Archive for the ‘family’ Category

SIFF Preview: Films4Families, FutureWave

Mountlake Terrace High School student Nicholas Terry makes his film directorial debut with Senior Prom this year at SIFF

Two of SIFF‘s most exciting programs are the closely aligned Films4Families and FutureWave, both aimed at giving young audience members a chance to get to know quality film from both sides of the camera. Both programs have year-round components but get a special gloss during the festival, with films from all over the world, including our own backyard.

FutureWave’s focus in on teens and young adults. This year’s festival features nine feature films curated specifically with them in mind. FutureWave Features 2010 includes such films I Kissed a Vampire, an American made musical about teen vampires balancing budding romance and bloodsucking; New Zealand sci fi film about psychic twins Under the Mountain and Samson and Delilah, an Australian love story about two Aboriginal teens.

Of particular note in this year’s FutureWave features is Senior Prom, an improvisational comedy along the lines of Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman that was shot by local director Nicholas Terry, 17, and features his Mountlake Terrace High School classmates as actors in a seriously funny look at the drama and excitement of the senior prom, told in a series of intertwined stories by actors who are as close to the subject as one can possibly get.

SIFF Educational Programs Coordinator Dustin Kaspar says that the goal of FutureWave is to give young people a chance to see as much as possible of what’s out there, presenting films that anyone at the festival can enjoy but that particularly appeal and engage youth. He recommends Bilal’s Stand, an inspriring story based on real life by 25 year old first time director Sultan Sharrief; Turn It Loose, a documentary about the World Championships of Breakdancing, held in Soweto, South Africa; and Regeneration, a world premiere film that “takes a hard-hitting look at youth and young adults and the culture of apathy” featuring appearances by the likes of Howard Zinn, Mos Def, and Amy Goodman in an examination of why the current generation of youth are not more active and how to get them engaged, a film that seeks to be a catalyst for change for people of all ages.

The FutureWave Shorts program takes youth film a step further – these films aren’t just aimed at young people, they’re made by them. Young filmmakers use a variety of film forms – documentary, fiction, animation – to tell stories encompassing all kinds of different subjects, from body image issues to family dynamics to pollution to identity issues and much, much more.

Kicking off the FutureWave Shorts program is the always exciting SuperFly Filmmaking challenge. Partnering with Longhouse Media, SIFF’s SuperFly Filmmaking Workshop takes 50 young people from all over the country and hooks them up with experienced mentors to create short films based on a script by Peter Bratt, giving them a mere 36 hours from start to finish.

Another great aspect of the FutureWave program is the FutureWave jury, a diverse group of young people from the Seattle area who will watch all the films in the program and cast their votes for the best films in the festival, making their award presentation at the Golden Space Needle Awards. YouthWave jurors might be budding filmmakers themselves or they might just be kids who are very interested in watching movies. In either case, the young people on the panel must learn that while it’s easy to say “This is my favorite film”, it’s a little harder to find consensus with the whole group but once they’ve made their decision it’s always a chance to for a fresh perspective on what makes a film worth watching.

The Films4Families program presents children’s films from all over the world, suitable for the whole family to watch. Short and feature length fiction and documentary features include live action and animation. Among this year’s standouts:

Eleanor’s Secret is a French animated film (dubbed in English) about a seven-year-old boy who moves into his late aunt’s house and discovers that Tante Eleanor left him an entire library of classic books. Problem one: Nat can’t read. Problem two: since Nat seems disinterested in the books, his parents sell them to a collector. And that’s when the real trouble begins – the character’s in Eleanor’s books come to life only in the library and if left unread will disappear, taking all their stories with them. Nat has to join them to save them but can he make it in time?

White Lion uses actual white lions to dramatize a folktale in which a legendary white lion, a messenger from the gods in Shangaan culture, must struggle to survive on his own with only a young Shangaan named Gisani to protect him from the dangers of the wild.

A young Spanish orphan named Carlos manages a dual life as an obedient student during school hours and a member of the Spanish national junior team behind the back of nasty orphanage director Hipolito in Carlitos and the Chance of a Lifetime.

Other films include From Time to Time, a British story of a time travelling boy who discovers a secret that could change history forever; Princess Lillifee, an animated film from Germany about the fairy who rules over the magic land of Pinkovia; Turtle: The Incredible Journey, the story of 25 years in the life of a sea turtle; and The Family Picture Show, a program of animated and live action shorts.

