A normal film festival wouldn’t screen films from as wide a spectrum of actors as Peter Fonda, Elizabeth Moss, Haley Joel Osment and Bill Nye. A normal film festival wouldn’t partner with Filmmaker magazine, and put themselves out there by identifying 25 up-and-coming talents and declaring them “the new faces of independent film.” But Tacoma Film Festival isn’t a normal film festival. Now in its 12th year, TFF prides itself finding groundbreaking and influential actors and films before the rest of the industry catches up, and beginning Thursday, and running through Oct. 12, they’re putting those actors and films center stage at venues across the city of Tacoma, Washington.

Among this year’s features, a few stand out as departures from normal film-festival fare, in the timeliness of the topics they confront head on: Bill Nye: Science Guy is a look at the man beneath the lab coat, at a time when science is viewed subjectively and politically. Fallen examines violence against police officers and the impact to their friends, family and society. For Akheem – in its West Coast premiere – is a gritty narrative about a teenager who is finding her first love as she loses friends to gun violence, just as racial unrest hits the streets of nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

In the Twitter age, and in an era that’s looking to be the golden age of television, short films provide just the length of story arc to keep a younger generation focused and entertained. Tacoma Film Festival’s planners have taken a massive spectrum of shorts and dropped them into 15 packages by theme. Of course the Family Friendly package makes an appearance, but at the other end of that particular spectrum, the Late Night package contains material that is not suitable for all audiences. The Best is Yet To Come package includes several shorts about senior citizen protagonists finding new meaning in their lives, and is juxtaposed with the C’Est La Morte package, focusing on the different dimensions of death and the hereafter. The hopefulness and optimism of the Overcoming Adversity package contrasts with the dark realism of the issues The World We Live In takes on.

To say there’s something for everybody would be a bit cliché, but it seems to apply. If you’re looking for some good screen time – and maybe even some to share with your family – Tacoma Film Festival is your best bet for the next week.