Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Festivals

SIFF 2014: All is by my SIFF guide

The press release has been unleashed, the complete schedule has been announced, and at 9am on Thursday, May 1, the schedule will go up on the SIFF website and tickets will go on sale online and at the SIFF Cinema Uptown box office (the Pacific Place SIFF box-office with open later). The 40th Seattle International Film Festival season is officially underway.

Of course, you can’t wait to find out what the highlights are (well, my highlights, as far as that goes) so here’s a sketch of what’s big, what’s interesting, what’s arriving with big buzz, and what you might want to look out for when the schedule goes live. (The full press release is copied below.)

‘Jimi: All is By My Side’

Opening Night, as was previously announced, is Jimi: All is By My Side, John Ridley’s film of Jimi Hendrix in the year before he broke in America at the Monterey Pop music festival. It debuted at Toronto last year and made its American debut at SXSW in March; Seattle marks its second American appearance. As you may know, the Hendrix estate would not license any of Hendrix’s compositions to the film, which leads to some storytelling gymnastics and one killer cover that I will not spoil for you. The film opens the festival at McCaw Hall (which, to be honest, is not the most sonic-friendly space for film soundtracks) on Thursday, May 15, and director / writer John Ridley (fresh off winning an Oscar for his screenplay to 12 Years a Slave) is set to attend.

The festival closes 24 days later on Sunday, June 8, with the official Closing Night film The One I Love, a comedy starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, at The Cinerama (though as any regular festival-goer knows, there are screenings well into the evening in other venues).

The Centerpiece Gala (that means it’s a premium ticket with a party to follow) is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a story about growing up that was quite literally 12 years in the making. Linklater started shooting the film in 2002 and brought cast back together every year to watch young star Ellar Coltrane grow up over the course of the film. It plays on Saturday, May 31 at the Egyptian Theater, the longtime anchor of SIFF. The Capitol Hill theater has been closed for months but it will open for the run of the festival. And though there is no official word on the future of the venue, there is still hope that it will reopen as a year-round venue sometime after the festival.

There are plenty of other galas and special presentations but I’ll spotlight a couple with local connections: Lucky Them from Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffiths plays as the Renton Opening Night gala on Thursday, May 22 (it plays the next night in Seattle at the Egyptian as well) and Keep On Keepin’ On, a documentary on jazz great Clark Terry, plays Wednesday, June 4 and Friday, June 6 and will be attended by Quincy Jones.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the archival section brings back three key movies in SIFF history. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), which made its Seattle premiere at the first SIFF in 1976; The Stunt Man, the 1980 cult film by Richard Rush that was launched thanks to its popularity in Seattle (Rush is scheduled to attend); and The Whole Wide World, the breakthrough film by SIFF co-founder Dan Ireland that opened SIFF 1996.

This marks the second year of the African Pictures sidebar, a special program made possible in part by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the line-up presents 14 feature films, including the world premiere of Leading Lady, the new film from the director of SIFF 2013 Audience Award winning best film Fanie Fourie’s Lobola.

The shorts weekend is back, playing through Memorial Day weekend, there are 60 documentary features (one of SIFF’s most popular sections), and the “Face the Music” sidebar presents 23 fiction and documentary films (including the world premiere of Strictly Sacred: The Story of Girl Trouble, a celebration of the great Tacoma party band).

And there will be guests. Many filmmakers and actors will accompany their films and two actors will receive tributes and participate in an onscreen Q&A on the opening weekend of the fest: Laura Dern will present The Fault in Our Stars on Friday, May 16, and on Saturday will engage in a conversation about her career followed by a screening of Wild at Heart. And on Monday, May 19, Chiwetel Ejiofor will present his short film Columbite Tantalite followed by a screening of Half of a Yellow Sun, a Nigerian feature directed by Biyi Bandele. Both events will take place at the Egyptian.

My favorite selection is invariably the archival section and there are 14 archival presentations. Four of those have already been mentioned. There will also be new restorations of Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Liliana Cavani’s 1981 The Skin, starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale and co-written by Catherine Breillat, screenings of Abel Gance’s 1919 anti-war masterpiece J’Accuse, Nicholas Ray’s The Lusty Men (from a Film Foundation print), Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, Joseph Losey’s The Servant (celebrating its 50th anniversary with a recent restoration), and Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (with an early score by Quincy Jones), and musician Donald Sosin will return to accompany screenings of the Chinese silent film Song of the Fisherman and three restored Charlie Chaplin shorts.

