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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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SIFF 2010: Week One

Posted by gck Monday, June 14, 2010 0 comments

I’ve attended films from every year of the Seattle International Film Festival since I moved to Seattle, making this my 6th year. When I first started, I just thought it was cool that I lived in city big and diverse enough to support a festival that showed some international films. But I thought it was just as cool that I lived in a place that had Thai restaurants.

I’ve been in the area longer now, and I’m no longer excited about Thai restaurants, which seem to be located on every third block around here. But I’ve grown to really appreciate SIFF as something that we’re lucky to have. It’s the largest and most attended film festival in the United States. In a period of about three weeks, the festival screens more than 400 films.

Things that are cool:

1. I get to see films that not many other people get to see.

2. I get to see some films that many other people will see, but I get to see them before they do.

3. I get to listen to very interesting and insightful Q&A sessions with many of the directors. It’s even cooler when it’s for one of the films described in #2.

4. Newly discovered this year – volunteering = a chance to meet lots of great people and see a lot of free film!

5. SIFF, unlike the film festivals you normally hear about, is accessible to the general public and primarily attended by “normal people.” According to The Stranger, Ed Norton (who was in town for an award) said that most film festivals are commercial messes, but SIFF was a wonderful festival for a “great film town.”

This year, I definitely had my best SIFF experience to date. I saw about 18 films and volunteered 5 shifts. And my picks this year were great! No total clunkers and a lot of great films, including several that made the awards list. I also went outside my normal types of choices and added more documentaries, which were very informative and thought-provoking.

During one of my SIFF movies, I was trying to recall the name of a French film I saw in 2005. Google was failing me, and I didn’t want to search the SIFF site using my phone. Then I remembered that I blogged about it, so I went to my blog and found the name easily. Conclusion: I need to blog about SIFF this year so I can remember things in the future.

SIFF First Weekend (5/21-5/23)

I was out of town, so I missed the first weekend. Particularly bummed about missing Soul Kitchen and The Concert. The latter ended up on the Best of SIFF awards, too!

SIFF First Week (5/24-5/27)

The Reverse was a last minute addition to my schedule… a later (9:15pm) film the day after I got back from a state on Central Standard Time. A bit risky. And Polish dark comedy – I wasn’t sure the humor would translate. Turns out, this was possibly one of the biggest sleeper hits of the festival. It didn’t take itself too similarly, and the humor was compared to the Coen Brothers. And it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best New Director!

I normally don’t go for disturbing, gory war movies, but when I saw the description of City of Life and Death, I felt like I should probably put aside my dislike of violence to learn more about an important event that many American history books overlook, the Nanking Massacre. It was shot in black and white, making it look like documentary-style, and the production and acting was top notch. Most of the people in the group I went with didn’t realize how horrible that period was, and the film was a good jump start to conversation and research afterwards. And as hard as the cruelty in the film was to watch, they didn’t go as far as they could in the portrayal of the atrocities committed. For instance, they didn’t show any mutilation. And they didn’t just portray the Japanese as monsters.

SIFF Second Weekend (5/28-5/30)

I found out about volunteering and how easy it was to sign up. There was a Sunday shift at Uptown right before a film I had tickets to, and I signed up, not knowing really what to expect. It ended up being a lot of fun. We were betting on whether people coming in for the SIFF film or Sex and the City. :) I also got to see Khargosh, the film that was showing during my shift. I missed the beginning and the ending, but it was one of those slow, plotless films that’s visually appealing, so it didn’t matter.

The second film during the shift was The Hedgehog, a sold-out screening that has continually eluded me and ended up winning the Golden Space Needle audience favorite. (They added an additional screening, but I already had a film at the time. Then they added it to the Best of SIFF weekend, but I’m out of town. Sigh.) Interesting incident: the guy who got mad that we didn’t take his word that he’d bought a ticket, even though he didn’t bring it.

Then finally, I saw the film I had tickets for, Cairo Time. Interesting incident: a woman from Italy before me in line was complaining about the system being “so terrible” because she had to wait outside. Apparently in Europe, they give you assigned seats when you buy movie tickets. I’d compare the film to a prettier, less boring, and more mature version of Lost in Translation. Same “person in a foreign land” feeling, same unrealized attraction. It was a bit slow at times, but the subtly was nice and the shots of Cairo were beautiful. Some shots were oddly reminiscent of Sex and the City 2, which Ann and I had coincidentally seen the night before, at different theaters. I really enjoyed the Q&A with the director, who had funny stories about filming in Cairo and evading the government tag-along. Patricia Clarkson was a runner up for the SIFF Best Actress award.

And that ends week 1! Film count: 4. Volunteer voucher count: 2.