Archive for the ‘SIFF’ Category

SIFF Day 1

If you too have been counting down the days to SIFF 2010, count no more as it has finally arrived.

The festival kicks off in grand style with a gala screening of The Extra Man tonight at Benaroya Hall. Paul Dano plays a young writer who rents a room from a playwright (Kevin Kline) who works nights as an “extra man” – an escort for wealthy widows unwilling to attend social functions alone. The two men soon become bonded together by their mutual insecurities. Director Robert Pulcini and actors Paul Dano and Alicia Goranson are scheduled to be on hand to walk the red carpet.

The Extra Man is, of course, but one of many great films that will be screened at the festival this year. This year’s SIFF features shorts and full length features, documentaries, fictional, and animated films from all over the world covering just about any topic you can imagine. Every year SIFF seems to get better and better and that’s in no small part due to its dedicated staff who work hard all year to make each festival the best it possibly can be.

Artistic Director Carl Spence and Programming Manager Beth Barrett took a short break from their busy schedules to answer a few questions about the fest:

SIFF’s mission is to expose people to great film. Do you have any specific hopes for what people will get out of the films in this year’s festival?

Carl: To discover films that audiences might not ordinarily take the risk to see.

Beth: I hope that they are able to experience the world around them, and learn more about issues that are hot right now – for example, Lucy Walker’s COUNTDOWN TO ZERO became much more timely this spring with the new SALT talks, and renewed interest in nuclear energy. The stories we present are from some really new places – New Zealand’s gorgeous Ruahine Mountains shine in THIS WAY OF LIFE – yet the film is still a universal story of wanting to make it on your own, and the challenges we can face as a family.

Which films in this year’s festival are you most excited about? Are there any films that you think that audiences will be particularly receptive to? Are there any special events or expected guests you’re particularly looking forward to this year?

Carl: It is impossible to pick just one or even a few…..audiences will love THE EXTRA MAN, MAO’S LAST DANCER, FAREWELL, GET LOW, THE HEDGEHOG, MEDITERANEAN FOOD, SOUL KITCHEN, GARBO: THE SPY and WASTE LAND amongst others. I’m especially looking forward to the Edward Norton Tribute and also our live events – including Stephen Merritt of the Magnetic Fields performing to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Maldives performing to Riders of the Purple Sage and the “Live Documentary” Film presentation by academy award nominated filmmaker Sam Green.

Beth: I’m really looking forward to a couple of films – THE TOPP TWINS : UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS – the pride of New Zealand, inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Music Fame in 2008 – they are identical twin lesbian yodelers with a great stage show and infectious comedic songwriting – and they are coming to SIFF to present the film!

I am also quite fond of a South Korean film called CASTAWAY ON THE MOON- this is a very quirky love story between a shut-in and a castaway, who is on an island in full view of millions of people (and she’s the one that sees him)

I think that audiences will also find Jeff Malmberg’s MARWENCOL fascinating – it is about a man, who is beaten nearly to death outside a bar, and loses the first 38 years of his memories. In the process of his recovery from total amnesia, he builds a WWII era Belgian town called Marwencol, peoples it with Barbies and GI Joes named after people in his life, and then photographs it. The photos are stunning, and his intimate relationship with the town, and towns”people”, is quite deep. But it is really Mark’s story that emerges from this artistic adventure. Really well told, and compelling.

How does selecting films for the festival differ from selecting films for the year-round SIFF Cinema? Are there different standards that apply – for example, because there are so many films in the festival, do you feel more comfortable including films that might not have as big of an audience as others?

Carl: The size of the Seattle International Film Festival allows to show a diverse line-up of films and the huge interest in the festival allow helps when we show films that may not usually have a big audience. In terms of SIFF CINEMA – the standards are the same – we are looking for films that will allow the audience the opportunity to discover extraordinary films together as a community.

Beth: The goal of the Festival is to bring the stories from the world to Seattle, and to provide a platform for people to discover films and filmmakers. There are a lot of new directors, young filmmakers, and emerging talents at the Festival, and we are able to take some chances on unknown (to Seattle) films. With SIFF Cinema, we relish the opportunity to bring some of those films back, to re-introduce the classics to the big screen, and to provide a platform for independent cinema. The two opportunities really are intertwined, in our desire to create cinematic experiences, as a community.