This year for the first time Films4Families has its own youth jury, consisting of kids from Seattle area elementary and middle schools.

Every year, some of the best films in the festival happen as part of one of these programs. Whether you have kids or ARE one, there’s definitely a lot on screen for you to enjoy, but even if you don’t fit into one of those groups, you should definitely check these films out.

Paws-On Science at Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center breaks out the purple and gold this weekend with “Paws-On Science”, an event that brings together local families and their kids with scientists from the world class public research university in our back yard, the University of Washington.

All weekend long, Pacific Science Center is turning its galleries and exhibit halls into activity spaces showcasing the work being done at UW. Learn how local scientists are improving light bulbs and windows, determine if comic books can make you healthier, and have a chance to create a mini tsunami. Plus, on Saturday you get a chance to witness scat detection dog Mason as he demonstrates his effectiveness at his work. Also on Saturday, look for the UW Marching Band and Harry the Husky.

Calling all kids who like movies

Ever wonder who makes up the jury that hands out awards at film festivals? Most of the time, it’s a selection of film professionals–writers, directors, technicians, etc.–which makes sense. Why not have peers reviewing their peers?

SIFF agrees. During their annual festival, their featuries, documentaries, and shorts of all sorts are reviewed with an eye for excellence by a group of professionals.

Two special programs within the festival, however, require two special juries. The Films4Families program is aimed at introducing young children to the joys of film. The FutureWave program is about introducing young people to filmmaking by hand-ons immersion. These special groups of films get judged by the people most important to them–the young people who make them and the young people for whom they’re made.

SIFF is seeking jury members for both programs. To be eligible, you must be a student in King County who really cares about film. If you are in grades 3 – 7, you can apply to be on the Films4Families jury. If you’re in grades 8 – 12, you can apply to be on the FutureWave jury. (As someone who is way older than either of those groups, I envy you a bit: every year some of my favorite films in the festival come out of these two categories.)

To apply, go online and download the application here.

If you need more information, send an e-mail to or call 206.464.5830.

Sign up now for SIFF’s 12 hour movie marathon

How much do you love movies? A lot? A whole lot? Enough to spend an entire day watching them? How about watching them for 12 hours–with a free breakfast, complimentary coffee, donuts and beer thrown in to boot?

SIFF has found an appropriate fundraiser to help them raise the capital they need to continue their valuable work of supporting film in Seattle (and around the world, through their annual film festival): a 12 hour movie marathon featuring six films from SIFF’s storied past. You can participate in multiple ways: one way is to buy tickets at three different levels – $100 gets you breakfast and general admission seating for all of the films; $250 gets you breakfast, a reserved seat and pillow, blanket, popcorn and a catered box lunch; $500 includes all of the above plus a bottle of wine and an invitation to a future special event with SIFF’s leadership.

The movie lineup features:
The Whole Wide World
To Die For
The Road Warrior
Blood Simple
The Fourth Man
Trouble in Mind

You can also ask your friends and acquaintances to sponsor you to reach the level you desire – SIFF’s got tools for you set up your own online donation page.

For more information, check out their page for the marathon.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

kalalochclammingSome of my favorite childhood memories involve going clamming. What joy there is in crossing the beach in hot pursuit of the wily razor clam and what pleasure there is concluding the hunt with a clambake. Clams are quite fun to catch and even more fun to eat.

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has given the go-ahead for some razor clam digging in November. Their season update approves digging at Twin Harbors November 14 – 17; Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks for November 14 – 15; and Kalaloch Beach for Monday, November 16 only. Additional dates have been tentatively scheduled through January. It is important to always verify the approved dates for clamming before you go out.

If you do decide to go clamming–and really, you should, it really is quite fun–you might want to take advantage of the special deal being offered by the Kalaloch Lodge in the Olympic National Park. Their Clam Digger Lodging Package offers clam diggers at all levels from first-timers to old hands a night of lodging in their beautiful facility conveniently located near to the beach plus breakfast in the morning. It’s available Monday, November 16, and is tentatively scheduled for Friday, December 4, Saturday, December 5, Thursday, December 31 and Friday, January 1, subject to approval from the Washington and National Park Services. Newbie clammers can book a room using the code CLAMDIGNEW for a package that starts at $169 and includes a night at the lodge, a bucket, shovel and net and breakfast for two the next morning. Clam diggers who already have their own tools can use the code CLAMDIGPRO for a package that starts at $129 and includes the room and breakfast. Guests can stay additional nights for just $99 a night, an excellent deal. Besides clamming there are all kinds of things to do and see in the Olympic NP which contains beaches, rain forest valleys, mountain peaks and far, far more different types of plants and animals than you can name. It’s one of the most beautiful places in our state, and, honestly, maybe in the whole world.

