Tacoma’s Destiny Film Festival Finds Its Identity

'Cab Elvis.'

At three years old, Destiny City Film Festival is one of the younger film festivals in the Northwest—but it’s already found and filled a valuable niche in Tacoma’s evolving identity. Founder/director Emily Alm curates a compact but solid itinerary of national and local films every bit as eclectic and strong as the programming offered by the region’s larger fests. The festival makes its home in one of the country’s oldest fully operational movie theaters, the Blue Mouse Theatre.

DCFF, which runs Aug. 26–27, this year features more Northwest-grown entries than it has before. Brides to Be, the latest feature from Seattle-based filmmakers Kris and Lindy Boustedt, is a polished and genuinely creepy gothic horror tale about a young lesbian couple experiencing supernatural phenomena as they prepare for their impending wedding at a remote country house. Kandahar Incident is a taut mini-thriller about a war vet’s kidnapping and interrogation by strangers. Rhino is a deliriously chilling filmed-in-Olympia mini-movie; Starry Night is a sweet-spirited drama about an astronomy-obsessed high school girl (it plays as part of the free Family Shorts compilation). And Cab Elvis is a moving and funny short doc about Seattle-based Elvis-impersonating cabbie Dave Groh. A non-Northwest highlight is Left on Purpose, Justin Schein’s feature-length documentary about Mayer Vishner, a 1960s anti-war activist who commited suicide as a final political act.

Alm talked with us about creating and programming a film festival from the ground up.

This’ll be the DCFF’s third go-round. Could you describe the Fest’s inception?
I founded DCFF in 2013  after I began my position in the events department at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts and still wanted to concurrently keep a foot in the film festival world. I also wanted to center the festival around storytelling—a keystone facet of filmmaking that sometimes gets lost in films these days. One way I could do that was by creating a short screenplay competition alongside the film festival, which has received entries from all over the country in each of its three years of existence. 

What has founding, programming and running your own film festival been like?
It’s been such a wonderful adventure. It has definitely come with its challenges, which are inevitable for any passion project that is built from the ground up. It’s rare that anyone gets to spend their time working on something so close to their heart, so I count myself lucky to be able to do just that. 

How has the festival been received locally?
From the beginning, the local community has been incredibly supportive and encouraging, which has provided even more proof that people in and around Tacoma are hungry for more ways to see quality independent films. It takes time for events and festivals to take shape and to cement their individuality, and I have seen much progress from year one to year three. 

There’s a larger contingent of locally-made films in DCFF competition this year.
I am thrilled that there are five Washington-made films in this year’s line-up. There will be filmmakers present for each of the screenings, and I can’t wait for the DCFF audience to engage with them and get excited about the filmmaking that’s coming out of this region. 

Tell us about your relationship with the Blue Mouse Theatre, and why it’s the venue for DCFF.
If you ask anyone in Tacoma if they’ve been there, they more than likely have a memorable story about a film they saw there. Its rich history and strong connection to its community—particularly the Proctor District—makes it an exciting place to showcase new, independent films. I couldn’t picture the festival being held anywhere else.  

Do you have a long-range vision of where the DCFF is going?
Eventually, I would love to see the festival reach other areas of Tacoma—perhaps through utilizing other venues or holding special events throughout the city. 

Festival passes, individual tickets and a complete schedule for the 2016 Destiny City Film Festival go here.