Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Festivals

Previewing SIFF 2013 – UPDATED

2013seattleifflogo_mainIt’s back. The Seattle International Film Festival, the biggest, the longest, and the best attended film festival in America, opens on Thursday, May 16 with Joss Whendon’s Much Ado About Nothing. That was announced a few weeks and news that the director and much of his cast (drawn from various orbits of the Whedonverse) would appear with the film on opening night helped make this the fastest sell-out opening event SIFF has seen.

Announced today is the closing night film: The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s new feature with Emma Watson as the ringleader of a gang of teenagers who target celebrities to rob via social networking tools, simply for the kick of rubbing up against the famous while taking them for all they are worth. It’s based on a true story and seems ready made as a tale for our celebrity-obsessed times.

In between these films is 24 days of screenings with over 200 feature films (that includes the four Secret Festival screenings), 67 documentaries, and 175 shorts. (SIFF is an Academy qualifying festival for live-action, animated, and starting this year documentary shorts.) 18 features make their respective world premieres.

Gala showings include two films with Seattle connections: Touchy Feely from Seattle’s own Lynn Shelton (which kicks off six days of screenings in Renton) and Decoding Annie Parker, which dramatizes the true story of cancer research breakthrough guided by UW geneticist Mary-Claire King (played in the film by Helen Hunt).

Touchy Feely

Other galas and special event screenings include The Way, Way Back from writers / directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “Gay-La” event G.B.F., Fanie Fourie’s Lobola from South Africa (the centerpiece of the African Pictures section), Populaire from France, Papadopoulos and Sons from the U.K., Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies with Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilder, and the documentaries Twenty Feet from Stardom, Inequality for All, and Somm.

Thanks to a grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, SIFF will present a special section of 15 films from Africa, including the North American premiere of Last Flight to Abuja from Nigeria: the first Nollywood film to play SIFF.

Guests are always a big part of the festival experience but two special guests are coming for special events. In “An Afternoon with Peter Greenaway” (Sunday, May 19) the director will tackle the question: is the contemporary cinema’s dependence on text leading to the death of cinema? The talk follows a screening of his latest film Goltzius and the Pelican Company On Monday, June 3, audiences will have the opportunity to spend “An Evening with Kyle Maclachlan,” where he will be feted with an award and interviewed in an onstage Q&A, followed by a screening of the pilot episode of David Lynch’s TV show Twin Peaks.

Archival Presentations are always my favorite part of the festival and this year there are some beauties, from Marcel Carné’s Port of Shadows (1938, France), a gorgeous portrait of poetic doom with Jean Gabin, to the newly restored version of Phase IV (US, 1974), the sole feature directed by Saul Bass and one of the most cerebral and unusual horror films of the 1970s.

Kalpana (India, 1948), directed by and starring Uday Shankar (Ravi Shankar’s brother), is a dance drama that was recently restored by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata. Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Italy, 1970) comes in a new 4K restoration. Shôhei Imamura’s A Man Vanishes (Japan, 1967) and Laurence Olivier’s Richard III (UK, 1955) complete the “official” archival line-up. Safety Last! (US, Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor), the great silent stunt comedy with Harold Lloyd, is technically part of the “Films4Families” section and The Wind (US, Victor Sjöström) is presented in the “Face the Music” section, with live accompaniment by The Maldives in a club setting rather than a theater.

Jini Dellaccio: ‘Her Aim is True’

As for the rest? I just started sorting my way through the titles and researching some of the films, so I only have preliminary highlights. Most of the high profile films will open in the weeks and months following SIFF, like Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, Sundance award winner Ain’t Them Bodies Saints with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, and most of the galas and special presentations.

Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy (Paradise: Faith, Paradise: Hope, and Paradise: Love) is also slated for a release, but depending on how SIFF presents the three features, a festival setting might be the perfect way to experience the project. From Johnnie To (a former SIFF special guest and a favorite director of mine) is Drug War, and given that his last half-dozen films have failed to land American distribution, this might be your only chance to see it.

And if you like documentaries, then by all means partake of the variety of offerings here. More nonfiction films than ever are landing theatrical releases, but there are still so many that get shuttled to TV, disc, or digital, where they can so easily get lost in the clutter. Just to pick one that intrigues me: Her Aim is True, a profile of Jini Dellaccio, a fashion photographer who became a rock photography pioneer with her iconic photos and album covers of Pacific Northwest bands in the 1960s. She’s still alive and kicking and living in Seattle and will be at the screening.

The complete schedule will be unveiled on May 2 and go live on the SIFF website, at which time you will be able to purchase individual tickets. Film guides will be available to pick up at SIFF venues and Starbucks.

UPDATE APRIL 30 – The list of premieres and other programs are below, after the trailer.

