Portland Horror Film Festival™ opens the borders of Horror

Portland Horror Film Festival™ is offering free Horror film submissions for filmmakers living in certain Middle East countries, until the final festival deadline of April 25th.

Previously, we offered free submissions to women filmmakers, in order to increase gender diversity in the horror genre. Now, we believe it is time to reach across the world to encourage cultural understanding. The art of film has always brought people from different cultures together. As an international festival of horror films, Portland Horror Film Festival strongly believes that Horror movies are especially effective at communicating the wide experience of fear, and how people from all parts of the world struggle to overcome it. Recent Persian-language horror films like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, from Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour, and Under The Shadow, written and directed by Iranian-born Babak Anvari, gave us a small taste of this unfamiliar horror.

“It’s not really that unfamiliar, though.” says Brian Callahan, co-director, with his wife Gwen, of the Portland Horror Film Festival, “Fear knows no borders. The fear of death, the fear of the unknown or supernatural, and the fear of the Other; these are universal.”

When paranoia of the Atomic Bomb was prevalent in the US, we embraced tales of giant insects, like Them!, and Japan gave the world Godzilla as a way to encapsulate, and battle, the debilitating fear of utter painful destruction at the hands of the Other–in this case, the US, after the devastating atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, less than 10 years earlier. Anvari’s Under The Shadow relies on the tense paranoia of post-revolutionary Iran, the dangers of being a modern woman in an oppressive regime, and the imminent threat from Iraqi bombings, wrapped up in a package of supernatural horror.

“Not only does inviting horror films from these countries help do the important job of creating mutual understanding, but these films often also contain unique mythologies and legends unfamiliar to Westerners,” says Callahan, “and, that’s just cool for horror fans!” Last year, Portland Horror Film Festival showed two films from the Middle East, one about an Egyptian urban legend, and the other a kind of Iranian doppleganger. When asked what the festival wants to see from Middle East filmmakers, Callahan says, “We want them to scare us!”

US sanctions can prevent filmmakers in certain countries from directly paying submission fees or, in some cases, make it illegal for US citizens to engage in financial transactions with them. While sanctions may serve important governmental purposes, and Portland Horror Film Festival does not support oppression, gender inequality, or other government-sponsored injustices in some countries, the organizers strongly believe that opening borders to filmmakers who have stories to tell, especially tales of terror, is an important part of understanding the lives of all fellow humans. “It’s our festival’s mandate to showcase horror films from every corner of our planet, so we’re doing our part to encourage filmic diversity,” says co-director Gwen Callahan. “Now, it’s up to filmmakers in these countries to show us what they’ve got!”

Portland Horror Film Festival takes place June 8-10th at the beautifully restored Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR. Film submissions are open to all until April 25th through FilmFreeway at filmfreeway.com/festival/PortlandHorrorFilmFestival. Filmmakers from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, and Libya may submit for free until the deadline.

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