It’s that time of year again, time for three plus weeks of film and film related events for all of you fanatics out there to wallow in. The 38th Annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) kicks off this week—Thursday, May 17th to be exact—and it is your chance to explore the newest and best that world cinema has to offer. SIFF runs through June 10th.

SIFF touts itself as the largest, most attended festival in the US. While quantity doesn’t always equate to quality, the 2012 line up is solid from top to bottom, if not fully spectacular. Any way you look at it, the expansive collection of films is impressive. There are 460 total entries, representing 75 countries, a SIFF record. Every year the short film program—there are 187 shorts this year—is one of the hidden gems of the fest.

This is your first chance in Seattle to see films that have been making the festival round this year, like Safety Not Guaranteed, Fat Kid Rules the World, Liberal Arts, and God Bless America. And this is also your chance to see many films for the first time, before anyone else. Scheduled this year there are 24 U.S. openings, 36 films making their North American debuts, and 61—that’s right, 61—world premieres.

SIFF offers an astounding array of programs in addition to the films, as if that wasn’t enough. There are workshops, forums, parties, and celebrations, like the Opening Night Gala, which kicks off the festival with a screening of Seattle born filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s latest film Your Sister’s Sister. Every year SIFF honors artists who have made great contributions to film and movies, and the 2012 honorees are actress Sissy Spacek (Carrie, Coal Miner’s Daughter) and director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection). There will be evenings and interviews with both, and screenings of their various films, including Friedkin’s latest, Killer Joe.

In 2012 SIFF will also be breaking in their new digs at the Uptown on Queen Anne. They took over the space last fall as a venue for year round film programming, but this is the first festival at the venue. The new location allows them to screen multiple films at the same place. Instead of a mad dash all over town, you can settle in for a bunch of screenings all one spot. Don’t worry, usual sites like the Egyptian, Harvard Exit, and Pacific Place, among others, are still very much in play.

There really are too many films to delve in to here. Any list of suggestions will be woefully incomplete and inadequate. Fortunately for you, SIFF has created a number of designated Pathways—think groups of similarly themed films—to help guide you through the festival. Use them to narrow down your viewing options and tailor-make your own list of films you want to see. The Pathways can help you discover other films that may interest you, ones that could otherwise fall through the cracks. You can also use the SIFFter feature on the SIFF website. Select genre, country of origin, even screening location and time, and SIFFter will spit out suggestions for movies that might interest you.

Here is a breakdown of all the 2012 Pathways:

Creative Streak

The exploration of artistic endeavors from all disciplines: literature, film, art, dance, and performances.

Face the Music

Films that intersect the world of music on all fronts: from biopics and concert films, to musicals and live events.

Give Me Drama!

Mesmerizing dramas and documentations that explore thought-provoking questions, realities, and topics.

I Didn’t Know That!

Revealing films and documentaries revolving around history, politics, and contemporary events from around the world.

Love Me, Do!

Romance and love in all its forms, pleasures, and idiosyncrasies.

Make Me Laugh

Films that make you chuckle and tickle your funny bone.

Sci-Fi and Beyond

Science, technology, environment, the future—and beyond!

Show Me the World

Prepare to be taken to another place—from exotic, far-off lands to vibrant experiences outside of everyday life.

Thrill Me

Suspense, thrills, and action. Films with a faster pace that might also surprise you when you least expect it!

To the Extreme

Explore the outer limits with films that go beyond the edges.

Throughout SIFF I’ll be popping in with capsule reviews and suggestions for films that you might want to check out, or films that you should avoid all together. Check out the official SIFF website for a full list of films, screenings, venues, trailers, and everything else you want to know.

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