The 42nd Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) runs May 19-June 12 and features more than 400 films from 80 countries. For 25 days, movie houses all over the city will participate in one of the largest film festivals in the United States, with more than 150,000 people attending each year! A cinema fan is liable to lose their mind at the dizzying array of cinematic choices over these next three weeks, but do not succumb. This year, SIFF has arranged the films into specialized genres to fit every mood, and I’m here to break it down even further, so there’s no need to get overwhelmed.
Here are a few must-see choices from three choice categories: Love, Make Me Laugh and Creative Streak.
At SIFF, love and romance come at you in many forms, and in unexpected ways. Here are a few films to pull on your heartstrings.
Eternal Summer, Sweden (2015), 107 min.
The film that SIFF organizers are calling, “a Swedish mix of Bonnie & Clyde with a soft touch of Natural Born Killers,” makes its North American Premiere tonight (Friday, May 27) at Lincoln Square. Directed by Andreas Öhman, Eternal Summer follows two lovers in a burgeoning romance on a road trip from Stockholm to Tornio…to steal a cello. Along the way, things get a little messy. (Who knows how anybody gets blood all over their face in a film trailer.) It promises to be a love story with cunning and edge from a promising young Swedish filmmaker. Best of all, Öhman is scheduled to attend the viewings.
Friday, May 27, 7pm, Lincoln Square
Saturday, May 28, 1:30pm, Pacific Place
Sunday, May 29, 6:30pm, Pacific Place
Truman, Spain/Argentina (2015), 108 min.
Winner of five Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars), Truman is a warm, devastating film about a man dying of cancer, his loyal friend and his even more loyal dog, Truman. The film’s directed by Cesc Gay and stars Ricardo Darin, Javier Cámara and Dolores Fonzi. I had the opportunity to see an advanced screening, and I was surprised by how touched I was by themes and gestures that I would ordinarily find overly sentimental. The film can be a little heavy-handed at times, but the essential message—that life is precious and to lose the people we love is a bittersweet fact of life—is rendered with a lot of humor, wisdom and grace.
Sunday, May 29, 4:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Monday, May 30, 6:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Friday, June 3, 9pm, Shoreline CC
So many good films to see in the Love category! Here are a few more:
First Girl I Loved A 17-year-old girl falls in love with the most popular girl in school to the chagrin of her male crush. Uh oh!
Finding October Directed by Seattle local Nick Perry, this travelogue takes us through the Pacific Northwest on a road trip headed for drama, I’m sure. The director and actor Karin Terry are scheduled to attend.
Southside with You This film takes us on a recreation of Michelle and Barack’s magical first date on Chicago’s Southside in 1989.
Make Me Laugh
Now that we’re all teeming with love, here are a few films hoping to literally tickle your funny bones. (Not really.)
The Brand New Testament, Belgium/France/Luxembourg (2015), 112 min.
Knowing nothing else about it, this film had me with that single screenshot of a gigantic ape in the forefront. As a film reviewer, it’s rare to see anything truly different and new. An ape scaling a building or swinging from branches, sure, but I’ve never seen one chilling in a lady’s bedroom like that before, and now that I know that it exists, I can’t un-know. Directed by Chayna Button, the North American premiere of The Brand New Testament depicts a world where God is real, awful and living in Brussels. I feel like this religious satire could be really good or spectacularly terrible… but gambles like this are what SIFF is all about!
Friday, June 3, 9:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Sunday, June 5, 2pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Girl Asleep, Australia (2016), 77 min.
This seemingly innocent film about a teenage girl made its North American premiere at SIFF this week. Directed by Rosemary Myers, Girl Asleep features the campy aesthetic of the 1970s in suburban Australia as it delves into the sometimes violent, absurd and strangely erotic dreamworld of Greta Driscoll after her birthday party goes awry.
Wednesday, May 25, 7pm, Pacific Place
Saturday, May 28, 12pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
Here’s a couple more “knee-slappers”—and other comedy cliches as well!
Just what it sounds like: Chicken People features the colorful characters who have dedicated their lives to the art of chicken breeding. Director Nicole Lucas Haimes and Producer Terry Leonard are scheduled to attend the screenings.
Comedian Mike Birbiglia is scheduled to attend the June 10 showing of his second feature film, Don’t Think Twice about the trials and tribs of an improv group in New York City.
These films explore artistic endeavors from all different disciplines in all kinds of strange and interesting ways.
BANG! The Bert Berns Story, USA (2016), 94 min.
Narrated by Steven Van Zandt (and directed by the subject’s son, Brett Burns) BANG! The Bert Berns Story features the little-known legacy of songwriter and record producer Bert Berns. The man died young, but not before authoring a string of popular music hits in the 60s, such as “Twist and Shout,” “Brown-eyed Girl” and “Hang on Sloopy.” So says one of the film’s talking heads: “Bert Berns scared important people in the record business, and they’re still scared.” Fans of 1960s rock won’t want to miss this music-filled, untold story.
Monday, May 30, 8:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
Wednesday, June 1, 4:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
Finding Babel, USA/Ukraine/Russia/France (2015), 89 min.
If I had to choose, I would say the worst thing that happened to the under-appreciated Soviet writer Isaac Babel was getting shot by Stalin’s army. In its North American premiere, director David Novack follows Babel’s Grandson’s journey as he gets to know the life and the artist he never knew, 75 years after his death. As an added bonus, the film features another favorite of mine, Liev Schreiber. Novack is scheduled to attend the screening.
Saturday, June 4, 7 pm, Pacific Place
Sunday, June 5, 11am, Pacific Place
Wednesday, June 6, Kirkland PC
We are X, USA/Japan/United Kingdom (2016), 89 min.
The flamboyant hard-rock band X may be the biggest music sensation from the 1980s that the United States has never heard of. In We are X, director Stephen Kijak takes us through the life and times of this iconic band, led by frontman Yoshiki as he stages his comeback. The film takes us through the creation of a musical revolution known as “Visual-Kei,” their tragic split and beyond. This film could very well be a buried treasure for music fans.
Sunday, June 5, 8:30 pm, Ark Lodge
Wednesday, June 8, 9:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
The 42nd Seattle International Film Festival runs May 19-June 12. Visit SIFF.net for exact scheduling, ticketing and other information.