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Film Festivals

Preview: Seventh Art Stand

Alongside the woven objects and 16th-century painted tiles in the Seattle Art Museum’s Islamic Collection hang a series of entirely modern artifacts. Iraqi artist Qasim Sabti’s “Book Cover Collage” pieces are rendered from the remains of books retrieved from Baghdad libraries in the wake of the 2003 bombings. They stand as proof of the ability of art to travel: These pieces have come all the way from a Baghdad street to a well-manicured Seattle art museum to testify. Before that, the books themselves came from all over the world to bring beauty, history, or subversive ideas to Iraq. The isolated word “Gulliver” peeks out from one collage, indicating the presence of literature’s most famous traveler.

Movies are also great travelers, and the global reach of cinematic art gets a boost in May through a national project organized partly by the Northwest Film Forum and the New York distributor Abramorama. The Seventh Art Stand is an initiative, hosted by dozens of U.S. independent theaters and film societies, to make “an act of cinematic solidarity against Islamophobia.”

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Noir City Seattle 2017 – Film by Film

Noir City 2017 is titled “The Big Knockover” and the theme is heists: big, small, and inevitably doomed. It kicked off Thursday, February 16 with John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle (1950), the godfather of the heist film, and Criss Cross (1949), the darkest, most truly noir-ish heist film ever.

I wrote a preview for The Stranger this week but I and other Parallax View critics have covered a number of these films in past reviews and essays. So here some capsules and notes on the films of this year’s festival, many by me, with links to longer pieces where available.

All screenings at SIFF Cinema Egyptian.

Thursday, February 16

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) – 7:00 PM
“Even as the perfect crime collapses in betrayal and the irrational impulses of human nature, The Asphalt Jungle is a model of elegant construction, street-level tragedy, and poetic justice, a film that both embraces the romance of the criminal code and acknowledges the mercenary impulses of outsiders and upstarts who have no code.” – More from Sean Axmaker for Stream On Demand

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Noir City 2017 Highlights Heists and Favors Risk Over Genre Purity

Throughout the years of Noir City’s Seattle residency, the programming has taken brief detours from the mean streets of hardcore noir to explore side alleys, from early influences on noir to noir influences on other genres. The 2017 festival, which runs February 16-22 and is the biggest to date (20 films in seven days), takes more leeway than usual for “The Big Knockover,” a week of capers, heists, and holdups. A lot of the films don’t qualify as pure noir. The heist genre occupies its own corner of the crime movie universe, sometimes embracing the dark heart of film noir’s world of corruption and desperation and doom, just as often skipping into lighthearted crime comedy or slipping into cool, calculated caper spectacle. You could say that the heist film is the original antihero team endeavor, the supervillain squad combining their unique skills to a common cause—in this case, the impossible robbery. This is one of those times when we root for the bad guys.

Most of the time, anyway.

John Huston essentially launched the heist drama as a genre of its own with The Asphalt Jungle (1950). Constructed around the meticulous planning and execution of a caper, it transformed the crime drama into a mission movie featuring shady soldiers of the urban underworld: mercenaries seeking redemption through one last gamble of action, trust, talent, and sacrifice. It’s a model of elegant construction, street-level tragedy, and poetic justice, with Huston’s wry fatalism providing the noir sensibility.

Continue reading at The Stranger

PIFF Notes: Portland International Film Festival

Okay, quick show of hands: Has sitting in the dark and temporarily saying goodbye to reality ever seemed like a better idea? Whatever your leanings may be, the Northwest Film Center’s 40th Annual Portland International Film Festival has you more than covered. Featuring over 160 features and shorts, this year’s PIFF lineup offers healthy, yuge doses of compelling fiction, strange facts, and pure escapism.

The positives begin on opening tight, with the terrific Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro.

Continue reading at The Portland Mercury

VIFF 2016: Con artists, poets, and life on the streets

viff_signature-01I still marvel at how the Vancouver International Film Festival seems to be one of the best-kept secrets on the West Coast. Opening a few weeks after Toronto, it is almost concurrent with the New York Film Festival, which makes headlines with the official American premieres of some of the season’s most anticipated films. Many of those very same films are screening across the country in Vancouver, often a day or two before NYFF, and it is a mere 2 ½ hours away from my Seattle domicile. It’s one of the quirks of the festival circuit: the films that made their respective North American premieres in Toronto (after a possible “unofficial” screening at Telluride) vie for a spot at NYFF, where it gets the media spotlight, while Vancouver quietly slips somewhere around half of those into their line-up.

