The older SIFF gets—it turns 30 this year—the bigger it gets. What started as a two-week, 26-title, auteur-oriented fest has blimped into a 25-day marathon of 200-plus features, three dozen documentaries, and sundry shorts; plus the traditional clutch of visiting demi-celebs (give it up for John C. Reilly!); and a bunch of weird programming categories like "Asian Tradewinds" that sound like fusion-cuisine entrées in Belltown. SIFF is big—the biggest fest in the U.S., with some 170,000 attendees last year—by virtue of its consistency and the constancy of its fans. People will go, it seems, no matter what is shown, no matter what critics praise or pan, no matter what minor tweaks the festival makes each year. (Fly Films are back! Drive-in shows return to Auburn!) Do we go out of pleasure or a sense of duty? Sometimes it's a little of both. This year, SW is stepping back from the SIFF–ness to present an entirely independent preview of the fest. Not an encyclopedia, not an index, not an A–Z regurgitation of SIFF–authored blurbs. You can read those elsewhere. Instead, we spend some time with the filmmakers and their subjects. We let our roving writers ruminate on whatever films interest them. And we offer a few selected picks—ones that, yes, really are worth waiting for in that piss-stinking alley outside the Egyptian. We'll see you there. Again. The Seattle International Film Festival runs Thurs., May 20–Sun., June 13, at venues including Broadway Performance Hall, Cinerama, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, and Pacific Place. Tickets and info: 206-324-9996 and www.seattlefilm.com, or in person at Broadway Performance Hall and Pacific Place.