Here’s this year’s SIFF trailer, produced by Seattle’s own WDCS (Wong, Doody, Crandall, Weiner).


World (18):
9 Full Moons (d: Tomer Almagor, USA)
Alive and Well (d: Josh Taft, USA)
Clutter (d: Diane Crespo, USA)
Evergreen: The Road to Legalization in Washington (d: Riley Morton, USA)
Fateful Findings (d: Neil Breen, USA)
Finding Hillywood (d: Leah Warshawski, USA)
Her Aim Is True (d: Karen Whitehead, USA)
Last I Heard (d: David Rodriguez, USA)
The Little Tin Man (d: Matthew Perkins, USA)
Middleton (d: Adam Rodgers, USA, Anchor Bay Films)
Mutual Friends (d: Matthew Watts, USA)
The Otherside (d: Daniel Torok, USA)
Scrapper (d: Brady Hall, USA)
Spud 2: The Madness Continues (d: Donovan Marsh, South Africa)
Teddy Bears (d: Thomas Beatty, USA)
Test (d: Chris Mason Johnson, USA)
Town Hall (d: Jamila Wignot, USA)
Worm (d: Andrew Bowser, USA)

North American (38):
36 (d: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand)
The African Cypher (d: Bryan Little, South Africa)
Ali (d: Paco R. Baños, Spain)
Belleville Baby (d: Mia Engberg, Sweden)
Between Valleys (d: Philippe Barcinsk, Brazil)
Bitch Hug (d: Andreas Öhman, Sweden)
The Bling Ring (d: Sofia Coppola, USA, A24)
Breach in the Silence (d: Andrés Rodríguez, Venezuela)
Bypass (d: Patxo Telleria, Spain)
Capturing Dad (d: Ryota Nakano, Japan)
Celestial Wives of Meadow Mari (d: Aleksey Fedorchenko, Russia)
Closed Curtain (d: Jafar Panahi, Iran)
Comrade President (d: Mosco Kamwendo, Zimbabwe)
Dead Meat Walking – A Zombie Walk Documentary (d: Omar J. Pineda, USA)
Drug War (d: Johnnie To, Hong Kong, Well Go USA)
Éden (d: Bruno Safadi, Brazil)
Every Blessed Day (d: Paolo Virzi, Italy)
Fatal (d: Lee Don-ku, South Korea)
Flight of the Storks (d: Jan Kounen, France)
Garibaldi’s Lovers (d: Silvio Soldini, Italy, Film Movement)
The Girl With Nine Wigs (d: Marc Rothemund, Germany)
The Great Passage (d: Yûya Ishii, Japan)
House With a Turret (d: Eva Neymann, Ukraine)
I Kori (The Daughter) (d: Thanos Anastopoulos, Greece)
The Kampala Story (d: Donald Mugisha, Uganda)
Last Flight to Abuja (d: Obi Emelonye, Nigeria)
Love Is in the Air (d: Alexandre Castagnetti, France)
Low Profile(d: Cécilia Rouaud, France)
Ludwig II (d: Peter Sehr, Germany)
My Dog Killer(d: Mira Fornay, Slovakia)
Nishan (Medal of Honor) (d: Yidnekachew Shumete Desalegn, Ethiopia)
The Plague (d: Neus Ballús, Spain)
Redemption Street (d: Miroslav Terzi, Serbia)
Ripples of Desire (d: Zero Chou, Taiwan)
Short Stories (d: Mikhail Segal, Russia)
Television (d: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Bangladesh)
Tito on Ice (d: Max Andersson, Germany)
Yesterday Never Ends (d: Isabel Coixet, Spain)

US (6):
2+2 (d: Diego Kaplan, Argentina, Strand Releasing)
Aayna Ka Bayna (d: Samit Kakkad, India)
Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (d: Prathiba Parmar, USA)
Breathing Earth (d: Thomas Riedelsheimer, Germany)
Horses of God (d: Nabil Ayouch, Morocco)
Invader (d: Daniel Calparsoro, Spain)