Here are a few titles snagged by VIFF this year: Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Unknown Girl, Hong Sang-soo’s Yourself and Yours, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, Pablo Larraín’s Neruda, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation, Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada, Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle…. There are other films playing both fests, and plenty of films screening at Vancouver that are nowhere to be seen on the NYFF schedule, but that should give you a taste of a few of the delights that Vancouver offers over 16 days and eight venues (seven of them within walking distance of one another). It’s why I go every year that I am able.

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Preview: Local Sightings Film Festival 2016

The autumn movie calendar brings a handful of essential annual events to local screens—for instance, the Seattle Art Museum’s Film Noir series (kicking off Sept. 29) is the world’s longest-running showcase for noir, and SIFF presents its yearly French Cinema Now festival (also Sept. 29). An increasingly important mainstay is the Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings Film Festival. Launched in 1997, Local Sightings draws its roster from movies made throughout the Northwest, casting its net far enough to include Alaska and Montana as well as near-flung Canadian provinces.

The result is inevitably a mixed bag, but that’s part of the point. Some of the films are authentic finds, some are not ready for prime time. But all movies need air, and the festival provides a way to get these things onto a screen and exposed to audiences, where they can flourish or wither. Almost as important, Local Sightings surrounds a year’s worth of regional films with panels, workshops, and parties, all part of maintaining the we-can-do-this-here energy.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Noir City 2016: Existential Dread and Urban Corruption

Victor Mature in ‘I Wake Up Screaming’

After going on the lam for a year, Noir City is back in Seattle, and this time it takes up residency at SIFF Cinema Egyptian (is there a movie house better suited to noir atmosphere?) and expands to 18 films in seven days (July 22–28).

Why does noir hold such a fascination in 2016? There’s the style and energy and Damon-Runyon-gone-to-seed repartee of tough guys and brassy dames, of course. There’s something cathartic about wallowing in the bad decisions and bad behavior of bad guys and bad dames scheming and cheating in the dark corners of the urban jungle, too. But pulp-fiction pleasures aside, the films are dangerous and daring and savvy thanks to a combination of desperation and pessimism, and the implied sex and violence that filmmakers snuck past the censors of the time. Even audiences too jaded for the quaint conventions of old Hollywood movies are captivated by noir portraits of existential dread and urban corruption. These disillusioned portraits of the American dream gone sour are, at their best, too jaded to believe their own studio-mandated happy endings. They may look nostalgic, but they sure feel like a reflection of our own anxious times.

Continue reading at The Stranger

SIFF 2016: Audiences give ‘Captain Fantastic’ the Golden Space Needle Award

And the award goes to… Captain Fantastic!

Seattle International Film Festival audiences bestowed top Golden Space Needle Awards on Captain Fantastic, Gleason and Spy Time (among others) while juried awards singled out Girl Asleep and the documentary Death by a Thousand Cuts at the 42nd Seattle International Film Festival.

Over 420 features, documentaries and short films from more than 85 countries were screened over the 25 days (and the last day is not over as of this writing, mind you) in 15 different venues.

Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic (US), starring festival guest Viggo Mortensen (who was honored with the Festival’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Acting over the final weekend) and shot in part in the state of Washington, took the audience award for Best Film, Javier Ruiz Caldera won the Best Director award for Spy Time (Spain), Best Actor went to Rolf Lassgård for A Man Called Ove (Sweden/Norway), and Best Actress to Vicky Hernandez for Between Sea and Land (Colombia 2016).

Best Documentary was awarded to Gleason (US), directed by Clay Tweel, and Alive & Kicking: The Soccer Grannies of South Africa (USA/South Africa), directed by Lara-Ann de Wet, took home the Best Short Film award. The Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision given to the female director’s film that receives the most votes in public balloting at the Festival, went to The IF Project (USA ), directed by Kathlyn Horan.

New to the competition awards this years is the SIFF Official Competition award, selected from 12 entries making their World, North American, or US premiere at SIFF. Girl Asleep (Australia), the debut feature directed by Rosemary Myers, was honored with the award in its inaugural year.

Also new is the SIFF Ibero-American Competition, for films having their US premiere during the Festival that do not yet have US distribution. The inaugural winner is You’ll Never Be Alone (Chile ), the feature debut from Chilean writer-director Alex Anwandter.