Looking at SIFF by the numbers, there are over 270 fiction and non-fiction features, 20 feature film world premieres, 21 feature film North American premieres, and 8 feature film American premieres. That’s a lot of sift through and you’ll have your own favorite sections to check out and filmmakers to look up.

Let me just leave you with recommendations of two amazing epics you might otherwise overlook and may not have another chance to see. Agnieszka Holland’s almost four-hour Burning Bush, a political thriller about the personal and political reverberations after a student immolated himself in a public square in 1969 Prague to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, was actually created as a mini-series for HBO Europe but is unlikely to pay stateside outside of festival screenings, and What Now? Remind Me is an intimate and touching video diary by Portuguese filmmaker Joaquim Pinto chronicling his year of experimental treatment for HIV. At 164 minutes it might seem daunting but Pinto creates a delicate, beautiful, funny film that celebrates life in all its pain and wonder.

And one last comment: we’re calling this the 40th Seattle International Film Festival, but that’s really a fiction we all agree to honor, or at least don’t bother to question. But for all you purists out there, note that SIFF jumped from the “12th Annual” in 1987 to the “14th Annual” in 1988. Just like a high rise, we skipped over lucky 13. But when you survive this long, who really sweats the details?

You can view the calender for day-by-day screenings here, and see the full list here.

Press release highlights:


Elisabeth Moss & Mark Duplass in “The One I Love” to Close Fest
Quincy Jones to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award
Director Richard Linklater to attend screening of “Boyhood”
44 World, 30 North American, and 14 US premieres
Films in competition announced

SEATTLE — April 30, 2014 — Seattle International Film Festival, the largest and most highly attended festival in the United States, announced today the complete lineup of films and events for the 40th annual Festival (May 15 – June 8, 2014).

This year, SIFF will screen 440 films: 198 features (plus 4 secret films), 60 documentaries, 14 archival films, and 168 shorts, representing 83 countries. The films include 44 World premieres (20 features, 24 shorts), 30 North American premieres (22 features, 8 shorts), and 14 US premieres (8 features, 6 shorts). The Festival will open with the previously announced screening of JIMI: All Is By My Side, the Hendrix biopic starring Outkast’s André Benjamin from John Ridley, Oscar®-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, and close with Charlie McDowell’s twisted romantic comedy The One I Love, produced by Seattle’s Mel Eslyn and starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass. In addition, legendary producer and Seattle native Quincy Jones will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the screening of doc Keep on Keepin’ On. The 2014 Seattle International Film Festival is presented by SIFF, the non-profits arts organization that reaches more than 250,000 annually through SIFF Cinema, SIFF Education, and the annual flagship Festival.

“Film is more than entertainment. The life-changing nature of the collective experience of cinema and the stories moving pictures can tell are SIFF’s inspiration and mission every year as we put together the Festival,” says Carl Spence, SIFF’s Artistic Director. “This year, SIFF continues to be a festival of discovery, with more than 100 new directors making their debut. Richard Linklater was one of those filmmakers back in 1990 with the premiere of Slacker; it’s fitting to have him return for our anniversary with his masterwork Boyhood – unlike any other film I’ve seen. I am thrilled to share these films with the world and welcome the hundreds of talented guests expected to attend – from those you’ve heard of to the many who will be making their debut at the Festival.”

In addition to the gala screenings, this year’s premieres and special presentations feature a star-studded lineup including Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Laura Dern in The Fault in Our Stars, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke; Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock in Keep On Keepin’ On; Kim Basinger, Richard Jenkins and Cam Gigandet in 4 Minute Mile; Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan in Beautiful Noise; Nia Vardalos in Helicopter Mom; Vincent Kartheiser and Olivia Thirlby in Red Knot; Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Miranda Otto, and Mia Wasikowska in The Turning; the voices of Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, and Jay Baruchel in How To Train Your Dragon 2; Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in I Origins,and Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler in They Came Together.

Mary Bacarella, SIFF’s Managing Director, says, “This year’s Festival is an incredibly meaningful milestone for SIFF. We’re all so excited to bring this outstanding lineup of films, guests, forums, and events to our wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic audiences. We’ve created a program this year with moments that will fondly revisit our history and moments that will take us into the future of SIFF. I can’t wait for the fun to begin!”

