News Column

Film festival to honor wounded warriors

October 16, 2013


Oct. 16--The sixth annual Gig Harbor Film Festival will be held this weekend and bring more than 70 independent films from 23 filmmakers to Uptown Galaxy Theater.

The venue, at 4649 Point Fosdick Drive in the Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center, will screen a variety documentaries, features, shorts and international films.

Board member emeritus Marilyn Owel originally had an idea to show outdoor films, and it developed and grew into what is now a thriving, respected festival that brings more than 2,000 attendees each day. The Galaxy Theater offers 10 digital, state-of-the-art screens to show the films.

"Gig Harbor is the perfect community and location for a film festival," said Marty Thacker, the executive director of the festival. "We have a cohesive, culturally involved community with an outstanding group of individuals and volunteers, helping to make it a success."

This weekend's festival, which kicks off Thursday and wraps up Sunday, will salute the military.

"In the past, we have featured celebrities," Thacker said. "This year we are recognizing our servicemen. Gig Harbor is closely associated with the Navy, Air Force and Army. Without our military, we would not be a free country. They deserved to be recognized."

Two wounded warriors will be the guests of honor during the Opening Gala party: Sgt. 1st Class LeRoy Petry, a Medal of Honor winner, and retired Cpl. Sue Downes, a Purple Heart recipient.

"We are blessed and fortunate Sgt. 1st Class Petry and Cpl. Downes accepted our invitation," Thacker said. "Sgt. 1st Class Petry is from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and Alaska Airlines, one of our sponsors, is flying Cpl. Downes first class to be here."

The gala night will include the film "GMO OMG" at 5 p.m. Thursday. The film, by return director Jeremy Seifert, offers a look at the loss of seed diversity and how genetic alteration affects the population.

"It's a timely film for audiences with the current legislation," Thacker said. "People can view it and get personal information to make up their minds about the issue."

After the screening, the event moves to Canterwood, where guests will have an opportunity to walk a red carpet and getting a taste of Hollywood in the harbor. Appetizers and a no-host bar will be available. The event sold out last year. Cost is included with a $115 VIP pass, or $45 without the pass.

Petry and Downes will conduct interviews and offer photo opportunities at the gala. Petry has an extensive list of awards and decorations from his years of service.

Downes, a double-leg amputee, was wounded in Afghanistan. She is portrayed in the documentary "Service: When Women Come Marching Home," by Marcia Rock. It will screen at 5:55 p.m. Saturday.

Downes is the first woman veteran to receive a service dog from the National Education for Assistance Dog Services.

The GHFF board chooses to bring diversity to the film festival with varied length and themes. The committee is committed to finding films that educate, entertain and inspire, Thacker said.

Many of the entries will offer question-and-answer discussions following their screening, and many directors will be present.

The festival strives to target all age demographics with Kidsfest films and documentaries. Most films are for those 21 and older.

Three films have local ties.

"Seniors will enjoy 'Old Goats' (7 p.m. Saturday)," Thacker said. "It is hilarious. The director is from Bainbridge."

"Another Chance: Re-entry After Prison" is from Gig Harbor director Maureen Reilly. The short documentary features the women who re-entering society after being incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center for Women.

"Bible Quiz," from native Nicole Teeny, has a cast and crew from Puget Sound. Teeny's brother, an actor and Gig Harbor resident, will be on a panel following the show at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Kidsfest will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For a $6 admission, children will be given a snack box to enjoy while featured storyteller Solana Booth weaves traditional Native American songs, dance and stories between three short films, Thacker said.

"It's a Wrap," the filmmakers' awards ceremony, will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Babich Netshed, commemorates the efforts of participants devoted to filmmaking.

Lindsey Wagner, this year's Pay it Forward recipient, promotes the film industry through classes, seminars and lifetime involvement. The award is a tribute to her effort to give back to the community, Thacker said.

Dress is casual with waterfront clothing and boats shoes. Cost is included with a VIP pass, $35 without.

Wagner's son has a documentary, "Tranquility," that will be screen during the festival, and she was one of the producers.

Filmgoers have many different ticket-buying options. The VIP all-access pass offers the greatest savings at $115. Attendees can go to all events, including the gala and It's a Wrap. An eight movie pass is $45, while single adult tickets are $8.

The film festival brings in independent filmmakers and gives them an opportunity to have a voice through their craft.

"Filmmakers love this festival," Thacker said. "We give them the full community experience with a positive welcome and great support."

"Filmmakers spread the word that Gig Harbor is a great place to come," she added. "Each year, new filmmakers call, wanting to be part of GHFF."

New board president Gerry Knight is enthusiastic about continuing the growth of the festival, merging existing creativity with a strategic business plan to keep the festival in the black when many others around the country are struggling.

For more information, visit

Lifestyles Coordinator Kim Eibel can be reached at 253-358-4152 or by email at


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