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Seattle International Film Festival: A Beginner’s Guide to SIFF

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SIFF 2010The 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival is 9 days old, and luckily there are 16 more days of fun-filled cinema action to be found throughout multiple theatre venues in Seattle.  There are an overwhelming amount of films (256 Features and 150 Shorts) and it is very difficult to decide which one’s are worth seeing.  In my own confusion and worries about picking the right film I have developed some catergories of Films to look for in the coming weeks.

Big Film Premieres: This includes films that will have bigger name talent attatched to it and may be released her at the SIFF before its regularly scheduled release date

1. Splice: This is a genuinely weird looking sci-fi film starring Adrien Brody as a scientist who delves in the gray area of human cloning…sort of.  Expect some Cronenberg-esque grotesque visuals and a shockingly relevant storyline about Man’s responsibility in science.  And Brody is dependable for quirky charisma, which this role seems to present him with.

2. Get Low: Unfortunately this film has no relation to the Lil’ John song, but it offers promise as a drama starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray.  Duvall continues to cash in on his self-reflective backcountry man character that he does so well, and Murray plays an interesting foil to him in this as a Funeral Parlor owner throwing a living funeral for Duvall.

3. Centurion: This is one of two films coming out this year about the lost Roman 9th legion, with the Channing Tatum vehicle “The Eagle of the Ninth” being released in the fall.  This film stars the next big British import in Michael Fassbender and is directed by Neil Marshall (“The Descent”).  Whether or not this one’s “Gladiator” or “Scorpion King” is still up for debate…

Documentaries: There are 54 Documentary features that range in scope and in budget.  These are a few that seem interesting in a global sense and have some thought-provoking content.

1. Blood Relation (Israel): This film is a case-study of Israli-Palestinian conflicts since the development of Israel as a sovereign state.  It could be a very intriguing look at one of the most hostile and controversial relationships of modern times.  Similar to “The Lemon Tree” as a concept it offers valuable insight to how reconciliation between these two can be had.

2. Mugabe and the White African (Namibia): This Doc is a tale of White Farmers in Zimbabwe that are dealing with the Redistribution Act of 2000, a hotly contested issue that further separates White’s and Black’s in Zimbabwe.  See this as it makes parallels to South Africa and draws inherent comparison between Mugabe and Nelson Mandela, two men who took their Sub-Saharan African countries in very different directions…

3.Waiting for ‘Superman’ (United States): This controversial film is meant to show the flaws in our current system of Education in America.  It follows several students through the public school system and shows where American reforms have not met original idealistic plans.  Expect a less heavy handed approach than Michael Moore, but a similar critical scope.

American Films of Interest: Films that are made in the United States yet are still under the radar and may have been made outside of the studio system.

1. Holy Rollers: This film seems to be an incredibly interesting true tale of Hasidic Jews turned Ecstasy drug mules.  Billed as a Coming-of-Age Drama, Holy Rollers stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young Jew in Brooklyn struggling for an identity and community.  At times it seems parodical but at its heart it is a film that wants to tell the story of growing up.

2.Winter’s Bone: This mystery film set in the Ozark Mountains seems to be filled with great suspense and thrills.  It follows a young girl searching for her missing uncle and finding out more about her families past than she may have wanted to know.  Any film with a female protagonist cast in the hero role is worth delving in to, and this one looks very, very good.

3. Some Day’s are Better than Others: This is of local interest because it was filmed and set in Portland, Oregon.  Starring Shins frontman James Mercer, this is a story of 4 characters whose lives are woven together in an interesting story of relationships and life.  Expect some visual eye-candy and great Northwest atmosphere.

International Films of Interest: Seeing that this is an international film festival, these are a couple of interesting looking films from around the globe.

1. The Dancer and the Thief (Spain): This seems incredibly promising as a heist/romance/political piece.  Set in Chile after the reign of a dictator, this is about a man trying to go clean and find love, but he can never seem to escape his criminal past.  This is the film I am most looking forward to in the festival and is assured to have great acting and an intriguing story.

2. Son of Babylon (Iraq): A sensitive story a a boy looking for his father in Iraq set in the time directly after the fall of Saddam.  A story of family and the forces that drive it apart, this will probably be a very difficult film to watch but also a great exploration of the situation in the middle East.

3. The Army of Crime (France): This tells the heroic tale of French resistance fighters during German occupation in World War II.  Stories of French resistance fighting are not often seen and this seems to have a higher purpose than simply telling a war story.  It seems to be interested in the nature of violence and the myth of redemptive violence, expect a film that is more “Battle of Algiers” than “Braveheart”

Army of Crime
Army of Crime a film by Robert Guediguian

What do you think?  Am I missing any really important films?  What films are on your must-see list for the SIFF?

The SIFF is an awesome way to get involved with the Seattle Film scene, with great events and fun special screenings.  Films are being screened at a variety of different venues across the city and are playing throughout the week but in greater volumes during the weekends.  To buy tickets go online to SIFF‘s website, they offer single tickets but if you want to save money there are also some really cool packages.