Festival box office opens May 1 online at, by phone at 206.324.9996, and in person at various locations. View the full public program here.


Opening Night Gala
JIMI: All Is By My Side
Director, writer and executive producer John Ridley scheduled to attend

Novelist and Oscar®-winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) tracks Jimi Hendrix (Outkast’s André “3000” Benjamin) over the course of two years in mid-1960s London and his relationship with Vogue model Linda Keith, taking him from talented guitarist to irrefutable legend. (d: John Ridley c: André Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots, Ruth Negga, Adrian Lester, United Kingdom/Ireland 2013, 118 min)

Centerpiece Gala
Director Richard Linklater scheduled to attend

Richard Linklater (Slacker, Before Sunrise trilogy) makes a triumphant return to his independent roots with this dazzling micro-epic, shot over the course of 12 years, that tracks the evolution of a single American family through the eyes of young Mason. (d: Richard Linklater c: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, USA 2014, 164 min)

Closing Night Gala
The One I Love
Actors Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass and director Charlie McDowell scheduled to attend

On the recommendation of their therapist, a married couple spends a weekend away at a vacation home, where their romantic rekindling takes a turn for the surreal. This sophisticated blend of relationship drama and “Twilight Zone” twists features outstanding performances from Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed) and Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”). (d: Charlie McDowell c: Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass, Ted Danson, USA 2014, 91 min)


The Fault In Our Stars
Playing as part of the Laura Dern Tribute Presentation

Oblivion may be inevitable, but love is more than a shout into the void for Hazel and Gus, in this twinkling adaptation of the bestselling John Green novel. (d: Josh Boone c: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, Willem Dafoe, USA 2014, 107 min)

Keep On Keepin’ On
Playing as part of the Quincy Jones Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation
The Justin Kauflin Trio will perform at the Triple Door on June 5 – with introduction by Quincy Jones

This tribute to jazz legend Clark Terry, who taught Quincy Jones and Miles Davis, shows his passionate commitment to mentorship. Now in his 90s, Terry helps blind pianist Justin Kauflin (today a prodigious working artist) realize his dream. (d: Alan Hicks f: Clark Terry, Justin Kauflin, Quincy Jones, Gwen Terry, Herbie Hancock, USA 2014, 84 min)

How To Train Your Dragon 2
Five years after the events that brought awkward Viking teen Hiccup and injured dragon Toothless together, the two inseparable friends must fight for the peace and safety of their land when they encounter the mysterious Dragon Rider and a new army of dragons. (d: Dean DeBlois v: Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, USA 2014, 105 min)


Quincy Jones
Featuring Keep on Keepin’ On, The Pawnbroker, and An Evening with the Justin Kauflin Trio

Our lives have been touched by the work of Seattle native Quincy Jones in countless ways-from his work on seminal albums like “Sinatra at the Sands,” “Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux,” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” to his 33 film scores including Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker and Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, which he also co-produced, to his TV production, music management, and humanitarian work in the world and in the arts.

Laura Dern
Featuring The Fault in Our Stars and Wild at Heart

Coming from a family of major cinematic talent, Laura Dern has gone from girl next door (Blue Velvet) to paleontologist (Jurassic Park), from love-crazed bad girl (Wild at Heart) to woman reinvented (HBO’s “Enlightened”), and everywhere in between. An award-winning actress, producer, director, and activist, Dern’s unique blend of candor and magnetism, as well as her penchant for gutsy roles, has brought her to the forefront of American cinema and television.

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Featuring Half of a Yellow Sun, short Columbite Tantalite, and late-night screening of Serenity.

From his first film role in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad at the age of 19 and his colorful performance in Kinky Boots to his extraordinary Oscar®-nominated portrayal of Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor has infused his roles with an exquisite brand of introspective, quiet intensity. His performances are elegant and impassioned, stoic and strong, and infinitely memorable – a master of the craft.