The New Directors Competition winner is Sand Storm (Israel), directed by Elite Zexer; the New American Cinema Competition winner is Middle Man (USA), directed by Ned Crowley; and the Documentary Competition winner is Death By a Thousand Cuts (Dominican Republic/Haiti/USA), directed by Juan Mejia Botero and Jake Kheel.

The Short Film awards went to Killer (USA, directed by Matt Kazman) for live action, These C*cksucking Tears (USA, directed by Dan Taberski) for documentary, and Carlo (Italy, directed by Ago Panini) for animation.

The complete press release, which includes runners-up and jury statements, is featured below.
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SIFFtings 2016: Final Weekend (June 10-June 12)

Viggo Mortensen is honored with the Seattle Film Festival Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting. The introspective, soft-spoken actor will be interviewed in an onstage Q&A at A Tribute to Viggo Mortensen on Saturday, June 11 at the Egyptian, followed by a screening of his latest film Captain Fantastic, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year and was just honored with the Best Director prize for writer/director Matt Ross from the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes. Ross will also attend the screening of the film, which repeats (sans onstage interview) on Sunday, June 12, at 2:30pm, Uptown.

The Mortensen tribute, meanwhile, continues all weekend with special screenings of three films:
Eastern Promises (2007) on Friday, June 10, 9:30pm, Uptown
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Saturday, June 11, 11:30pm, Egyptian (be warned: this is 3 ½ hours long, which is a serious investment for a Midnight Movie);
A Walk on the Moon (1999), Sunday, June, 12, 11am, Uptown

Frank & Lola, a romantic noir thriller starring Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots, is directed by Matthew Ross (not to be confused with Captain Fantastic director Matt Ross), who will attend the screening.
Saturday, June 11, 7pm. Pacific Place

Jocelyn Moorhouse will attend the SIFF Closing Night Gala The Dressmaker, based on the novel by Rosalie Ham and starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis, and Hugo Weaving, at The Cinerama. It is sold out and on standby and a second show has been added at 6:30pm, Pacific Place Cinemas (does not include a director appearance or closing night party).

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SIFFtings 2016 – Week 2


SIFF celebrates its Renton Opening Night on Thursday, May 26 with a screening of the comedy My Blind Brother at the IKEA Performing Arts Center, followed by a party at the Renton Pavilion Event Center. Because SIFF isn’t just about the movies. It likes to party too.

And on Friday, May 27, SIFF extends its reach to Shoreline for the first time this year and it kicks off with a Shoreline Opening Night screening of The Tenth Man (Argentina), a lighthearted drama of a New York-based Jewish-Argentinian man returning home to Bueno Aires for Purim. Screenings take place at the newly-renovated theater on the Shoreline Community College campus (building 1600; see the Shoreline CC map), which is said to be state-of-the-art. I’ll be verifying this weekend; as a Shoreline resident myself, I’m thrilled to see the festival in my backyard. Campus parking is free for visitors after 4pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.

Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell, a follow-up to the devastating documentary Streetwise, received its World Premiere at SIFF. More than thirty years after that acclaimed exploration of the culture of homeless teenagers in Seattle, Tiny revisits Erin Blackwell, the poster girl of Streetwise—literally, her stone face behind vintage second-hand fashions was the defining image of the film. Director Martin Bell and photographer Mary Ellen Mark profile Ms. Blackwell as struggling mother with ten children, still fighting to get by. Martin Bell is scheduled to attend screenings.
Sunday, May 29, 4pm, Pacific Place; Monday, May 30, 11am, Pacific Place.

Chinese filmmaker Xu Haofeng brings the North American premiere of The Final Master (China) for three screenings across the city. Xu co-wrote the award-winning The Grandmaster with director Wong Kar-wai and his action choreography for The Final Master won an award at the Golden Horse Film Festival.
Saturday, May 28, 6pm, Uptown; Sunday, May 29, 6:30pm, Shoreline Community College Theater.

Also making its North American premiere is Eternal Summer, a road trip crime movie through Northern Sweden. Filmmaker Andreas Ohman is scheduled to attend all screenings this weekend.
Friday, May 27, 7pm, Lincoln Square Cinemas; Saturday, May 28, 1:30pm, Pacific Place; Sunday, May 29, 6:30pm, Pacific Place.

