by BEN KROMER & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & akedance, the name of Sandpoint's new film festival, boldly throws down the gauntlet in front of the famous Sundance Film Festival. Once known as the Idaho Panhandle International Film Festival, Sandpoint's festival will be reborn as the Lakedance International Film Festival (Sept. 9-16).

Festival director Trevor Greenfield insists that Lakedance is "not becoming another Sundance. We're going for our own unique flavor and style." If you read between the lines, his message is clear: Greenfield is saying Lakedance is much, much better than Sundance. I support his efforts and as a journalist it's my job to twist public opinion, so here are three good reasons to support Lakedance and despise Sundance. 1) Lakedance genuinely supports independent filmmakers, as opposed to Sundance, which merely pretends to. 2) You can actually go to Lakedance, while Sundance is basically an exclusive club in Aspen for movie stars and skiing millionaires. This also makes it a classic slobs vs. slobs scenario. 3) Lakes are pleasant and cool, whereas eventually the sun will kill us all.

So much, then, for Sundance. Here's the skinny on Lakedance: There will be more than 50 films, 10 of them feature-length, along with workshops, panel discussions and Q & amp;As with filmmakers. I previewed 15 films in the Lakedance lineup all at once. While it was tiring, I feel slightly giddy now, because it's time to hand out awards for my mini-film festival. Pretending to host an award show is good for my self-esteem, and besides, I gave every award a cute name. Here are the winners.

The Timothy Treadwell Award for Documentary Filmmaking goes to Raising Lucy, by Coeur d'Alene's Carol Muzik. Muzik and her husband usurped the natural order of things by raising an orphaned goose by themselves. Lucy wins the Treadwell specifically for the close-up footage of the grown-up goose flying next to the Muziks' boat, with one of the family's dogs riding alongside and slobbering in the wind. (Even Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel didn't have anything like that.) The goose is so precious that it's possible to ignore the awful narrator.

The Hayao Miyazaki Award for Best Animated Fable award goes to The Spirit Child, which narrowly edged out Nasuh and Fish, but No Cigar. Spirit Child is a ghost story animated with pencil drawings, which as far as I know has never been done before. It looks good and the considerable effort put into it is obvious.

The Nick Palumbo Award for Outstanding Achievement In the Field of Glamorizing Murderers goes to NG for its brief depiction of obscure serial killer Charles Ng. The film adds an extra level of morally dubious creepiness by blatantly glamorizing Ng. Loman's Tale (5:50) wins the Ramsey Campbell Spooktacular Award (and Best Picture) for being a creepy, weird and partially animated story about a lecherous old man living in the woods. The Sherman Alexie Award for Native Casting (and comedy) goes to the feature length Rain on the Mountain, which is about a slightly loopy Native American father and husband who wants to lead his people back to the "old ways" but doesn't know how, and no one really cares anyway. The Where's Victoria Jackson? Award goes to 20Q for being a short mockumentary starring SNL's Victoria Jackson, about people who take the game of Twenty Questions very seriously.

The Al Gore Award for Blatant Propaganda in a Documentary goes to the Girl Stars episodes "Anita the Beekeeper" and "Anuradha the Medical Student." These are pure agitprop attempting to convince Indian girls to stay in school by telling inspiring true stories, while never giving equal time to the other side of the argument. Hey Indian girls, I didn't stay in school, and look at me! Seriously, look at me, please.

The documentary At Lionhead will be making its world premiere at Lakedance, which is entirely appropriate as its subject, writer/actress/producer Nell Shipman, started the first movie studio in the Northwest in the 1920's. Shipman made movies at Priest Lake starring herself and cute bears, and probably would have taken the Treadwell Documentary award from Raising Lucy if I'd gotten a screener.

That's the end of the awards. I stayed positive because I want to emphasize the good points about Lakedance's genuinely independent films in contrast to the hated Sundance's well-funded sub-Hollywood flicks. That said, I must take to task two of the features I saw: The Journey (tagline: "Sometimes you have to get find yourself") and Her Best Move (Bend it Like Beckham with an American girl). In about three hours, these two films manage to cover nearly every PG movie clich & eacute; known to humanity. I don't believe that independent films are required to be about sex, drugs, and murder and to have an NC-17 rating, but I fail to see the point of making one that, in the case of Her Best Move, is identical to what the Disney Channel plays all day. Happily, those were the only two films I saw that were enslaved by convention.

Though I'm clearly on the side of amateur filmmakers who find the nerve to make their own movies and then show them to the public, I can't completely abandon my critical faculties. After watching 15 straight Lakedance films, I have two pieces of constructive criticism. 1) Dear broke filmmakers, you can afford to think up a decent name for your movie, 'cause it's free. Rain on the Mountain, "An Open Door", Callback, Greetings from the Shore, Kayfabe, "Montana", "New to Laundry", "Caught in Paint", "Colours", "Birthday" ... these are not titles that will put butts in seats. Use Tobe Hooper's indie classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as your guide next time you're deciding what to call your movie. 2) Edit more. I understand that making a 15-minute movie feels more impressive than making a 10-minute movie, but a 15-minute movie shouldn't have any slow parts.

That's it for the criticism, and now I'll advocate for Lakedance directly. Please go and have fun. These festivals grow geometrically; the more people show up, the more attention the festival gets, the more people know about it, the more movies get submitted, the better everything gets. I might end up living in Spokane my whole life, and I'd like to have a huge annual film festival nearby.

The Lakedance International Film Festival will be held Sept. 9-16 in Sandpoint, Idaho, with screenings at the Panida Theatre, 300 N. First St., and collateral events at a variety of Sandpoint locations. Tickets: $8; $6, seniors and military; $24-$48, festival passes. Visit

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