I Am Not a Witch. Photo courtesy SIFF

I Am Not a Witch. Photo courtesy SIFF

SIFF 2018 Picks Week 1

From a PBS star to a hip-hop firebrand, our choices for the must-see films screening at the fest from May 21–28.

I Am Not a Witch

A little girl is accused of witchcraft after a minor accident, a situation that takes on shades of magical realism along with social commentary. This Zambian drama garnered strong reviews on the festival circuit, with first-time feature director Rungano Nyoni acclaimed as an important new voice in African cinema. – RH

May 21 at 9 p.m., Egyptian | May 22 at 4 p.m., Uptown

Edward II

Derek Jarman’s moody, theatrically stylized version of Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play about the English king (1284–1327) and his companion Piers Gaveston is explicit about their affair—not only in ways Marlowe, obviously, could never be, but in ways scarcely anyone else dared to be even in 1991. Jarman’s anger over the AIDS crisis and Thatcher’s Britain makes for an intense and unmistakable subtext. – GB

May 22 at 8:30 p.m., Uptown | May 25 at 12:30 p.m., Uptown

Three Identical Strangers

You’re probably in for a winning documentary when adult triplets, previously on aware of each others’ existence, meeting by chance as adults and becoming media darlings is only the setup to the film. Three Identical Strangers goes beyond the fun public interest story and dives into the gripping dark depths that surround their past, including psychological trauma, mental illness, and conspiratorial plots. – SS

May 22 at 7 p.m., Egyptian | May 23 at 4:30 p.m., Uptown

Lemonade

Romania has been one of the hotspots of international filmmaking in the 21st century, so it should be interesting to see this title, which takes a common subject for Romanian cinema—the crushing weight of history and bureaucracy—and brings it to the U.S. It’s about a Romanian health-care worker trying to get her green card after she marries an American, a process that gradually becomes nightmarish. – RH

May 22 at 9:15 p.m., Lincoln Square | June 1 at 8:30 p.m., Uptown | June 2 at 4:15 p.m., Pacific Place

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.

Few musicians can match the exhilarating energy that M.I.A. brings to everything she does. This documentary pulls from over 700 hours of footage to capture her rise from Sri Lankan Tamil refugee to London electronic hip-hop standout to provocateur superstar in a non-chronological fashion befitting her norm-breaking life. Whether capturing the electricity of her live performance or dealing with the thorniness of her terrorist imagery, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. has the potential to be a musical thrill ride. – SS

May 23 at 6:30 p.m., Uptown | May 24 at 6:30 p.m., Ark Lodge Cinemas

The Third Murder

A courtroom saga that begins with murder but spirals into larger philosophical ideas—sounds like a departure for Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda (Our Little Sister), whose output in recent years has been consistently top-drawer. The killer is played by Koji Yakusho, a fricking awesome actor. – RH

May 25 at 6:30 p.m., Egyptian | May 29 at 4 p.m., Uptown

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Here’s an experiment. Play the trailer for this documentary about Fred Rogers, the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and see how many seconds it takes before you burst into tears. Prediction: probably fewer than it took to read that sentence. In this film about the beloved TV pioneer, directed by 20 Feet from Stardom Oscar-winner Morgan Neville (slated to attend SIFF), old clips and new interviews (Rogers died in 2003) chronicle how such a decent man could have become a TV success. Expect sales of cardigan sweaters to skyrocket. – RH

May 26 at 6 p.m., Uptown | May 27 at 1:30 p.m., Uptown

Sadie

Seattle director Megan Griffiths (SIFF prizewinner for Eden in 2012) returns with a study of an adolescent girl who plots an unorthodox solution to the long absences of her military father and the wavering fidelity of her mother (played by the great Melanie Lynskey, who’ll be in town as the recipient of a festival tribute this year). – RH

May 27 at 2:30 p.m., Egyptian | June 6 at 6:45 p.m., Egyptian

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

This modern Western by way of Indonesia—with a female focus—begins with the threat of sexual assault, but our calmly resourceful heroine begins her counter-attack immediately. This frontier-justice yarn is deliberately paced but beautifully shot, and from the opening moments you can tell that director Mouly Surya just flat-out knows how to make a movie. – RH

May 28 at 11 a.m., Pacific Place | June 1 at 9:15 p.m., Pacific Place

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