LA GRANDE — La Grande is just weeks away from hosting its annual congregation of visiting filmmakers at the 2021 Eastern Oregon Film Festival.

In the festival’s return to a modified in-person experience, the event’s organizers are excited to be showing a record-high 53 films this year. Of the 17 filmmakers coming to show their films in person, Portland-based Justin Zimmerman is embracing the chance to come to La Grande after missing out last year due to the pandemic.

“It’s an incredible film festival with an incredible pedigree,” Zimmerman said. “You know you’re in the hands of people who really love films and support filmmakers. Those are the places that you want to be with your work.”

While this year’s festival will mark the first time Zimmerman has stepped foot in La Grande, he is no longer a stranger to the Eastern Oregon Film Festival. Zimmerman presented his short film “The Other Border” at last year’s virtual festival and enjoyed the camaraderie among filmmakers, albeit virtual, that the event presented.

“I participated in the Q&A last year and I thought it was a remarkable film festival,” he said. “I was delighted that another documentary was invited this year, so that I could come in person and experience the town and the festival.”

Zimmerman is showing his film “Gone in a Flash,” a documentary short about the minds behind flash animation during the early days of the internet. The four-minute film dives into the artists behind the early flash animation and its effect on a generation who was new to the internet at the time. The film centers around Jim Choma, one of the original artists to use flash animation who ultimately became somewhat of a cult-favorite across Canada.

“I love this film,” Zimmerman said. “It’s extraordinary the cross-cultural impact this guy had, but nobody knows about him. So much of that flash work has just disappeared.”

Zimmerman said he created “Gone in a Flash” to mirror early flash animations in both editing and timing. Coming into the film festival, he is excited to showcase the professional work and major filming shoots that went into creating the film.

In the festival’s 12th rendition, Eastern Oregon Film Festival Director Chris Jennings is looking forward to this year’s group of incoming filmmakers. Jennings was glad to have Zimmerman present his work in person this year after meeting virtually last year.

“His work stands out in that he goes after these really passionate stories,” Jennings said. “The characters’ passions are sometimes their biggest challenge to overcome.”

Jennings noted that Zimmerman’s eagerness to return to the festival is a good example of how the event builds relationships moving forward in the film community. He hopes that having filmmakers together in this area will showcase East Oregon. Zimmerman, who has hosted a film festival and seen his work shown in over 175 festivals, stressed the importance of bringing communities together through film festivals.

“This is a real passion of mine, being connected to a community and seeing your work screened in public with an audience who does not care about you, but is interested in your work,” he said. “When an event can bring in creators from across the state and across the country it’s exciting because it not only benefits the people in the community, but you also introduce a new world of outside perspectives to your community.”

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