SIFF Generis: An introduction and taxonomy to this year’s fest.

It's hard enough to grasp the 400-plus movies offered at the nation's largest film festival. Directors you've never heard of, actors with missing teeth, names you can't pronounce, mysterious new countries coughed up by the old Soviet Bloc (unless that's a typo in the program guide and not an actual place on the map). How can we possibly make sense of it? How can we digest SIFF's massive, bloat-tastic schedule? To help you navigate, SIFF has traditionally divided up its offerings into a dozen-odd subsidiary categories. These may once have made sense to the overworked, sleep-deprived festival curators. But seriously—FutureWave, Planet Cinema, Alternate Cinema, Midnight Adrenaline...are these really intended to reduce confusion? Can anyone tell me what those monikers mean? (I swear, they had something called Asian Tradewinds a few years ago.) Some of them seem designed to avoid bad buzzwords. New American Cinema, for example, is a more impressive way of saying "indie." Contemporary World Cinema is what the rest of us might call "foreign." Films4Families? Even 4-year-olds would roll their eyes at that one. Emerging Masters? You're a master and you're still emerging? Isn't that like being half-pregnant? What this typically means is that the director is willing to travel halfway around the world to show up for an appearance in Seattle. We'd like to offer a more useful taxonomy. Here's how we'd categorize some of this year's lineup: More Bad News From China Next year we'll get the films about the earthquake. This year it's all peasant dislocation and the relentless industrialization that's killing the soul of that country. Programming includes: Blind Mountain, The Red Awn, Still Life, and Up the Yangtze. My Miserable European Youth Growing up in the '80s, watching John Hughes movies on dubbed VHS tapes, today's young European directors are going us one further in the teen-angst department. Programming includes: Ben X, All Will Be Well, The King of Ping Pong, Magnus, and Ain't Scared. More Bad News From Russia These films offer the depressing sense that mobsters rule post-Soviet Russia. Also, all the country's women seem to be supermodels. Apparently Putin ordered it. Programming includes: Alexandra, Mermaid, and Vice. Illegal Immigrant à Go-Go It seems like the entire world is crawling with undocumented workers, most with compelling stories to tell. Turkish-German director Fatih Akin (represented this year at SIFF by The Edge of Heaven and Head-On) may be the leading exemplar of the trend. Programming also includes: Strangers, Go With Peace, Jamil, The Home Song Stories, and Towelhead. International Quest for Youthful Self-Discovery Whether it's cycling around Taiwan, surfing in Peru, or drumming as a youthful refuge from the Hong Kong mafia, the old American road-trip formula has been fruitfully exported. Also, topless beaches help enliven the old genre. Programming includes: Island Etude, Máncora, and The Drummer. Extreme Places, Extreme People SIFF favorite Werner Herzog is the foremost practitioner of this documentary method. His Encounters at the End of the World takes place in Antarctica, while Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains recounts the notorious '70s cannibal plane crash in the Andes. (This is why documentaries shot around here never work—not enough cannibalism, or penguins, in the PCC parking lot.) Finger-Wagging Eco-Screeds Awarding the Nobel Prize to Al Gore has only encouraged a flood of boring bastard offspring of An Inconvenient Truth. Programming includes: Good Food, Fields of Fuel, and The Greening of Southie. We also have a few programming ideas of our own. For SIFF '09, we respectfully suggest: Northwest Auteur Smackdown No more mossy navel-gazing, please. Local filmmakers will now be required to incorporate actual plot and other technical elements to secure a SIFF screening. These include car chases, gunfights, sex scenes, stolen money, and serial killers. (Extra points for zombies.) In addition, no scenes may be set in Cap Hill coffeehouses; no characters may be aspiring artists/writers/filmmakers; and Tom Skerritt may not cameo. J-Horror Marathon Every day's midnight showing at the Egyptian should feature creepy child ghosts, static-filled TV screens, weird buzzing noises, dripping and/or oozing walls, murderous kids in their prim school uniforms, robots, transgressive sex, transgressive robot sex, spouting arterial geysers of blood, and empty rooms pregnant with an airless sense of dread. All in Japanese with subtitles. The New Romanian Alcoholic Cinema Everyone's a drunk. Prostitution is rampant. Children chain-smoke. Abortion is illegal. Everyone has had their soul corroded by years of dictatorship. Feral dogs roam the streets. In other words, pure comedy gold. Unauthorized Sandler-thon and Tribute SW managing editor Mike Seely would like to see—nay, demands—this addition, an 11-hour marathon screening of the entire Adam Sandler oeuvre, from Billy Madison to You Don't Mess With the Zohan, in the basement bar at Bernard's on Seneca Street. Seely will happily emcee for gratis. bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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