Truman (Spain/Argentina) arrives with five Goya Awards to its credit, including Best Picture. Director Cesc Gay scheduled to attend screenings at the Egyptian only.
Sunday, May 29, 4:30pm, Egyptian; Monday, May 30, 6:30pm, Egyptian; Friday, June 3, 9pm, Shoreline Community College Theater.

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SIFFing: Parallax View’s SIFF 2016 Guide

The 42nd Annual Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday, May 19, with the opening night gala presentation of Woody Allen’s Café Society (in its North American premiere), and closes 24 days later on Sunday, June 12 with Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker. In between there are (at last count) 181 feature films, 75 documentary features, 8 archival films, and 153 short films. All told: 421 films representing 85 countries (as of opening night).

Here is Parallax View’s coverage and guide to SIFF resources from around the web. We will update a few times a week.

* Updated Sunday, June 12 *

SIFF Week by Week, Day by Day:

SIFF 2016: Audiences give ‘Captain Fantastic’ the Golden Space Needle Award (Sean Axmaker, Parallax View) NEW
Selections for the Fourth Week of the Seattle International Film Festival (Robert Horton, Seattle Weekly) NEW
SIFF 2016: Highlights of the final weekend (Moira Macdonald and John Hartl, Seattle Times) NEW
The 11 Best Films to See During SIFF’s Closing Weekend (staff, The Stranger) NEW
Recommended SIFF: Viggo, Viggo, Viggo AND Viggo! (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls) NEW
SIFFtings 2016: Final Weekend (June 10-June 12) (Sean Axmaker, Parallax View) NEW
Some short SIFF reviews, part four (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak) NEW
SIFF 2016: Picks for Centerpiece Weekend (June 3-June 5) (Tony Kay, The SunBreak)
Some short SIFF reviews, part 3 (June 1-June 7) (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)
Selections for the Third Week of the Seattle International Film Festival (Robert Horton, Seattle Weekly)
SIFF 2016: Highlights of week three (Moira Macdonald and John Hartl, Seattle Times)
SIFF 2016: Picks for Week Two (May 31-June 2) (The SunBreak)
SIFF 2016: Picks for Memorial Day Weekend (May 27-30) (The SunBreak)
Selections for the Second Week of SIFF
(Robert Horton, Seattle Weekly)
SIFF 2016: Highlights of week two (Moira Macdonald and John Hartl, Seattle Times)
The 26 Films You Should See at SIFF Over Memorial Day Weekend (staff, The Stranger)
SIFFtings 2016 Week 2 (May 27-June 2) (Sean Axmaker, Parallax View)
Some short SIFF reviews, part duex (May 25-May 31) (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)
SIFF 2016 Picks: Week One (May 23-May 30) (Seth Sommerfeld, Seattle Met)
Seattle Weekly’s SIFF Selections (Week 1) (Robert Horton, Seattle Weekly)
SIFF 2016: 17 Highlights of week one (Moira Macdonald and John Hartl, Seattle Times)
Some short SIFF reviews, part 1 (May 19-May 24) (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)
SIFFtings 2016 – Week One (Sean Axmaker, Parallax View)
SIFF 2016: Picks for Opening Weekend (The SunBreak)
SIFF 2016: Week One Highlights (Three Imaginary Girls)
Recommended SIFF: three picks for this weekend (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls)

Spotlight Features and Commentary:

Lou Diamond Phillips embraces serial killer mentality for ‘The Night Stalker’ (Tom Tangney, MYNorthwest) NEW
Imaginary SIFF Interview: 5 questions with Lou Diamond Phillips (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls) NEW
SIFF Sitdown: Q&A with Lou Diamond Phillips (Joe Veyera, Queen Anne & Magnolia News) NEW
SIFF Interview: The Mads are Back (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak) NEW
Spencer Haywood (Tom Tangney, MYNorthwest)
SIFF interview: Behind the scenes with the Pistol Shrimps (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)
SIFF interview: Streetwise director Martin Bell (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)
Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max (Tiffany Ran, Northwest Asian Weekly)
Megan Griffiths: A fascination with ‘The Night Stalker’ (Sean Axmaker, Parallax View)
The frightening origins of director Megan Griffiths’ new film, premiering at SIFF (Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times)
Megan Griffiths Premieres ‘The Night Stalker’ at SIFF (Tony Kay, CityArts)
Imaginary SIFF Interview: Megan Griffiths (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls)
SIFFX Dares Seattle to Get Real About Virtual Reality Right Now (Charles Mudede, The Stranger)
Interview – Xu Haofeng – The Final Master – SIFF 2016 (Tim Hall, Seattle PI)
Nick Terry’s ‘Finding October’ at SIFF (Tony Kay, CityArts)
Empathy Device: The first-ever SIFFX arrives
(Jonathan Zwickel, CityArts)
Reel Grrls puts SIFF and Woody Allen under the microscope (Daniel Nash, City Living Seattle)
SIFF Interview: If There’s a Hell Below director Nathan Williams (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)
Why SIFF should not be celebrating Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society’ (Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times)
Portrait of a Survivor: Big Sonia (Tony Kaye, CityArts)
SIFF Interviews: Sonics legend Spencer Haywood (Chris Burlingame, The SunBreak)

