BRATS: Our Journey Home A Donna Musil Film Featuring Narration and Music by Kris Kristofferson
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Everett film fest will celebrate women's spirit

By Diane Wright
Times Snohomish County Bureau

Ten years ago, a group of women got together to start a film festival.

It was based on a simple idea: to celebrate the creative and diverse spirit of women by screening films either made by or about women.

Since then, the Everett Women's Film Festival has drawn more than 350 people each year to the Everett Theatre.   There they see documentaries and fictional works from filmmakers from around the world.

This year's festival starts with a gala from 6-7 p.m. Friday in the ballroom of the Monte Cristo Hotel at 1507 Wall St.

Then it's over to the Everett Theatre for two days of film screenings, starting at 7:10 p.m. with "Though Hell and High Water," by Elly M. Taylor.   It's the true story of Nancy Kelly, a Norwegian whose town was razed by the Nazis and who married one of her rescuers, a Scotsman in the British Navy.

Films are selected from submissions for their pacing and variety.   There are films by men that are about women, such as "Touch the Sound," Thomas Riedelsheimer's story of deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who "feels" the vibrations of music through her body and performs with various symphony orchestras.

Some of the films are not specifically about women's issues.   Women hardly appear in Gayle Knutson's wry look at "The Church Sign Guy," Lutheran pastor and author Steven Molin, whose church signs have become the stuff of legend.

"When the pope was getting elected, he put on his sign, 'If you see black smoke coming out of our church, call the fire department,' " said Knutson, who filmed Molin's story in 2005.

The Emmy-winning filmmaker was intrigued after a wrong turn took her past his church on a hot day and she saw her first "Church Guy" sign: "Hell is hotter than this ... but it's a dry heat."

"So I continued to drive by and take this detour," she said.   "He had me hooked."

Molin's signs apparently have changed the traffic patterns in Stillwater, Minn.   "People claim to have changed their driving habits," Knutson said.   "He changes the signs twice a week."

She met the minister and he turned out to be as funny as his signs.   Her film, which has been screened at 40 film festivals so far, has been included in the permanent collection at the Library of Congress.

The documentary not only tells the story of his signs but also, as Knutson puts it, "how he's changing his corner of the world.   It's not really a religious piece; it's about tolerance, and he conveys that message through humor."

Several filmmakers will be at the festival.

Donna Musil will be on hand to talk about her documentary "Brats: Our Journey Home," on the ever-mobile life of children of the military.   Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg also return this year to screen their true story of a 100-year-old California mansion built by the heiress to the Pullman railcar fortune.   In nightmarish fashion, the house nearly destroys her marriage -- and her fortune.

Emmy award-winner Lucy Ostrander comes with "Finding Thea," a 24-minute documentary she filmed with Nancy Bourne Haley about Norwegian immigrant Thea Christiansen Foss, who with her husband founded a Tacoma tugboat company and rose to become the matriarch of a maritime empire -- and the real-life prototype for Hollywood's "Tugboat Annie."

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or
The first documentary about growing up military.