Do you think it’s possible to predict which films will have the biggest audiences or are you ever surprised by which films people seem to like best?

Carl: We do try to predict which films will have biggest audiences – but we never know exactly what will spark a riot of attendees to go to a specific screening. Often we are pleasantly surprised.

Beth: A little of both – I think we have a good take on films that our audiences will like, or be entertained or intrigued by, but there are always films that I love that take me by surprise when so many others love them too! I think the energy of the audience has a great deal to do with creating those “surprise hits”.

What is it about SIFF that makes it such a huge, successful festival?

Carl: The hungry Seattle audiences power SIFF – first and foremost. They are what has allowed and pushed us to expand.

Beth: We are driven as staff and programmers to bring the best in international cinema to Seattle, and I think our dedication and enthusiasm is a large part of the energy of SIFF. The audience is the other part – to have such a dedicated core audience, as well as new audiences every year who join the SIFF ranks, is what the wonderful feeling of SIFF is all about.

How long have you been with SIFF? How has the festival changed over the years?

Carl: I started at SIFF in 1994 – and except for a two year period in San Francisco – I’ve been here ever since. It has seen explosive growth since I first began. Our year-round staff grew from 2 to 12+. We again operate a venue throughout the year (the festival previously operated and owned The Egyptian prior to 1990.

Beth: I started in the publications department in 2003, and became the Programming Manager in 2004 – we have grown since then, not only in numbers of films and venues, but also as an organization. Operating year-round allows us to really broaden our ideas, and create new and different experiences. With ShortsFest being an Academy Awards ® nominating part of the Festival, we have seen growth in the quality of short films, and recognition from the industry for our efforts.

Big film festivals can be overwhelming for first time attendees. What advice would you give someone coming to SIFF for the first time in 2010?

Carl: Going to SIFF can be as easy as going to any other movie throughout the year. Just pick the dates you can attend and then see what is playing on that date and time you are available. Use our interactive web tool – The Siffter or download our iphone app. Our new full color 32 page free guide is also quite informative and chock full of ways to get involved.

Beth: Use one of the SIFFting tools available! You can use the SIFFter on the website or iPhone, and put in parameters of when you are available, the kinds of films you want to see, the venue you want to be at… the SIFFter can help you narrow down your choices.

Our SIFF Guide this year can also help – we have listed the films in sections, with a great genre index in the back. Find a genre you like and give one of them a try. Once you are in line, keep your ears open, and the folks standing in line will give many many more suggestions!

SIFF recs: May 20 – 23

SIFF 2010 starts tomorrow! Here’s the first round of recommendations we have for you. Seeing something that’s not on this list? Tell us about it!

Prince of Tears plays SIFF 2010 May 23, May 26

Castaway on the Moon [http://www.siff.net/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=38764&FID=166]: Kim Seong-geun decides to end it all and jumps from a bridge into the Han River. He doesn’t die, but instead washes up on an island in the middle of the city. Since he can’t swim, and no one ever comes to the island, he’s nearly every bit the castaway that Tom Hanks was. After a few days of understandable despair, and another attempt to kill himself, he starts, slowly, to make a life for himself. Across the river, a woman who hasn’t left her room in three years finds him in her camera lens. They start an awkward pen-pal relationship and we see Kim’s efforts to grow his own food in a desperate attempt to make black bean noodles. May 21 4pm – Pacific Place, May 23 9:30pm – Neptune, June 2 9:15pm – Everett Performing Arts Center [Patricia Eddy]

Prince of Tears [http://www.siff.net/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=38817&FID=166]: Anti-communist fervor in 1950s Taiwan caused the White Terror period during which thousands were accused, imprisoned and executed as spies for little or even no reason at all. Writer/director Yonfan presents this tragic history on a human scale in this gorgeously filmed dark fable of intrigue and betrayal, centered around two young sisters, Zhou and Li. Daughters of a dashing air force pilot and his lovely wife, the girls learn first-hand about the personal in politics when their parents are accused of communist loyalties and arrested. Family friend Ding steps in to look after them, but their far-from-kindly “Uncle” has an agenda of his own and will allow no one, not even a glamorous would-be fairy godmother, to stand in his way. May 21 6:30 pm – Pacific Place; May 23 1:00 pm – Pacific Place; May 26 9:15 pm – Admiral. [Zee Grega]