Reviews and capsules:

SIFF 2016: Festival Roundtable (Week Two) (staff, The Sun Break) NEW
SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: We Are X (Janice Headley, KEXP) NEW
SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: Red Gringo (Janice Headley, KEXP) NEW
SIFF 2016: Festival Roundtable (Week One) (staff, The Sun Break)
At SIFF: A New High (Tony Kay, City Arts)
SIFF Take: Tag (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls)
SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: The Austin City Limits Story (Masa, KEXP)
SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: Yo-Yo Man and the Silk Road Ensemble
(Janice Headley, KEXP)
SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: Contemporary Color (Janice Headley, KEXP)
SIFF 2016 Mini-Reviews: ‘Weiner,’ ‘ The Last King,’ ‘Tickled’ (David Chen, /Film)
NWAW at SIFF (staff, Northwest Asian Weekly)
17 Films You Must See at SIFF 2016 (Staff, The Stranger)
Tom’s top 10 picks for SIFF 2016 (Tom Tangney, MYNorthwest)
The Stranger Says (Staff, The Stranger)
7 great old films you can see at SIFF (Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times)
SIFF Face the Music 2016 Preview: Presenting Princess Shaw (Masa, KEXP)
SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: Concerto – A Beethoven Journey (Janice Headley, KEXP)
A film about eating bugs might be the best thing you see at SIFF this year (Bethany Jean Clements, Seattle Times)
The Stranger’s SIFF Notes (Staff, The Stranger)

Previews:

SIFFting Through SIFF (Robert Horton, Seattle Weekly)
SIFF 2016: Woody’s latest, Viggo Mortensen in person, and 421 movies (at last count) (Sean Axmaker, Parallax View)
SIFF 2016: The SIFF 42 Floodgates are Open (Tony Kaye, The SunBreak)
SIFF 2016 Preview: Face the Music (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls)
SIFF 2016 Preview: Northwest Connections (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls)
Seattle International Film Festival 2016: Face The Music (KEXP)
SIFF wants you to party all the time (party all the time, party all the time) (Amie Simon, Three Imaginary Girls)
Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) Announces Rich African Pictures Program Lineup of Features and Shorts (Tambay A. Obenson, Indiewire)

How to SIFF:

How to make your way around SIFF 2016 (Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times)
SunBreak SIFF Pro Tips for 2016 (Tony Kaye, The SunBreak)

Official sites:

SIFF 2015 homepage
SIFF calendar
SIFF Films A to Z
SIFF 2015 Box Office
SIFFtv (video shorts and interviews from the festival)
Updates and schedule changes

And other resources:

The Stranger’s SIFF Notes
Three Imaginary Girls
The Sunbreak
City Arts
KEXP

A few blogs at SIFF

Should I See It?
Seattle Screen Scene
Den of Cinema
The Last Thing I See
A Classic Movie Blog

Schedule updates:

ADDED FILM AND TBA SLOTS ANNOUNCED!

