Over the years, and there have been many, I have heard the

Over the years, and there have been many, I have heard the mandarins of SIFF say “We’re slimming 
down the schedule” or “We’re trying to make the fest more manageable.” And during the past recession, there was a little bit of belt-tightening. But somehow the Seattle International Film Festival always swells back, with more titles (now some 260 features and docs), more panels, more oddly named categories (“To the Extreme!”), more visiting filmmakers and talent, more venues (this year reviving the Neptune and Harvard Exit), and more hoopla. (How many galas can there be before the word loses its meaning?)

For the newbie or casual filmgoer, SIFF can be intimidating. Uniquely among Seattle’s major arts fests, SIFF, which runs May 14–June 7, has its own quasi-national character. The regulars know the protocols and customs; they speak a lingo of their own. The savvy veteran pass-holders appear to have memorized the entire schedule in advance and cherry-picked all the best screenings, which tend to sell out early. 
(As ever, siff.net is your best guide to tickets and schedule.) The ranks of friendly volunteers are drawn from SIFF’s most loyal year-round patrons; there’s a self-perpetuating culture, a clannishness that stops just short of cult-hood.

Though the country’s largest film festival, averaging around 150,000 attendees, SIFF is equal parts democracy and walled city-state. You almost need a passport—well, one of those lanyard-dangling passes—to enter this peculiar foreign land. But SIFF citizenship is still worth having, if only for one month of the year. And there visitors will encounter the following.

Sweet Sixteen

Sightblind picks for the entire festival from our top critic. By Robert Horton

An Overview

Impressions of the first week’s offerings from someone who saw them. By Brian Miller

Truth Trumps Experience

A sit-down with local debut director David Chen, the media maestro behind Stephen Tobolowsky. By Sean Axmaker

Mr. Ed Must Die

Seattle documentary filmmakers Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands talk about their hog hunt in Texas. By Brian Miller

Who’s That Knocking on My Cabin Door?

Young Burien horror film director John Portanova talks about his Sasquatch siege movie. By Mark Rahner

Hazy Days of Summer

Ballard auteur Erik Hammen describes an idyllic summer-movie-of-the-mind. By Brian Miller