A Homegrown Fest Goes Abroad

Downing in Iceland

Many film festivals show movies from around the world, but only one actually shows them around the world: Couch Fest, a Seattle-spawned oddity. 

The festival, started in 2008 by hyperactive filmmaker Craig Downing, will hold screenings in 30 locations around the world on a single day, Sept. 24. Unlike its peers, Couch Fest doesn’t involve theatres at all. Rather, screenings will be held in living rooms of film fans around the globe who agree to open their couches, chairs and floors to film-curious strangers. 

A few Seattle homes will be included this year, Downing recently told City Arts, but the festival has moved its base of operations to Reykjavík, Iceland. 

After travelling the world for two years, making films for various nongovernmental organizations and spreading the word about his unusual film festival, Downing had an epiphany. “I realized that coming home didn’t necessarily mean that I had to come home to the States,” the 36-year-old said via phone from Poland, where he was scouting short films. Recalling a wistful month he once spent camping in Iceland, Downing decided to move to the land of volcanoes and bank defaults, taking Couch Fest with him.

Downing can only say two things in Icelandic—“What the hell did you say?” and “Yes”—but his festival has been received warmly by the Reykjavík International Film Festival, which will include Couch Fest on the first day of its two week program. The City of Seattle, Reykjavík’s sister city, will take over the Icelandic burg’s municipal building for one day this month to promote the cities’ partnership. Downing will be there, showing the best Couch Fest films of 2009. 

Photo courtesy of Craig Downing