Bass Ackwards [http://www.siff.net/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=41470&FID=166] : Linas Phillips (Walking to Werner, Great Speeches from a Dying World) makes his first fictional film, directing and starring as a man who retreats from his failed affair by taking a road trip across America in a mini sized VW van. Entertaining, odd, and often sweet, the movie shines the brightest in its small, quiet moments of low-fi discovery. May 21 9:45 pm – Harvard Exit, May 23 3:45 pm – Harvard Exit [Zee Grega]

Air Doll [http://www.siff.net/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=37953&FID=166] : An inflatable love doll “finds a heart” and comes to life in this thought-provoking fantasy from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda that takes a thoughtful and often poignant examination of loneliness, longing and the ways that people wall themselves off from others, neatly correlating the literal emptiness inside Nozomi with the more metaphorical sort inside the people she encounters as she moves through the city. Take a friend – this is definitely one of those movies you’ll want to talk about afterwards. May 21 4:00 pm – Neptune Theater, May 24 9:30 pm – Neptune Theater [Zee Grega]

Holy Rollers [http://www.siff.net/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=41519&FID=166]: Sam Gold is a nice young man living with his parents and working at his father’s fabric shop. He has typical dreams for a Hassidic Jew living in New York – he hopes to marry a a local girl and complete his rabbinic studies, but he wouldn’t mind picking up a few spare bucks which is why he lets his best friend’s older brother talk him into doing a bit of international smuggling. Sam’s so naive at first that he really believes he’s bringing “medicine” back from Amsterdamn, but he sticks around even after he finds out just what ailment Ecstasy is meant to “cure”. Sam tries to straddle both his old world and his new one, but he’s headed for at least one fall. A stunning debut from director Kevin Tyler Asch. May 22 9:00 pm – Pacific Place, May 23 4:00 pm – Pacific Place [Zee Grega]

From Time to Time [http://www.siff.net/festival/film/detail.aspx?id=38919&FID=166] : It’s WWII and young Tolly discovers that his grandmother and her employees aren’t the only people sharing the manor. Shortly after he sees the ghost of his long-dead great-aunt, he discovers that he can move back and forth between her time and his. As he waits for news of his father, missing in action in Germany, he spends his days both learning about his family’s history and taking part in it. A steady pace and an intriguing tale suitable for the whole family with plenty of appeal to both kids and adults; some scenes may be too intense for the very young. Oh, and bring tissues, you’ll need them. May 22 1:00 pm – Uptown, May 30 1:00 pm – Everett, June 13 1:00 pm – Kirkland. [Zee Grega]

SIFF spotlight: Midnight Adrenaline

RoboGeisha plays SIFF 2010 May 28, June 8.

The first truth about Midnight Movies is that any movie can be a midnight, it simply needs to be screened at midnight. The second truth is that some movies make better midnight movies than others. Just what makes the ideal midnight movie is a question that could lead to endless debate, but the primary difference between a true midnight movie and just a movie screened at midnight is some slight edge to the film that makes it mean something at midnight that might not be there at another time of the day.

Take Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, perhaps THE midnight film of all midnight films. Watch it at home on video in the afternoon sometime and it’s just not the same movie that you grew to love in the theater. I discovered the strength of the midnight effect a few year ago with The Wizard of Oz.

Like most cinephiles, it’s impossible for me to name just one favorite film, but The Wizard of Oz comes close. Having lost track of the number of times I’ve watched the movie all the way through somewhere around 150 many years ago, I was sure that nothing about the film could surprise me – and then I went to a screening of Wizard at midnight at The Egyptian and quickly learned that watching Wizard with a group of openly-vocal Friends of Dorothy definitely made it a whole new experience.

