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Wrapping Up the Seattle International Film Festival


From Thursday, April 25 (with an official start date of May 16) to Sunday, June 9, the Seattle International Film Festival has screened 447 films, 31 of which I had a chance to watch. From opening with Joss Whedon's Shakespearean piece Much Ado About Nothing, which I called "a one-and-done modernized adaptation proud to bear its fuzzy flaws," to Sofia Coppola's teens-on-a-tear, The Bling Ring, this festival had diversity and volume on its side more than anything.

Bending between the genres of drama and horror, sci-fi and coming-of-age, thrillers to a wealth of documentaries, hearing stories pulled from France, England, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, America, Paraguay and Denmark from new filmmakers and seasoned veterans alike, we walked the world within these films.

From the emotional powerhouse that is What Maisie Knew to the lame-duck that was Last I Heard, these were films that embodied the meaning of cinema: the good, the bad and the ugly. The purely effervescent delights of Populaire and Frances Ha rocketed above the stale-blooded, bottom-of-the-barrel horror found in V/H/S 2 and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. In the experimental and proudly indie department, Drinking Buddies stood head and shoulders above David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche and even A Hijacking was more muted than it ought to have been.

Coming of age in The Spectacular Now was sweeter than The Kings of Summer and The Way, Way Back but none quite challenged our presumptions as much as the under-dogging Blackbird. Things got truly nuts behind the closed doors of Evangelical churches in Eden and intrigue brewed in the streets of Cambodia in Wish You Were Here as Cockneys Vs Zombies tried to capitalize on the zombie craze to varying success. Andrew Mudge backpedaled into a simpler time with The Forgotten Kingdom and 7 Boxes ganged us up with a young delivery boy hauling unknown contents around a bustling city overrun with corruption. While Ain't Them Bodies Saints was too busy looking important to actually be important, The East managed to sneak a viable message into a mainstream film.

In Twenty Feet From Stardom, we learned the stories of the talent who's names we don't know while we were exposed to the shifty nature of Julian Assange and lead to question his politics in We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. The Crash Reel presented the devastating and inspiring story of snowboarding Olympic hopeful Kevin Pearce and Blackfish took a similarly sensitive approach even though its subject was a killer whale named Tilikum.  

Evergreen: The Road to Legalization in Washington took us on a well researched and journey through the debate on legalization while Tom Berninger abrasively pulled back the curtain on brotherhood and The National in Mistaken for Strangers. Dead Meat Walking took a shortcut to making a documentary on zombie walks and came up short while Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton and Her Aim is True both looked at the influence of great underground artists and their impact on their beloved craft. Each was told with loving dedication.

I got a chance to sit down with James Ponsoldt and talk about the through-line of alcoholism in his films and the Pans Labyrinth-esque sci-fi flick he's working on and he and Tom Berninger both talked about the strange and trailblazing state of our generation. Tom and I also debated heavy metal vs. indie music and he spilled his aspirations to make a Johnny Appleseed film in the traditional of Tarantino historical revisionism. Eric Slade, Stephen Silha and I talked queer politics and "following your weird" while Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price gave me the low down on making a film on the cheap and the friendship with Joel Edgerton that made Wish You Were Here possible on such a large scale. Karen Whitehead shared her love for rock'n'roll music and the art of the photograph as Matthias Hoene established his own affection for the good old fashion horror genre and just why people are so fascinated with the supernatural. Clark Gregg gave an update on the Marvel movie universe and Andrew Mudge talked about his affinity for modern day Africa and the endless wealth of stories of journey and perseverance that sit untapped there.

When all was said and done at SIFF, Harmony Lessons, Our Nixon and the David Sedaris-based C.O.G. receive competition awards while Fanie Fourie's Lobola and Twenty Feet from Stardom took home the Golden Space Needle Audience Awards. James Cromwell of Still Mine and Samantha Morton from Decoding Annie Parker split up a pair of Golden Space Needle Acting Awards and The Spectacular Now won the Futurewave competition for "embodying the teenage struggle in a realistic manner."

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