To learn more about the Kalaloch Lodge or to book your clamming experience, visit their website. (Even if you’ve decided that clamming is just not for you, it’s an excellent vacation spot and the lodge offers a bunch of great package deals aimed at a variety of interests.) To learn more about the Olympic National Park, visit theirs.

All the information you need to know about clamming in Washington (including how to clean and cook the tasty things) can be found in the Razor Clam section of their website.

Some basics: a license is required for any digger 15 years or older. Any 2009 annual shellfish/seaweed license or combination fishing license is still valid or you can get a razor-clam only license available in annual or three-day only versions. Buy a license online, by phone at 866.246.9453 or in person at any of the more than 600 authorized license vendors. ALWAYS check the weather and surf conditions before heading down to the beach so that you know what you’re facing and, seriously, don’t be stupid about the ocean. It may be a beautiful source of bounty but “killer waves” is a literal expression sometimes.

Peter Pan Opens Tonight at Seattle Children’s Theatre

Eric Ankrim as Peter Pan and David Pichette as Captain Hook in SCT's upcoming musical production of "Peter Pan." Photo by Chris Bennion

Eric Ankrim as Peter Pan and David Pichette as Captain Hook in SCT's upcoming musical production of "Peter Pan." Photo by Chris Bennion

Seattle Children’s Theatre is keeping their impressive momentum going this year with tonight’s opening of Peter Pan, the third production of the 2009-10 mainstage season.  This musical adaptation of James M Barrie’s original play will run through January 10th of next year, and is directed by SCT Artistic Director Linda Hartzell.  I should probably also mention that they’ve got a badass crocodile costume for your enjoyment as well.  And while “badass” may not be in the standard descriptive vernacular for children’s plays, I can’t help but stress how appropriate it is all the same.

Oh, and just in case you’ve suffered total cultural amnesia or have been trapped on a deserted island since you were 3, here’s a synopsis of the production (spoiler alert!):

One of the greatest American musicals for any age—join Peter, Wendy and all the characters we know and love as we fly away to where dreams are born. Peter Pan flies in the Darling’s nursery window and tells the children that if they just believe and think lovely thoughts, they can fly to Neverland with him. There, they join Peter’s Lost Boys for fun and grand adventures. When Wendy and Princess Tiger Lily are captured by a menacing band of pirates, however, it takes Peter’s wily wit and Tink’s resolve to free them. Finally, with the help of one tick-tocking crocodile, Peter manages to turn the pirates against their Captain. When Wendy, John and Michael return to London, Peter Pan continues to visit Wendy once a year, until one day he finds that she has grown up and had a child of her own. Now it is little Jane’s turn to journey to the place where dreams are born with the wonderful Peter Pan.

Further details, including showtimes and ticketing information, can be found on the SCT website.

Doing the Puyallup

Friday was the opening day for the Western Washington Fair–you know it as “The Puyallup”–and, as usual, I was there. This year I started my Fair experience by watching the traditional running of the cattle. (Click here for video.

This was followed immediately by a parade featuring local marching bands, members of the military, the Daffodil Queen and her court, clows, a juggle Elvis impersonator on a unicycle, lots and lots of horses and carriages, tractors, the flags of all 50 states, and the fair’s many plush mascots.

parade photo

It was a bright and sunny day which along with free admission for the first few hours inspired lots and lots of people to come on down to the fairgrounds to check out the animals, the vegetables, fruits, flowers, food, rides, exhibits and live entertainment of all sorts. The Fair is always crowded but even for someone who dislikes crowds as much as I do, it’s bearable–the fun of being there more than makes up for the minor inconvenience of having to stand through a couple lines.

