It was popcorn heaven and silver screen dreams for many aspiring filmmakers this weekend in Sisters as BendFilm '09 closed out its lineup at Sisters Movie House. Visiting filmmakers supporting their work found the hospitality and friendliness a welcome addition to the six-year-old festival's appeal.

Judging by Friday night's enthusiastic full house and popular after-party at Three Creeks Brewing Company, it seems the experiment of "BendFilm at Sisters" made its mark.

BendFilm board member John Anderson greeted the Friday night crowd before the films to praise Sisters for their energy and support of BendFilm's expansion into Sisters.

"This is our first year here in Sisters. It is such a natural fit and we thank you," Anderson said. "Having an extra community brings an added dimension to the festival."

Suzanne Pepin and her husband, Bruce, hope the festival returns to Sisters next year.

"It was so stimulating being able to interact with the filmmakers and other audience members," Pepin said. "It's a new cultural activity for a community that already has so much to offer. We saw 'At The Edge Of The World,' the winning student short, 'Beholden' and the winning documentary, 'D-Tour.' They were all wonderful."

The number of filmmakers attending was impressive, with each screening having one or more members of the cast or production in the audience to discuss the film afterwards. Opening night, animator Kyle Bell joined the audience with his son, Silas.

Bell's animated gem, "The Mouse That Soared," went on to win Best Animation and Best of the Northwest awards Saturday night in Bend. The computer-animated tale of a flying circus mouse and its humble origins near an Oregon sawmill was a unanimous crowd favorite.

Julie Ferris, a crew member featured in the documentary film, "At The Edge Of The World," took a cab over from Bend to support the film and gave her personal accounts of life aboard the anti-whaling vessel.

"It was an incredible experience and felt so good to be doing something to help save these creatures," she said.

"I love this place," "The Attic Door" producer Erica Harrell said, after a rousing set by The Anvil Blasters at Three Creeks Brewing Co. "We want to come back and film something here in Sisters."

Mark Reeb, one of the lead actors in the film, "The Overbrook Brothers," charmed the Saturday morning crowd with remarks on the film's production and its development.

The film went on to win the coveted Best in Show award and its $10,000 prize, and also Best Screenplay. Reeb's work in the film was recognized with a Best Actor salute at the Saturday awards ceremony at the Tower Theatre.

Los Angeles director Devi Snively braved the brisk Saturday morning air in a fashionable beret and wool coat.

"It is beautiful here in Sisters. I am so impressed," she said. "This festival makes me feel valued. A lot of festivals forget about the filmmakers."

Snively made the trip from Bend to watch the feature film, "The Overbrook Brothers." Her own award-winning short horror film, "Death In Charge," played in Bend Friday night to a packed house.

Lisa Clausen, owner of Sisters Movie House, thinks the festival's presence in Sisters was a huge success.

"The thing that will make this fly is getting the filmmakers out here. Everyone loved that part. And we had a lot of them come from Bend, even first thing in the morning. Maybe next year we could do a Breakfast With The Filmmaker on a Saturday morning and get even more people involved," she said.

Director Danny Daneau's eerie Western thriller, "The Attic Door," took home three major awards Saturday Night for Best Feature, Best Cinematography and Best Musical Score.

"Everyone said Sisters' opening night party was the place to be Friday night so we made the drive over," said Daneau.

This was the up-and-coming director's first feature film and the BendFilm jurors responded to the film's purity of vision and originality.

"We had such a great screening in Sisters and want to thank everyone for seeing our little movie," he said. "We were shocked when the awards were announced."

Sisters resident Steve Kraemer enjoyed many of the weekend's offerings and commented on Sunday's encore performance of "The Attic Door."

"I liked it. It had an honesty and integrity to it that you don't see much anymore. That is what independent cinema is all about."

Jim Granato's documentary, "D-Tour," telling the moving story of a musician's struggle to find a kidney donor, took top honors in its category at the BendFilm awards. Granato spoke to the Sisters Saturday crowd about the documentary process and announced the film would soon be aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

"I didn't know what to expect coming to Bend," he said. "We'd all heard so many great things about the festival. Sisters reminds me of my Midwest upbringing. It feels neighborly. I was very flattered by all the attention and recognition and the love for film shown in the community. Having a beautiful movie theater designed like an old barn built for a town of two thousand people is just amazing.

"I gotta get back here; my wife would love it."