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February 15, 2013

Speaker Announcement: Brian Lindstrom, Real Film
Category: 2013 Event, News, Speaker Announcements

Brian Lindstrom

Language is a tool that we use every day. First we learn to understand it, then speak it, write it, and think with it; we string words together, crafting intricate ideas that are sometimes beautiful, yet still we’re not precise.

Take the word “elide.” It means to omit a sound or syllable while speaking, sometimes it’s simply used in place of “omit,” and more recently it’s used to suggest a merging together of two things. Of course this makes sense: You omit two sounds in “you’re” because you’ve merged two words together.

Our lives are full of elision. The details of a city are vivid the first time you visit, and then they slowly fade out of view. The minutia gets lost, you keep moving forward, and you fill in the gaps of what’s gone.

Filmmaker Brian Lindstrom is here to remind us of those gaps. His subjects are drawn from the fringes, where people are reduced to a single word like “addict” or “schizophrenic.” Glossed over, forgotten—their stories are seldom held up and examined in the name of truth. What Brian captures are moments from his subjects’ lives that reveal their depth and complexity, but more importantly their humanity.

As he writes on his website, Brian is always attempting to answer the question, “How does a person grow?” For all of the beauty normally ascribed to it, growth is just as thorny and uncomfortable. Raw, difficult. The people who struggle to transcend their shortcomings only triumph through the force of their own will, and the process is often hard to watch. Yet the strength to grow and change, even in the most desperate and challenging circumstances, inspires admiration and hope.

Brian’s 2007 film, the critically acclaimed Finding Normal, examined the question of growth at Portland’s Hooper Detox center. Documenting a group of addicts who transition from the center to Central City Concern’s Recovery Mentor Program, the film gives its subjects room, allowing them to tell their stories. The film, widely praised by critics and winner of awards at the Astoria International Film Festival and the Longbaugh Film Festival, prompted Oregonian film critic Shawn Levy to write that it was one of the best documentaries he’d ever seen on drug recovery.

Brian’s latest feature-length film, Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, has been several years in the making. Its subject, James Chasse, was a schizophrenic Portland musician who died in 2006 after a severe beating by police. The film explores Chasse’s life, the circumstances of his death, and the trial that followed. Already receiving great reviews, Alien Boy is an official selection at both the Portland International Film Festival and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana.

In addition to making films, Brian also teaches in the Northwest Film Center’s Young Filmmaker’s program. Inspiring and empowering at-risk youth, he knows how influential a good teacher can be. Brian grew up in Portland, graduating from Parkrose High School and Lewis and Clark College. He was the first in his family to go to college, and he admits that it was a struggle:

“I put myself through school with a combination of student loans, work study, scholarships, and working eight summers in a salmon cannery in Alaska.”

It was while taking a video production class with Professor Stuart Kaplan, however, that a note from his teacher inspired him to pursue film.

“It said, in part, that he felt I had the talent and drive to be a filmmaker, and it included a gift certificate to a filmmaking class at the Northwest Film Center. That was a turning point because I now had support, opportunity, and, in the best possible sense, an expectation to live up to.”

Brian went on to receive his MFA in directing and screenwriting from Columbia University, and he’s now making remarkable films that give voice to the people in our community who so often go unheard. On March 23rd, 2013, come hear him remind us of what’s been elided, the real, complicated truth of things.

Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who will be sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community.