time Program Director Adam Sekuler, who will continue his work as a film director and pursue a career as an independent programmer.
For the cine-curious who are new to Seattle's wonderfully vibrant film scene, or those who have lapsed in their movie-watching habit, Sheehan has a suggestion to get you excited again: "Juzo Itami’s 1985 “ramen western” Tampopo. As a satire, it deftly lambasts quirks in both Japanese and American cultures. As a comedy, it packs the laughs with jokes ranging from proper ramen consumption techniques to slapstick to showdowns. As a film, it experiments with form, unfolding as a series of vignettes connected by at times provocative editing. This structure allows Itami to play with many moods and characters, combining a Rocky-eseque training montage, bizarre food sex (and food squeezing) sequences, scathing social critique, and arguably experimental non-narrative scenes--it's one of my favorite films."