Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Festivals

SIFF 2012: The 38th Seattle International Film Festival Honors Seattle Filmmaking

For first time in its 38 year history, the Seattle International Film Festival—the longest (at 25 days) and best attended film festival in the United States—opens and closes on honest-to-god Seattle films.

SIFF 2012 opens on Thursday, May 17 with the local premiere of Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s fourth feature Your Sister’s Sister, shot (like all of her features) in and around Seattle with a largely local production crew. The film made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto fest (where it was the first film sale of the festival) and its American premiere at Sundance.

The festival closes 25 days later with the World Premiere of Grassroots, a political satire based on the real-life experience of former The Stranger reporter Phil Campbell as the campaign manager of Grant Cogswell’s city council run. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of Jake and Maggie), it was produced locally and shot in Seattle.

In between are 273 feature films, including 24 world premieres, 25 North American premieres, and 16 American premieres. SIFF will have the only American festival screening of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom before its theatrical release, Special Presentations of Pixar’s Brave and Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, and Gala Screenings of Alex de la Iglesias’ As Luck Would Have It, Lola Versus with Greta Gerwig, and The Details with Elizabeth Banks and Tobey Maguire (which was also shot in around Seattle).

Your Sister's Sister

Other Seattle-centric titles include the shot-in-Seattle Safety Not Guaranteed with Mark Duplass (certainly an honorary Seattleite by now), Seattle filmaker Megan Griffiths’ Eden, the family comedy Fat Kid Rules the World from actor-turned-director Matthew Lilliard, and the documentary The 5,000 Days Project: Two Brothers by Seattle filmmaker Rick Stevenson.

Sissy Spacek will be feted with an onstage Q&A and a screening of Badlands, plus additional screening of Carrie and Coal Miner’s Daughter, and SIFF pays tribute to William Friedkin with a special screening of his new film Killer Joe and revivals of The Exorcist and The French Connection.

There are new films from Julie Delpy (2 Days in New York), Denis Côté (Bestiarie), Jay and Mark Duplass (The Do-Decca-Pentathlon), Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Headshot), Hirkazu Kore-eda (I Wish), Guy Maddin (Keyhole), Andrea Arnold (Wuthering Heights), Johnny To (Romancing in Thin Air), Chen Kaige (Sacrifice), Robert Guédiguian (The Snows of Kilimanjaro), Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz), and André Téchiné (Unforgivable).

Revivals include Stanley Donen’s Two For the Road (1967) with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, the largely forgotten film noir The Chase (1946) by Arthur Ripley, Alexei Guerman’s 1971 Trial on the Road from Russia (where it was banned for 15 years), the 1933 Chinese film Little Toys, and the animated Only Yesterday (1991) from Japan, directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Hiyao Miyazaki.

And for the year’s marathon event, Mark Cousin’s 15-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey screens over a series of evenings (programmers promise a return engagement for this event for those unable to commit to the entire series).

Sissy Spacek

But SIFF has another first this year: four screens of its own. In addition to completing the long-in-the-making SIFF Film Center in Seattle Center, SIFF took over The Uptown in Queen Anne (just blocks from the Film Center) with its three theaters. That is in addition to The Egyptian (long the festival’s flagship), both screens at The Harvard Exit and a screen at Pacific Place, as well as a week of screenings apiece in Renton, Everett, and Kirkland.

It’s more than the simple efficiency of having three screens under one roof at The Uptown. Folks may remember the myriad of presentation issues that plagued last year’s festival. Almost all of them occurred at satellite screens where SIFF had none of their own in the projection booth. SIFF Cinema’s own projectionists are among the best, most professional, and most well prepared in the city. This year, four screens are manned by SIFF’s own. That doesn’t guarantee a problem-free run—with the multiple digital formats replacing 35mm in so many screenings, a whole set of potential issues are introduced, and they can’t always be spotted by a print check or fixed with a splice—but it sure improves the odds.

The complete SIFF 2012 schedule will be available online at on Thursday, May 3 and in print form at SIFF ticket centers and Starbucks locations on Friday, May 4.

For more information and updates, visit the Seattle International Film Festival website.

See the trailer below, after the jump.