Seattle International Film Festival: Around the World in 25 Days

Since 1976, the Seattle International Film Festival has imposed its own particular burdens on the ambitious Seattle filmgoer. Having crept upward from two weeks at the Moore to almost four weeks at a dozen-plus regional venues, with 257 features and docs on its schedule (plus scores of shorts), SIFF demands your attention. It's a bully that grabs you by the lapels and shoves you into the alley beside the Egyptian, where you find yourself in line with a throng of badge- and lanyard-wearing obsessives busily annotating their schedules with colored markers. Before you know it, it's June already. Where did the time go? Where did your life go? SIFF is like being sent to an anti-summer camp or being drafted into the army: a bunch of strangers thrust together in sudden community. Friendships are made, practical advice shared (finding the bathrooms at Pacific Place, where to lock your bike at the Harvard Exit, etc.), and tips whispered about what movies to avoid and which sold-out titles to add to your Netflix queue. The festival is immersive, even epic; the whole SIFF-going experience begins to morph into a grand narrative of its own. Each movie becomes a scene and you the protagonist of some great quest—perhaps to catch every Secret Festival screening, every French title, every gala, every bloody and/or sexy midnighter. Each grail is as different as those sitting around you. And yet SIFFgoers are all the same: They willingly submit to the festival's dictates, spurn the sun and flowers outside, and forgo Memorial Day vacation plans. SIFF is the only staycation that allows you to visit 74 countries without a passport or tetanus shots. In the pages ahead, we meet two local filmmakers—one the director of a claustrophobic, haunted-house drama, the other a documentarian studying her marvelously diverse family background, which makes Obama's look white-bread. Then we parse the first week's schedule for the must-sees and misfires. More picks and pans will follow in print for the next three weeks. And as always, visit our website for additional reviews, interviews, and news through the end of the fest. See you in line.

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