Audiences are a key factor in what makes a good midnight movie – midnight movie audiences are definitely unique.

SIFF’S Midnight Adrenaline programmer Dan Doody says that one of the biggest misconceptions about midnight movie audiences is that they are drugged out or just plain bizarre. He allows that a very small minority might be weirdos out for mischief, but adds that even they want a film that will engage them. Perhaps more so than any other movie audience, midnighters have a real need to interact with the movie they’re watching. This doesn’t have to be physical interaction – it’s not all shouting out lines or tossing rice – but midnight audiences aren’t into passive entertainment. They embrace the unusual, the quirky, the outright strange. Midnight audiences want a movie that moves: “The biggest criteria,” Dan says, “is that it’s well-paced and gets its hooks into you.”

He adds that the midnight audience is “the hardest to please. If they get bored, the audience has no compunction about walking out.”

As a long time midnight movie fan myself, I know this to be true myself, but I’ve also noticed that in some ways midnight movie audiences are also quite generous. As long as it brings the fun and keeps the story flowing, audiences will embrace midnight movies that aren’t quite technically perfect. It’s how the movie feels that matters most.

Over the years Dan has watched enough midnight audiences to have a good feeling about what will sustain an audience’s interest and he’s pleased with this year’s selections. Having seen a few of them already myself, I agree with his enthusiasm. My hate/hate relationship with zombies will (probably) keep me from the new Romero flick, but otherwise I’m hoping to see you all at this year’s screenings.

The 2010 Midnight Adrenaline series features:

Amer: A three-part giallo style erotic thriller from Belgium about three key stages in a woman’s life, all of them more than just a bit gruesome. Directors élène Cattet and Bruno Fortet are scheduled to attend.

Centurion: A small platoon of Roman legionnaires survive an ambush by the Picts they have sworn to exterminate. Quintus Dias must lead his small band of soldiers through the dangerous wilds of Scotland to rescue their general while being pursued by the remorseless, relentless “barbarians” out for revenge.

Dream Home: Cheng Lai-Sheun’s dream is to own her own home and she will stop at nothing, not even vicious murder, to make her dream come true in this bloody thriller from Hong Kong.

George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead: Romero forever changed the shape of cinema, most notably that ever-growing genre that’s grown around the idea of zombies that he himself helped create, with his classic Night of the Living Dead. He’s continued to use the undead as a metaphor for society’s various ills; in Survival of the Dead, a group of soldiers find themselves trapped between a zombie apocalypse and a human one.

RoboGeisha: Sibling rivalry reaches a whole new level when sisters Yoshie and Kikue are recruited by a company bent on world domination through the use of cybernetic-enhanced geisha assassins in this kitschy, fun, sci-fi actioner from Japan.

Splice: Two scientist lovers go undercover to experiment with injecting human DNA into things that aren’t human, eventually producing a winged chimera that forces them to have to decide where being a scientist stops and being a parent begins.

Ticked Off Trannies with Knives: A tribute to the old grindhouse exploitation films featuring, well…you know.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: Tucker and Dale are a couple of hillbillies who rescue a young college student from drowning and get more trouble than thanks when her misunderstanding friends become convinced they need to rescue her from harm. That’s when all the messy dying begins.

The Wild Hunt: Erik’s girlfriend Evelyn leaves him to immerse herself into the elaborate LARP (live action role play) game beloved of his brother Bjorn who is extremely dedicated to his life as a “Viking chieftan”. Despite his misgiving, Erik decides to follow Evelyn into the game in hopes of bringing her back home with him. Soon Erik discovers the dangers that arise in crossing the fine line that separates fantasy from reality. An extremely engaging debut from Canadian director Alexandre Franchi.

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.

Counting down: SIFF 2010 box office, calendar available tomorrow

Based on what I’ve heard about the upcoming festival so far, I’m super excited about SIFF 2010. I bet you are, too, or you will be.

Less than 24 hours from now the box office opens and the schedule becomes available.