The highlight for the fair for me every year is seeing all the animals. Seattle might allow people to keep a couple goats and/or chickens, but there aren’t too many chances in town to see a whole bunch of farm animals. (I’m not complaining–I really like looking at cattle but I don’t really want to live next door to them and you probably don’t either, or we’d all live in the country, not the city.) There are plenty of other attractions, though. Just looking at all the deep fried offerings on hand is more than enough for me, but if you’re into that sort of thing you can get deep fried Twinkies or Snickers bars or cola or, well, if it can be deep fried, it probably is. Me, I stick the to the traditional fair burger, piled high with sweet Walla Walla onions, and piping hot Fisher scones.

onion burger

There are rides aplenty at the fair and midway games and all sorts of items for sale ranging from cheap plastic souvenirs to items for your home which could be anything from a brand new vacuum cleaner to a bubbling spa for your backyard. Every sort of craft imaginable gets represented in some way at the fair along with fine arts and hobby collections, historical displays (I strongly suggest checking out the Fair History museum) and rodeos, concerts and comedians.

New this year to the fair is “Al’s Brain”, an exhibit and 3D movie featuring Weird Al Yankovic which is all about the human brain and manages to be both informative and funny.

The fair runs daily through September 27th. Tickets are available at the gate for $11 (there is an additional charge if you want to go to one of the concerts or rodeos which this year include acts like Crosby Stills and Nash, James Taylor, Heart, LeAnn Rimes and Wynonna with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra) or can be purchased online; fairgoers can also purchase discount packages which include “fair bucks” for food or ride tickets. Members of the military get free admission on Mondays.

When you go to the fair, please consider using public transportation. From Seattle, it’s an easy ride from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma on Sound Transit 594 ($3 each way) to transfer to Pierce Transit’s Fair Shuttle ($1.75 each way). You’ll save yourself the expense and inconvenience of driving in traffic and then paying an arm and a leg to park as well as help the environment. Besides, Pierce Transit bus drivers are just about the nicest bus drivers you’ll ever meet.

Take a bite….

Mmmm....Sounds tempting....

Mmmm....Sounds tempting....

It’s almost time for the annual “Bite of Seattle”, the festival runs Friday 7/17-Sunday 7/19. (Fri & Sat 11 AM-9 PM, Sun 11 AM-8 PM).

Should be a great time as always, this year there are over 100 food booths with every type of food imaginable. There are also 4 beer gardens for when you get thirsty and 7 outdoor entertainment stages with all types of live music; rock, pop, soul, jazz, 80’s, reggae….Pretty much something for everybody….

Looks like the weather is going to cooperate, should be in the mid 70’s all weekend….

Summertime in Seattle, can’t beat it….

Seafair countdown begins

2008_mcd_crabIt’s that time of year once again when the hot rays of the sun call for cooling off on the refreshing waters of Green Lake and Elliott Bay. That’s right, Seafair is upon us for the 60th time. It starts this coming weekend with the annual landing of the Seafair Pirates at Alki Beach from 9:30 am through 5:30 pm, featuring a battle between the pirates and King Neptune, played by Pat Cashman, swashbuckling with sword and cannon. Also upcoming: the annual Allstate Milk Carton derby. Nearly a hundred different marine craft, all made from the creative use of milk cartons, compete for $10K in prizes at Greenlake, Saturday July 11, from 10 am to 4 pm. Head down to the derby to check out the boats, food and family entertainment and don’t forget to take a can or box of non-perishable food to help Seafair sink hunger.

If this isn’t enough action for you, you can also sail with the Seafair pirates on the Lady Washington: experience a living history adventure with sailing demonstrations, maritime story telling and food and grog (in the form of quality wine) from Anthony’s and Dunham Cellars.

Information on these events and all of the Community events around the Sound (Kent Cornucopia days, July 9 – 12; Pioneer Square Fire Festival, July 11; Redmond Derby Days, July 11; Mercer Island Summer Festival, July 11; and Chinatown Festival, July 11 – 12), check out the Seafair website

Muppets 101

The Original A. Birch Steens

The Original A. Birch Steen Muppets

Back when the Muppets were huge (and they really were huge) everyone had their favorite character: the one they identified with completely and forever. For the average 70’s teenager, Henson offered the psychedelic, totally out-of-it Muppet on shrooms who wore sequins and stared at goldfish tanks all day long. And the grandpa in your family could find commiseration with the the old men in the balcony. 

