First Wave Programming Revealed

March 5–14, 2021

 The 44th Portland International Film Festival (PIFF 44) is proud to announce the first wave of titles and special events. Taking place March 5 – 14, 2021, PIFF 44 is a program of the Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center, one of the oldest and most distinguished media arts centers in the country. The festival centers on both artists and cinematic storytellers who are bold enough to interrupt the status quo, and focuses on those changing for whom, by whom, and how cinematic stories are told. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, PIFF 44 will look very different from previous festivals. A combination of virtual and drive-in screenings and events will bring the world to Portland—and Portland to the world. Cinematic stories from the Pacific Northwest, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East dominate this year’s lineup of 93 total feature and short films from over 34 countries. The approaches to storytelling in PIFF 44 are equally wide-ranging and innovative, building on the Cinema Unbound theme introduced in last year’s PIFF festival. The Northwest Film Center’s second annual Cinema Unbound Awards will kick off the festival, celebrating artists and leaders who are transforming cinematic storytelling, and throughout the festival, the Cinema Unbound Drive-In at Zidell Yards will showcase independent features and 5 new Northwest shorts exploring what the future can be. 

“Cinema Unbound continues to be the driving force of our festival, drive-in, and awards. This is especially true this year as PIFF and Cinema Unbound Awards go global, allowing audiences the world over to experience film, animation, performance, audio stories, and undefinable mash-ups that take cinema to new heights.” says Amy Dotson, the Director of the Northwest Film Center, and Curator of Film & New Media at the Portland Art Museum. “PIFF exists in the midst of art and cinema, and we’re thrilled to bring together artists and innovators who have created—and curated—new ways of seeing that can’t be found elsewhere.”

Other PIFF highlights include the Future/future Competition spotlighting boundary-pushing new cinema from emerging filmmakers around the globe; Spectral Transmissions: Ghosts of Futures Past, a multimedia event in the style of a 1930s/1940s radio show; and Where There’s Smokean immersive cinematic exploration of memory and loss from writer/director Lance Weiler. This year a special Cinema//Care Program, guest programmed by Sundance Film Festival’s Gina Duncan, will examine how independent filmmaking and festival support can help sustain a culture of care and community.

Where There’s Smoke

The full PIFF 44 lineup will be announced February 14, 2021.


The Cinema Unbound Awards Experience

Thursday, March 4

A virtual and drive-In experience celebrating artists and leaders trying new things, thinking bigger, and pushing forward to transform cinematic storytelling – and the world. Honorees for the first Cinema Unbound Awards last year included Todd Haynes, John Cameron Mitchell, Julia Goldman, Michel Reilhac, Rose Bond, Rajendra Roy and Amanda Needham. This year’s honorees will be announced on February 7, 2021.  

PIFF Opening Night

Friday, March 5

PIFF 44 Opening Night defies the notion that a singular cinematic experience represents the festival.  Presenting various perspectives on what it means to be alive in this moment– while reflecting on the past that has shaped us, this multi-perspective Opening Night panorama dives deep into unexpected places, expounding upon notions of race, gender, time, and nowness. Funny, painful, powerful, and electric in equal measure, PIFF 44 Opening Night subverts the notion that any one film is worthy of “Opening Night” attention. Instead, it embraces the interplay between these six storytellers and their collaborators. 

Opening Night will feature:

Virtual PIFF

March 5–14

With 78 films from 34 countries, media art stories, and programs over a 10 day period, this year’s offerings can be seen in Portland and throughout the U.S. The robust online watching portal allows for a true cinema-like experience and can be seen on a number of devices, including Apple TV and Roku Over The Top (OTT) devices.  

Virtual offerings include:

  • Over 40 films, cinematic stories, and art from black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).
  • Over 40 films, cinematic stories, and art from female and female identifying voices.
  • 30 shorts: 9 Northwest shorts, 8 US shorts, and 13 International shorts
  • 45 features: 8 NW films, 20 US films, and 17 International films


Tickets and passes are available to all U.S residents.

Tickets and Passes

Tickets to individual screenings and festival passes are currently available for sale at

Ticket and pass pricing are as follows:

  • $150 Virtual Screenings Pass (All Access Virtual Offerings Only)
  • $250 Cinema Unbound Drive-In Pass (All Access Drive In Only)
  • $350 Combined All Access Pass (All Access to Virtual and Drive In Programming)
  • $150 Student & New Wave Members Combined All Access Pass
  • $75 Student & New Wave Members Virtual Screening Pass
  • $9 Individual Virtual Tickets