I survived 13 hours at SIFF

Officially, it was the 12 Hour Movie Marathon, but since I’m constitutionally incapable of turning down a free meal, I was at SIFF Cinema at 9:00 am sharp to enjoy a delicious breakfast courtesy of Seasonal Goods Catering. After tasty scrambled eggs, the best scones I’ve had in a long, long time, fresh fruit and fruit juice, I got up to get an equally tasty latte from Magna Cum Latte and mock SIFF Programming Manager Beth Barrett for showing up with an overnight bag with comfy shoes, a pillow and a blanket. Movie fans are familiar with the concept of foreshadowing, so you won’t be surprised that later on I found myself thinking, “You know, I should’ve brought a pillow and a blanket myself.”

That I didn’t is my sole regret about the Movie Marathon which was otherwise such an excellent time that I’m already planning to be there next year.

When I told people that I was going to the marathon, they all had the same two questions: “How are you going to keep your butt from going numb?” and “How are you ever going to sit through 12 hours of film?”

The first one was answered by simply getting up and walking around during the breaks between movies. As for the second, well, it’s not entirely unknown for me to spend half a day watching movies, I just don’t usually do it all in a row. Well, except during the festival when I spend hours and hours watching movies…but even then it’s not 12 hours in a row. I decided to keep notes on how the day went so I could report back afterwards. Times are approximate because I kept forgetting to check.

10:00 am Director and SIFF co-founder Dan Ireland greets the audience and introduces the first film of the day, which happens to be his first film, The Whole Wide World. Considering my long-standing irrational dislike of Renee Zellwegger, of all the films on the day’s schedule, this was the one I was least looking forward to seeing. As it happened, this was the one I most enjoyed. Zellwegger puts in a pitch-perfect performance as Novalyne Price Ellis, a schoolteacher and aspiring writer who falls in love with pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard (played wonderfully by Vincent D’Onofrio), the creator of Conan the Barbarian. It was a perfect film to start the day, an engaging story of love and what it takes to find one’s voice.

Noon: Lunch boxes are brought out. I’d actually contemplated not buying the pre-paid meals by Madres Kitchen and simply subsisting on snacks from the concession stand but it was nice to have a real meal to accompany the second movie, Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, a movie I hadn’t seen at the time of its 1995 release because at the time I had an irrational dislike of Nicole Kidman whom I’ve grown to admire quite a bit. (Maybe the same will happen with Zellwegger). A black comedy with a serious streak, To Die For adapts a novel inspired by the real life Pamela Smart case into a clever look at just how far some people will go to pursue their dreams, no matter how unhealthy they are.

2:00 pm Is anyone getting bored yet? I’m not. I look around and no one else seems to be. It’s good to have some variety in programming and what could be more different from the first two films than The Road Warrior, the second of the “Mad Max” movies that made Mel Gibson a household name long before the public ever came to suspect that he might not just be crazy on film. Gibson is serviceable in a not particularly challenging anti-hero role in the post-apocalypse dystopia so popular in 80s films, but the movie which once seemed SO COOL to me hasn’t aged well and is now merely an entertaining trifle. It does make for a nice little break, though, as next up is another heavy movie.

4:00 pm Blood Simple, the Coen Brothers debut, stars the always charismatic Frances McDormand as the cheating wife of an oily Texas bar owner who hires a slimy private eye to spy on her and the bartender with whom she’s been cheating, setting off a tangled web of double crosses, triple crosses, mayhem and murder.

6:00 pm Even more twisted is Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man in which a novelist begins an affair with a bewitching woman he eventually comes to believe is a witch, or at least a black widow, having married and murdered three previous husbands and now on the look out for the fourth. At this point I wish both that I had a blanket and that this wasn’t the fifth of six movies. I’d seen Road Warrior years ago but none of the others. I might’ve never seen them otherwise but I’ve enjoyed them all so much. That’s the great thing about movie festivals, after all; you get a chance to discover movies you’d otherwise maybe never see.