There were, of course, also plenty of fantastical, bizarre puppets in the early days of the Muppets, like the puppets of Planet Koozbane who mated by running towards each other and exploding in a plumb of smoke, and the slinky-like puppets made of plastic tubing who were there to “just dance,” as the song goes. But even these puppets were meant to appeal to a select niche of the audience: the eggheads like you and me who just want to watch things to try to understand the symbolism of everything. Too much wacky, too much egghead, too much satire, and the family wouldn’t be able to watch the whole show together gathered ’round the sole television. 

Jim Henson didn’t initially get in the game of puppeteering to ‘comment on society’. He just wanted to get on the teevee. His advantage as a puppeteer was that he didn’t know the rules, and didn’t know how many of them he was breaking. He cut the fabric for Kermit from an old coat his mom used to wear and it just so happened that Kermit’s head was the ideal shape for exploring hand movements; Henson could fiddle his fingers to make Kermit look perplexed, and he could also scrunch ’em up to make Kermit’s grimace like he was sucking on sour grapes (Kermit often sucked on sour grapes as he was always ‘ever the diplomat’, picking up the mess of those around him). 

The Muppets ‘101’ lecture at EMP/SFM was a lot of fun, and not just because all of this Muppet history has been downloaded into my ‘noggin forever (Craig Shemin, staff writer for the Muppets since 1988, is a charming and memorable speaker with the familiar, guttural voice of a Muppet ). No, no, no: the reason why it was so exceptionally, incredibly fun was because the crowd was in such a Muppet luvy-duvy mood that I found myself watching old clips with a renewed interest, like I was the psychedelic Muppet staring at a goldfish tank and thinking “wow…fish”. I started thinking all these academic thoughts, trying to figure out why it was I was so drawn to Muppets and why puppets allow us to criticize culture while wearing a mask and what does parody mean and what does satire mean and what do all the puppets symbolize??? (I’ve since erased that portion of this essay due to…uhm…space constraints). But seriously: there was/ is something about that show that’s totally beguiling. 

You know what? Let’s just let the pictures do the ‘splainin. 





Angry / Happy

Angry / Happy




The Q/A portion of the show was equally entertaining. Question: “What is the official Henson stance on ‘Avenue Q’?” Answer: “We’re trying to distance ourselves from the character of Trekkie Monster, since we, well, we also produce Sesame Street. Henson doesn’t want to damage its goodwill with parents.” 

(Trekkie Monster, for those of you who despise / ignore / don’t care about musical theatre, sings a song in the Broadway musical Avenue Q about how he spends all night hugging his horn to “porn! porn! porn!” Trekkie Monster was created by the Henson company, along with the rest of the cast of Avenue Q. In fact, the creators of Avenue Q initially intended on creating a Muppet movie called “Kermit: Prince of Denmark.” Then they created Avenue Q instead. Which was probably a good call.)

Question: “How do y’all feel about Elmo hogging the spotlight?” Answer: “We’re happy for him, but we hope other puppets get their time in the spotlight, too.”

Then there were some boring technical questions I didn’t understand. Let’s skip to the last one, the one on everyone’s mind: “What’s next?” Aren’t the Muppets a dying franchise? Yes and no. They’re still getting gigs. For one, there’s an internet-only Muppet Cooking Show coming soon that will star everyone’s favorite Swedish chef and “an English speaking chef.” Also: Henson Alternative (“HA!”) is busy creating puppets for shows like Avenue Q…puppets who show their puppet boobs and talk about puppet porn. If you go to the ‘Henson Alternative’ page on the website, you can find a description of an upcoming show called “Tinseltown” about a gay puppet couple (one’s a pig, the other’s a bull). It looks bizarre and not funny.

Then there’s the contract with Disney, and Miss Piggy’s contract with places like “Anne Curry’s lap”, and, oh, yeah, Sesame Street…always and forever.  But here’s hoping the Hensons can find a way to entertain us the way the Muppets once did. Maybe it’ll involve more Muppet boobs, or songs about porn, maybe it won’t. Personally, I could watch old Youtubes of the balcony guys all day long and be perfectly content without Muppet boob. But that’s just me. 

There are 8 more Muppet-themed events at EMP/ SFM (through August 15th) and really, it sounds weird, but you should totally go. It was a lot of fun. Check out for dates and times and all that good stuff. 

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