NEW FILM:
The Love Witch – A modern-day witch uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, in a vivid tribute to ’60s Technicolor thrillers.
(d: Anna Biller c: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, USA 2016, 120 min)
Screens Saturday June 11, 9:00pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!
FRIDAY JUNE 10
The Night Stalker, 3:30pm, Pacific Place Cinemas
SUNDAY JUNE 12
SIFF Closing Night Gala The Dressmaker, 6:30pm, Pacific Place Cinemas
As You Are, 8:00pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Pistol Shrimps, 9:00pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Slash, 9:00pm, Pacific Place Cinemas

SIFFtings 2016 – Week One


The 42nd Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday, May 19 with a gala screening of Woody Allen’s Café Society, direct from Cannes where it was the opening night event. That would generally be considered a coup for SIFF but the glitz is tarnished thanks to allegations of child abuse by Allen against the children of Mia Farrow. The controversy isn’t new but was effectively swept under the rug by a willing media until Ronan Farrow turned the spotlight back on his biological father and called out the media for letting the accusations slide as the film opened at Cannes. Nicole Brodeur writes about it at The Seattle Times, and I recommend Matt Zoller Seitz’s personal essay on his struggle to grapple with the art of Allen versus the actions of the artists. As for Seattle, neither Allen nor any of the stars will be attending the film.

What does any of this have to do with the film? Maybe nothing, maybe everything, depending on how you separate your engagement with popular art from the artists who create it. But by putting the film in the opening night spot, SIFF has made a statement of sorts whether it meant to or not. It was announced weeks before the embers of the controversy were fanned back to life, but those embers were always there, even if we (and I include myself) were willing to conveniently forget about it.

The festival really begins on Friday, May 20 as movies play in eight venues radiating out from Seattle Center to Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Bellevue. On Thursday it adds Renton and Friday it leaves Ballard for Shoreline, with Kirkland and Columbia City taking part later. But for now, let’s take a look at some of the highlight in this first week.

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SIFFting Throught SIFF

‘Captain Fantastic’ – shot partly in Washington State, featured at SIFF 2016

The Seattle International Film Festival long ago embraced its role as a kind of floating civic carnival. For 25 days—25 days—the fest spreads itself out over multiple venues, luring people indoors during what I have been told is a beautiful time of year. There’s a kind of madness at loose here, from the sheer number of films (something in the neighborhood of 250 features this year, from 85 different countries) to the variety of events involved: visiting filmmakers, tributes, panel discussions, live music events, sing-alongs, and many parties. People spend their vacation time to attend the nation’s largest film festival, bagging as many movies as they can according to some staggering mathematical algorithms (most movies are screened two or three times). Inevitably, the films range from good to bad to indifferent, and given a festival this size, there are a discomfiting number of indifferents. Can we make some generalizations about the behemoth that is SIFF 2016?

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

SIFF 2016: Woody’s latest, Viggo Mortensen in person, and 421 movies (at last count)

Woody Allen’s Café Society makes its North American premiere as the opening night film of the 42nd Seattle International Film Festival on Thursday, May 19—a mere eight days after making its world premiere as the Cannes opening night.

24 days later, Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker takes the closing night gala spot at Cinerama on Sunday, June 12.

In between, 268 features (including 75 documentaries) and 153 short films from 85 countries will screen across 12 venues in Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Kirkland, and Shoreline.

That’s about the size of it at SIFF 2016, still the biggest and the longest film festival in the United States.

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Telluride: the gold nugget of film festivals (1982)

[Originally published in The Weekly, October 13, 1982]

The distance from Denver had been grievously underestimated by the travel agency, so we made the last part of the long day’s journey to Telluride in moonlight. Around and above the blind valley in which the Old West ghost town nestles, the Colorado Rockies bulked darkly, only their horizon clearly traceable. In the morning we would wake to find them slashed by strata of Technicolor-red rock and bisected, a mile beyond the end of Main Street, by a thread of waterfall called Bridal Veil. For now, ahead of us where the town must be, there appeared a mountain several thousand feet higher than the Rockies’ local average altitude of 13,000 feet—a Lovecraftian mass glowing with a light of its own, and no less well-defined and solid-seeming for being a cloud. Any cinephile could have read the sign: Werner Herzog and Fitzcarraldo had to be waiting under that celestial special-effect. And as it turned out, this vision was also our first testimony that the experience of the Telluride Film Festival is much bigger than the sum of films available on its four separate screens.

By design and thoroughly persuasive execution, the Telluride Film Festival is like no other. For the past nine years, from Friday evening of Labor Day weekend through the following Monday, movie buffs from all over the globe have made their way to this isolated resort area in the southwest corner of Colorado. Here they catch the most provocative films of the coming season, make belated acquaintance with recently unearthed treasures of the past, and press the cinematic flesh of distinguished directors and stars. (The reconstructed Napoléon was first projected in the festival’s Open Air Cinema in 1980, with the 90-year-old Abel Gance in attendance. Last year, My Dinner with Andre, Wally, and Andre were all on hand.)

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