8:00 pm The final film of the day brings us back to Seattle with Trouble in Mind, a 1985 neo-noir filmed in Seattle–called “Rain City” in the film–starring Kris Kristofferson, Keith Carradine, Lori Singer and Genevieve Bujold. Writer/director Alan Randolph graciously stopped by to introduce the film. Ex-con and ex-cop Kristofferson gets out of jail and heads to “Rain City” to hook up with ex-girlfriend Bujold, who has taken a semi-maternal interest in Singer, new in town along with her low-rent hood boyfriend Carradine. As Carradine becomes involved in a local jewelry theft ring which eventually gets him in trouble with local crime lord Divine (in a rare non-drag performance), Kristofferson becomes involved with Singer and a series of sub-plots twist and turn into they all become one.

It’s interesting to leave Queen Anne and head downtown after being reminded of how it looked 25 years ago.

Last year’s marathon was 24 hours long and some of this year’s audience members hoped that next year’s would return to that length. I’m torn. I could’ve gone for another film or two, but I’m not sure I could stay awake for 24 hours and having fallen asleep in movie seats before, I know that they don’t make the greatest bed. Anyway, it’s always better to leave ‘em wanting more than to give them too much and now I’m even more excited for the upcoming festival than ever.

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 futurewave@siff.net or call 206.464.5830.

siff decompresion: 35 is a very special number

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As anyone who saw at least one film at this year’s festival will recall, thirty-five is a very special number (tetrahedral, number of green firms, average winter low, a film gauge, the number of years SIFF has been around … did I miss anything?). Entirely by coincidence, it also the number of feature-length films I watched. As an experiment in compactness and as a mental bookkeeping system, I posted mini-reviews to Twitter along the way. For a full list of my viewing habits, I’ve reposted them after the jump.

Overall, I think that the average of my torn ballot slips would have been somewhere just below the dotted line indicating a “4″, which means that I did well in deciding what to see or that the programmers did an exceptional job in stocking the theaters (probably a bit of each). Of the films I liked best (Lynn Shelton’s compassionate and credible Humpday ; Jamie Johnson’s joyful Sounds Like Teen Spirit ; Doug Pray’s surprisingly elevating Art & Copy) , several will be re-screened at this weekend’s “best of the fest” marathon [siff] or have distribution and are likely to be returning to Seattle in the very near future.

I’m a bit disappointed that Craig Johnson’s True Adolescents didn’t make it into the encore presentations, but I am holding out hope that it finds a distributor to bring it back to town. Across the board, the cast is stellar; the foul-mouthed script is funny and affecting; the direction generously takes on all sorts of comings of age, delayed and otherwise; and the pacific northwest setting looks great. Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect much from the potentially slapsticky premise of “aging indie rocker takes his teen nephew for a hike”, but the results were consistently surprising, a little suspenseful, and consistently believable. Keep your fingers crossed for it!

What’s on your distribution wishlist?

(more…)

siff decompression : the bests return for a mini-fest

As mentioned previously, SIFF released its the favorite films of this year’s audiences, who collectively tore through over 60,000 ballots to decide the fate of a table full of glass artwork by James Mongrain. Another organization also revealed their most liked. While the number of ballots was undoubtedly smaller, the body doing voting almost certainly saw far more films than the average SIFF attendee.

Every year, Fool Serious, the unofficial unorganization of SIFF passholders, undertakes their own internal balloting process to find out which films were the most beloved among the most fanatical of festival-loving cinephiles. Below, you’ll find the top results from the two tallies. It’s pretty interesting to compare and contrast to see which movies wound up among both the hardest of hard core and the broader slice of attendees. It’s a good guide for when you’re scoping out new releases and netflix (or library) rental queues.

SIFF General Audience [SIFF]
Narrative features:
Fools [foolserious]
  1. Black Dynamite
  2. The Necessities of Life
  3. (500) Days of Summer
  4. (tie) ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction
    (tie) Morris: A Life With Bells On
  5. North Face
  6. Marcello Marcello
  7. Departures
  8. Patrik Age 1.5
  9. Amreeka
  10. Humpday
  1. Departures
  2. North Face
  3. Tears of April
  4. Séraphine
  5. Necessities of Life
  6. The Hurt Locker
  7. That Evening Sun
  8. Troubled Water
  9. Moon
  10. Kabei – Our Mother
Documentaries:

  1. The Cove
  2. Sweet Crude
  3. William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe
  4. Every Little Step
  5. (tie): Food, Inc.
    (tie)Facing Ali
  6. Gotta Dance
  7. Afghan Star
  8. Dancing Across Borders
  9. The Garden
  10. Icons Among Us

  1. Burma VJ – Reporting from a Closed Country
  2. Every Little Step
  3. The Beaches of Agnès
  4. Sweet Crude

While we’re on the topic of SIFF favorites, the festival is giving us one last chance to catch some of this year’s winners and top sellers before they head into their much-deserved summer break. From Friday to Sunday, they’ll be hosting a weekend bonanza featuring the best of the fest [siff].
On Friday, they’ll show best documentary talhotblond, (4:30), closing gala OSS 117: Lost in Rio (7:00), Lynn Shelton’s amazing Humpday (9:00). Saturday includes a collection of the best shorts (11:00 am), New Directors Showcase grand jury prize-winner the Other Bank (1:30), mind-boggling documentary Rembrandt’s J’Accuse (4:00), all-star smash Shrink (6:30), Golden Space Needle winning comedy Black Dynamite (9:30). Then on Sunday, another collection of shorts (11:00), followed by audience favorite dolphin documentary The Cove (1:30), mockumentary favorite Morris: A Life With Bells On (3:30), Swedish pool pic Swimsuit Issue (6:00), and then David Russo’s The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle. All of the screenings play at SIFF Cinema; tickets run $10 per screening or $60 to see them all ($8/$50 for members).

What films made it to the top (or bottom) of your SIFF lists?

SIFF : and the big pieces of glass go to …


this year’s sculptures.

Hello friends and greetings from 100 feet above Seattle Center. It’s the final day of SIFF, and remarkably, everyone is still standing. By now, you’ve voted more than 60,000 times and surpassed attendance goals despite the rain free weather that graced the 25 day festival.

When all of the ballots were tallied, your favorite narrative feature was BLACK DYNAMITE and your favorite documentary was THE COVE. These and several other awards for the 35th Seattle International Film Festival were presented at an emotion-packed brunch this morning at the Space Needle, complete with mimosas, glass artwork, and a few great acceptance speeches (most notably, the kids from MY SUICIDE who enlivened the 35 Club party claiming their Youth Jury Award for Best FutureWave Feature fresh from a night spent in the park).

Stay tuned … once I get back to a real computer (with copy and pasting powers) I’ll update this post with the full list of awardees.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker (USA, 2008)
Best Actor: Sam Rockwell for Moon (United Kingdom, 2009)
Best Actress: Yolande Moreau for Séraphine (France/Belgium, 2008)Best Short Film: Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death, directed by Nick Park, (UK)
Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision: Sweet Crude, directed by Sandy Cioffi (USA, 2008)


Grand Jury Prize Winners

New Directors Showcase: The Other Bank, directed by George Ovashvili (Georgia/Kazakhstan, 2009)Documentary (grand): talhotblond, directed by Barbara Schroeder (USA, 2009)
Documentry (special): Manhole Children, directed by Yoshio Harada (Japan, 2008)
Short Film (Narrative/Grand): Short Term 12, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, USA
Short Film (Narrative/special): Lowland Fell, directed by Michael Kinirons, Ireland; Next Floor, directed by Denis Villeuneuve, Canada
Short Film (Animation/Grand ): Photograph of Jesus, directed by Laurie Hill, United Kingdom
Short Film (Documentary/Grand ): The Herd, directed by Ken Wardrop, Ireland

WaveMaker Award for Excellence in Youth Filmmaking:  A Generation of Consolidation, directed by Samantha Muilenberg

WaveMaker (Special): If U Want 2 Get Technical, directed by Riaebia Robinson

FutureWave Shorts Audience Award: A Generation of Consolidation, directed by Samantha Muilenberg

SIFF 2009 Youth Jury Award for Best FutureWave Feature: My Suicide, directed by David Lee Miller.
Youth Jury (Special): Sounds Like Teen Spirit, directed by Jamie J. Johnson

The full listing of awards, jury statements, and worthy runners up can be found online. [siff] (more…)

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