This year SIFF will launch its African Pictures Program, a program made possible by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The African Pictures Program aims to celebrate the diverse and burgeoning hotbed of filmmaking activity emerging across the continent of Africa. This grant gives SIFF an unparalleled opportunity as a major international film festival to showcase a substantive program of indigenous films from Africa along with films by African filmmakers working outside the continent. Please click here for the complete African Pictures Program press release. See below for the full lineup:
The African Cypher (d:Bryan Little, South Africa, North American Premiere)
After the Battle (d: Yousry Nasrallah, France)
Coming Forth by Day (Hala Lotfy, Egypt)
Comrade President (d: Mosco Kamwendo, Zimbabwe, North American Premiere)
Die Welt (d: Alex Pitstra, Netherlands)
Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (d: Henk Pretorius, South Africa)
Finding Hillywood (Leah Warshawski, USA, World Premiere)
The Forgotten Kingdom (d. Andrew Mudge, USA)
A Hijacking (d. Tobias Lindholm, Denmark)
Horses of God (d: Nabil Ayouch Morocco, US Premiere)
The Kampala Story (d:Donald Mugisha, Uganda, North American Premiere)
Last Flight to Abuja (d: Obi Emelonye, Nigeria, North American Premiere)
Mother of George (d: Andrew Dosunmu, USA, Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Nishan (Medal of Honor) (d: Yidnekachew Shumete Desalegn, Ethiopia)
The Pardon(d: Joel Karekezi, Rwanda, North American Premiere)
The Repentant (d: Merzak Allouache, Algeria)
Sand Fishers (d: Samouté Andrey Diarra, Mali)
Spud 2: The Madness Continues (d: Donovan Marsh, South Africa, World Premiere)


SIFF competitions are intended to reflect the diversity and excellence of global filmmaking with awards and/or cash prizes given to the winners as determined by independent juries as well as by audience voting.

New Directors Competition: Festival programmers select 12 films remarkable for their original concept, striking style and overall excellence. To be eligible films must be a director’s first or second feature and without U.S. distribution at the time of their selection. Winners receive a $2,500 cash prize.

Breach in the Silence (d: Andres Rodriguez, Luis Rodriguez, Venezuela, North American Premiere)
The Cleaner (d: Adrian Saba Peru 2012)
Coming Forth by Day (d: Hala Lotfy, Egypt/United Arab Emirates 2012)
Die Welt (d: Alex Pitstra, Netherlands/Tunisia/Qatar, 2012)
Fatal (d: Lee Don-ku, South Korea 2012, North American Premiere)
Fuck Up (d: Øystein Karlsen, Norway 2012)
Harmony Lessons (d: Emir Baigazin, Kazakhstan/Germany/France, 2013)
House With a Turret (d: Eva Neymann, Ukraine 2012, US Premiere)
Love is in the Air (d: Alexandre Castagnetti, France 2013, North American Premiere)
The Plague (d: Neus Ballús, Spain 2013, North American Premiere)
Sadourni’s Butterflies (d: Dario Nardi, Argentina 2012)
Short Stories (d: Mikhail Segal, Russia 2012, North American Premiere)

New American Cinema Competition: Festival programmers select 12 films without U.S. distribution that are sure to delight audiences looking to explore the exciting vanguard of New American Cinema and compete for the FIPRESCI Award for Best New American Film. Jury is comprised of 3 members from the International Federation of Film Critics. The winning film will receive a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 6: Production Premium edition.

9 Full Moons (d: Tomer Almagor, USA 2013, World Premiere)
Clutter (d: Diane Crespo, USA 2013, World Premiere)
C.O.G. (d: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, USA 2013)
The Forgotten Kingdom (d: Andrew Mudge, USA 2013)
Last I Heard (d: David Rodriguez, USA 2013, World Premiere)
The Little Tin Man (d: Matthew Perkins, USA 2013, World Premiere)
The Moment (d: Jane Weinstock, USA 2013)
Mutual Friends (d: Matthew Watts, USA 2013, World Premiere)
A Song Still Inside (d: Gregory Collins, USA 2013)
Teddy Bears (d: Thomas Beatty, Rebecca Fishman, USA 2013, World Premiere)
Test (d: Chris Mason Johnson, USA 2013, World Premiere)
Worm (d: Andrew Bowser, USA 2013, World Premiere)

Documentary Competition: Unscripted and uncut, the world is a resource of unexpected, informative, and altogether exciting storytelling. Documentary filmmakers have, for years, brought these untold stories to life and introduced us to a vast number of fascinating topics we may have never known existed-let alone known were so fascinating. Winners receive a $2,500 cash prize.

The African Cypher (d: Bryan Little, South Africa 2012, North American Premiere)
Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (d: Prathiba Parmar, USA 2013, US Premiere)
Breathing Earth (d: Thomas Riedelsheimer, Germany/Scotland 2012, US Premiere)
The Crash Reel (d: Lucy Walker, USA 2013)
Her Aim Is True (d: Karen Whitehead, USA 2013, World Premiere)
Mussels in Love (d: W.J.A. Kluijfhout, Netherlands 2012)
Our Nixon (d: Penny Lane, USA 2013)
The Punk Singer (d: Sini Anderson, USA 2013)
Sand Fishers (d: Samouté Andrey Diarra, Mali/France 2012)
Town Hall (d: Jamila Wignot, Sierra Pettengill, USA 2013, World Premiere)
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (d: Bill Siegel, USA 2013)
A World Not Ours (d: Mahdi Fleifel, Lebanon/United Kingdom/Denmark, 2012)