Chihuly Discovers New Thespian Career at SIFF

It's officially underway. The 35th annual Seattle International Film Festival began tonight at the Paramount, where the gala opener, In the Loop, is now playing. SIFF runs through Sunday, June 14. I'll go back to report on the after-party at the Paramount (and in the street!) in a few hours.

But first a few random observations from the opening ceremonies, which included the big-screen acting debut of famed local glassblower Dale Chihuly, who appears in a comic short lauding the history of SIFF. You'll never guess what character he plays....

Now that the light rail construction is finally finished at Convention Place, the streets outside the Paramount are relatively easy to navigate. All of Ninth Avenue is closed off for the festivities, which are to include tents, music, food, and booze after the movie. The area was clogged with late arrivals when I walked up, late myself, but the will-call lines were cheerful and well managed. When I heard, a few weeks back, that the after-party would take place partly outdoors in the street, at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, I thought, "Well of course then it'll rain." Wrong. The weather was lovely, if breezy, outside. SIFF managing director Deborah Person called it "a little SIFF miracle" in her opening remarks. Outside, women came in heels and summer-y dresses, some wrapped in Patagonia sweaters to ward off the chill. It is still May, after all.

Inside, there was the ritual thanking of sponsors. The iPhone (with its iSIFF app) got much bigger cheer in tech-obsessed Seattle than the DonQ line of rums. Maybe the Miami Film Festival would've been a better fit?

Humpday director Lynn Shelton continues her hot streak. Looking lovely in a long black dress she likely wore at Cannes, she graciously received the Mayor's Film Award for Film from Mayor Nickels. After Sundance '08, Cannes, SIFF, and now this award, what do we call it--a four-fecta? (As The Seattle Times reports, her next film is to star Sherman Alexie and Sean Nelson, who was rocking an ill-advised pink seersucker suit in the ticket line. Hey, it's not Memorial Day yet, buddy.)

There was also a confusing math lesson for The 35 Club--SIFF's effort to fund its permanent headquarters at Seattle Center. First Craig Friedson, President of the SIFF Board of Directors, told us that half the $3 million budget had been raised, and that if everyone there at the Paramount (which seats 1,400 people?) pledged $35 bucks, that would generate another $1.5 million. Then Deborah Person, in her remarks, said only $100,000 would result from such pledges from everyone in the house. (Pledge forms and pens were passed around.) I'm sure I'm not the only one confused by the figures, but I refrained from bringing out my glowing iPhone to do the calculations. (Pledges of $1,100 each from 1,400 Paramount patrons would do it; or 43,000 could pledge $35 each during the fest, which is expected to draw 150,000 in attendance. So that's one-third of you.)

Where would Seattle be without SIFF? That was the subject of a cameo-filled comic short by local director Rick Stevenson, a spoof of It's a Wonderful Life. An exhausted, suicidal SIFF programmer nearly jumps off the Aurora Bridge until an angel gives him a vision of a SIFF-less Seattle. I'm sure the short will be shown again during the fest, so I don't want to give too many spoilers.

But in this alternative, culture-deprived Seattle, we desperate citizens are so starved for entertainment that we line up to snap photos of the last remaining Seafair pirate. Who, with eyepatch and tongue firmly in place, is the man I have long considered to be a pirate. And it was nice to laugh with him, for a change, and appreciate his very authentic-sounding "Arrrrrr!"

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