Six International Films to Have On Your Radar (Or See this Weekend at PIFF)

A blue banner for the 2014 Portland International Film Festival.

As Portland hunkers down today for an impending blizzard, we're also getting ready for the annual Portland International Film Festival at the Northwest Film Center, which starts today and lasts two weeks, with dozens of movies from around the world. Here at Bitch, we'll be rounding up some of our favorite films. Here are our picks that are playing this weekend, come snow or sleet! If you're not in Portland, make sure to keep these films, directors, and actors on your radar! 

A scene from Belle, featuring two aristocratic ladies, one white, one biracial, sitting at a piano.

Director: Amma Asante, Great Britain
Watch the trailer for Belle here.

This highly anticipated film follows Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the daughter of a British Naval Captain and an African woman, who is adopted into an aristocratic 18th-century British home. Based on a true character, the film follows race, family, romance, and the changing laws around slavery in England. As film critic Nijla Mu'min wrote in her 2013 feature for Bitch "Written Off," black women screenwriters and directors rarely get institutional support, so it's awesome to see Belle as the PIFF Opening Night film. Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 7 PM (Whitsell Auditorium. 

 A shot from Gabrielle, featuring the titular character grinning lovingly at her love interest.

Director: Louise Archambault, Canada
Watch the trailer for Gabrielle here.  

This film from Montreal follows the blossoming romance of Gabrielle, a talented music student with Williams syndrome, who fights to follow her heart despite familial and systemic pressure. Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, the actress playing the titular character, also has Williams syndrome, a refreshing change from many on-screen disability depictions. Sat, Feb 8, 2014 at 1 PM (Cinemagic). Also Sat, Feb 15, 2014 at 6:15 PM (OMSI). 

A scene from Trap Street, featuring the young male protagonist on a walk with the young woman he met while out surveilling.

Director: Vivian Qu, China
Watch a clip of Trap Street here.  

With hints of noir, this narrative feature follows teenager Li Quiming (Lu Yulai), whose job at a data surveillance company leads him to meet an intriguing woman. But when the couple persue a relationship, he finds himself in some hot water. The story may be less about the young duo and more about our future with a growing surveillance state. Sat, Feb 8, 2014 at 3:30 PM (Cinemagic). Also Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 6 PM (Whitsell Auditorium).  

A portrait of Laura Dekker, the Dutch teenager whose solo sail around the world is documented in Maidentrip.

Director: Jillian Schlesinger, Netherlands
Watch the trailer for Maidentrip here.  

You might remember Laura Dekker's name from 2010—the Dutch 14-year-old girl who sailed around the globe by herself. Although her announcement initally left local family courts reeling, she successfully circumnavigated the law, and finally the world. This film, with footage shot by Dekker herself, captures her journey and that of her boat, GuppySat, Feb 8, 2014 at 6:15 PM (OMSI). Also Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium). 

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier. She stares at the camera, which is pointed at a mirror reflecting the mirror and Vivian infinitum. A captivating photograph.

Director: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel, United States
Watch the trailer for Finding Vivian Maier here.  

Vivian Maier may have been the original Instagrammer. The New York City 1950s photographer developed over 5,000 prints in her lifetime, specializing in a unique square cropping. Her body of work was rediscovered in 2007 at a thrift auction house in Chicago. Now, her legacy as a pioneering street photographer is recognized in this documentary. Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 3 PM (Whitsell Auditorium). Also Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 8:30 PM (Cinemagic).

A shot from Mary Queen of Scots, featuring the young queen played by Camille Rutherford looking rather shocked.

Director: Thomas Imbach, Switzerland
Watch the trailer for Mary Queen of Scots here. 

It's hard to tell from the trailer if this "psychological portrait," starring Camille Rutherford will treat this infamous 16th-century female monarch with dignity or depravity, but with a life as riveting as Mary Stuart's, there's bound to be plenty of intrigue. Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 6:30 PM (OMSI). Also Sat, Feb 15, 2014 at 12:30 PM (Cinema 21).

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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