Dior and I
Party at PNK at Pacific Place
Director Fre?de?ric Tcheng scheduled to attend

J’adore Dior! This elegant glimpse into artistic director Raf Simons’ entry into the House of Christian Dior, and into the creation of his first haute couture collection, sparkles as an homage to the iconic house.  (d: Fre?de?ric Tcheng f: Raf Simons, Anna Wintour, Sidney Toledano, Pieter Mulier, France 2014, 89 min)

I Origins
Party at Kaspar’s

An existential, metaphysical science fiction drama about a molecular biologist studying human eye evolution, his first-year lab partner, and his mysterious, free-spirited lover. A bold followup to the stunning 2012 film Another Earth. (d: Mike Cahill c: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi, USA 2014, 113 min)

They Came Together
Industry Party at W Hotel Seattle
Director David Wain scheduled to attend

Comedy titans Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler lampoon rom-com conventions in this snappy sendup of boy-meets-girl, also starring New York City. Overly sincere and saccharine clichés are spoofed with gut-busting gags and irreverent laughs. (d: David Wain c: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Shannon, Cobie Smulders, Melanie Lynskey, Christopher Meloni, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, USA 2014, 83 min)


The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The longest running theatrical release in history, which premiered at the 1976 Seattle International Film Festival, returns for a special interactive celebration that includes goodie bags, subtitled lyrics, and more. Don’t dream it, be it. (d: Jim Sharman c: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Meat Loaf, United Kingdom/USA 1975, 100 min)

The Stunt Man
Director Richard Rush scheduled to attend
Peter O’Toole plays an erratic director who agrees to hire a runaway convict as a stunt man for his World War I epic. As the fugitive takes over the identity of the film’s previous stunt man, it becomes clear that no one’s intentions are what they seem. This bizarre, clever film that was nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, closed SIFF in 1980 and went on to a legendary 43-week run at the Guild 45th. (d: Richard Rush c: Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsbeck, Barbara Hershey, Allan Goorwitz, Alex Rocco, USA 1980, 131 min)

The Whole Wide World
Director Dan Ireland scheduled to attend
The true story of the 1930s turbulent courtship between aspiring author Novalyne and “Conan the Barbarian” pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard resonates in Dan Ireland’s classic romance. (d: Dan Ireland c: Vincent D’Onofrio, Renee Zellweger, USA 1996, 111 min). Preceded by the World Premiere of Dan Ireland’s short Hate From A Distance produced in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (July 2, 1964) abolishing segregation.


With 168 shorts this year, SIFF’s annual celebration of short film remains one of the hot tickets at the Festival. Taking place during Memorial Day weekend, this mini-fest is packed with talented, up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world. Take advantage of the opportunity to experience the best short films from the past year – many will also play before feature films throughout the Festival.


SIFF offers three programs during Festival: FutureWave & Films4Families, Forums, and SuperFly.


SIFF has programs curated to make the Festival more accessible to younger audiences. FutureWave features are a great place for our cinema-savvy teen audience to find their love of world cinema and Films4Families is the perfect way for younger children (and the young at heart) to have a fabulous experience at SIFF. Both programs also have Youth Juries comprised of youth from their age bracket to watch all the films and present the Youth Jury Award in their respective categories.


Where audiences and filmmakers come together to learn about and experience making movies. Unless otherwise noted, Festival forums and panels are held at SIFF Film Center.
· The Editor’s Toolkit
· Inside LAIKA Animation
· The Changing Face of Documentary Filmmaking
· The Alchemy of Film Scoring
· Get Animated: Animation Workshop for Kids (ages 8-14)
· How To Make a Living Creating Media
· Short Filmmakers Happy Hour & Panel: Making the Most of Any Festival
· Crash Cinema @ Folklife
· Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: The Hammersmith App and Other New Teaching Tools
· SIFF Catalyst Panels – a full day of public panels & dynamic, thought-provoking discussions around the dual themes of co-creation and community in the new digital space.
o Produce Smarter: How to Finance Your Short Film Without Using Your Credit Card
Keynote by Emily Best (Seed&Spark)
o Catalyst Filmmaker Panel
o Successful Genre Filmmaking
o Catalyst Happy Hour
· The Emergence of Native Filmmaking
· TheFilmSchool: How to Correctly Pitch Your Project
· Filmmaking Across the African Diaspora
· TheFilmSchool: How to Prepare for the Investor Conversation
· The Future of Film Criticism
· TheFilmSchool: Protecting your IP & Negotiating the Deal
· The Future of Distribution


For its ninth year, the SuperFly Filmmaking Experience, created by Longhouse Media and presented by SIFF, brings 50 youth from across the country to Seattle to participate in an immersion into filmmaking and tribal culture. The young filmmakers will produce five short documentary films in 36 hours at the Suquamish Tribal Community. The films will be completed just hours before their World Premiere at the SuperFly and Native Shorts Showcase on May 31 (4:00pm, Harvard Exit).