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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

SIFF 2012: Opening Weekend Preview

It’s that time of year again when one of the best things about Seattle, the Seattle International Film Festival, is about to get underway. Press screenings have already been churning along here for the past couple weeks (unfortunately my daytime schedule has made it impossible for me to make a single press screening so far) and the fest kicks off tonight with a festive Opening Night Gala at McCaw Hall featuring Lynn Shelton’s film, Your Sister’s Sister, followed by what’s sure to be a loud, crowded party chock full of Seattle film folks networking and noshing on that holy triad of film festival parties: hors d’oeuvres, desserts and free booze.

Because Seattle’s fest is so sprawling — we’re talking 25 days of movies here, folks — I’ve decided to try something a little different this year and do weekend previews of what’s coming up at the fest and my picks each week. I’m hoping that this will allow me to focus a little more on talking up films I’m excited about seeing and what you might want to check out at the fest as it rolls along. Since Seattle’s fest is also kind of spread out geographically, one of the things I like to do myself (and highly recommend to others) is to pick a film I’m interested in seeing, and then also catch whatever’s showing before and after it at the same venue. This is a great way to discover something new at SIFF, and it saves you having to try to park your car multiple times or navigate the bus system to the various venues.

Or you can always try using the SIFFter to find something new and unexpected.

Here’s what’s in store this weekend, once we get past tonight’s Gala start:

Friday, May 18

Friday, the first full day of the fest, gets things off to a solid start. The day kicks off with an 11AM screening at Pacific Place of Russian film Elena, which won the Un Certain Regard jury prize at Cannes in 2011. You could hang at Pacific Place all day and catch back-to-back screenings leading up to the excellent doc Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry at 6:30PM, with director Alison Klayman in attendance.

Over at The Egyptian in Capitol Hill, they’re showing The Intouchables, France’s second-highest grosser of all time, also at 6:30PM, while SIFF Cinema Uptown has the Duplass Brothers’ The Do-Deca-Pentathalon (pictured above) at 7PM; director Jay Duplass and actor Steve Zissis should be on hand for that one. If you live in Renton (or just enjoy schlepping out there) the Renton opening night film at the IKEA Performing Arts Center is Fat Kid Rules the World, with director Matthew Lillard in attendance (it also screens on Saturday in Seattle). Friday night has more compelling offerings, including Valley of Saints, Polisse, and LUV.

If I had to choose one, I’d probably pick LUV, if only because director Sheldon Candis should be there and he is just the nicest, most genuine guy you could ever hope to meet. I think I met his entire extended family on various shuttles at Sundance this year, and they were all every bit as nice as he is. He’s also got a good movie in LUV, so check it out. I’ve also heard good things about Polisse, which I intend to catch during the fest, and I loved Valley of Saints when I caught it at Sundance, so you really can’t go wrong no matter which way you go. Friday’s midnight offering back at the Egyptian is Irish horror-thriller Citadel. If the words “Irish” and “horror-thriller” in the same sentence don’t motivate you to check that out, I don’t know what will.

Saturday, May 19

Saturday is going to be a busy day of back-to-back screenings for me as I rush around trying to make up for feeling behind on the second official day of the fest. I’m going to have to flip a coin to decide between Dreams of a Life, a doc about Joyce Carol Vincent, who died alone in her London housing project flat and wasn’t discovered for three years, and Four Suns, a Czech black comedy by Bohdan Slama that I missed catching at Sundance. After that, depending on which film wins the coin toss, I’ll either be catching Chilean entry Bonsai, which looks interesting, or perhaps revisiting Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, which I loved when I saw it at Toronto.

Later Saturday evening, I have a triple-header at The Egyptian lined up: Fat Kid Rules the World, Megan Griffith’s Eden, and midnight entry God Bless America (pictured above), another film I loved at Toronto and want to catch again. Other Saturday options you might consider: Playing at roughly the same time as Eden we have two other films I can highly recommend. At the SIFF Cinema Uptown we have the controversial Sundance flick Compliance, which you will either really love or really hate. It screens at 9:30PM and is preceded by Superclasico. And over at the Harvard Exit we have Oslo, August 31, director by Reprise writer-director Joachim Trier, which I caught at Toronto. Not your most uplifting film, but it’s very good. That one’s preceded by Kill Me, a German film about a suicidal teenage girl who makes a pact with an escaped and injured murderer. I know nothing about that one, but it sounds intriguing. Whatever you do, though, make it back over to The Egyptian for God Bless America or you’ll be kicking yourself later when everyone’s talking about it.

Sunday, May 20

In all the years I’ve been covering SIFF I’ve never gone to the Secret Festival, where you have to sign waivers swearing you’ll sign your offspring over to indentured servitude at the festival if you tell what films you saw. This year is no exception, but if you have a Secret Festival Pass, you’ll no doubt have a great — Shhhhhh!

For the rest of you, Sunday kicks off at 11AM at Pacific Place with a family-friendly screening of Danish animated flick The Great Bear, so why not skip church and bring the kiddos out to the fest? Sunday at 1PM there’s also a FREE animation workshop for kids ages 8-14 at the SIFF Film Center, which is actually not as hard to find as you think it is (it’s in Seattle Center, right next door to Vera Project and across from the Intiman Theater). The 5000 Days Project Family Workshop happens at the same time, also at SIFF Center.

Also on Sunday, you could catch Polisse at 2:30 at The Harvard Exit (preceded by My Brother the Devil, followed by Camilla Dickinson), or you could catch The Intouchables at the Egyptian, which is preceded by Rose, which won both the jury and audience awards at the Warsaw Film Festival and followed by Under African Skies, which I highly recommend. Later Sunday you might catch My Sucky Teen Romance, written and directed by Emily Hagins, who made her first feature, zombie flick Pathogen, when she was just 12 (Ms. Hagins was also the subject of documentary Zombie Girl).

Looking forward to the week ahead, my picks include Queen of Versailles (Monday, May 21); Tatsumi and Starry Starry Night (Tuesday, May 22); Safety Not Guaranteed (Wednesday, May 23); and Opening Night of Shortsfest weekend on Thursday, May 24.

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“To be a critic is to be a workaholic. Workaholism is socially conditioned: viewed favourably by exploiters, it’s generally ruinous to a worker’s mental health. When T.S. Eliot said criticism was as inevitable as breathing, he failed to mention that, respiratory problems notwithstanding, breathing is easy. Criticism is reflexive before reflective: to formalise/industrialise an involuntary instinct requires time, effort and discipline. The reason we seek remuneration, as opposed to the self-hatred of being a scab, is because all labour should be waged…

“Criticism, so the cliché by now goes, is dying. None of the panel discussions on its death agony, however—including those in which I’ve formally participated—come at it from the wider perspective that the problem surely needs. They defend the ways in which criticism functions in relation to the industry and to the public, but they fail to contextualise these relationships as defined by ultimately rotten and self-harming imperatives.

“Criticism was a noble profession so long as only a few could practice it for money; when the field expands, as it has with a so-called ‘democratisation’ of our practice, those few lose their political power. Competition grows and markets are undercut: publications are naturally going to start paying less. Precarity is both cause and effect of a surplus workforce: the reason you’re only as good as your last article is because there are plenty of other folks who can write the next one in your place. The daily grind is: pitch, or perish.

B”ut criticism, so a counter-cliché goes, is not dying. An irony: this is an elite sport that is no longer elite in terms of who is able to practice it, but in economic terms it’s clutching to a perverse and outmoded hierarchical structure. It’s more meritocratic than ever, now: which is to say it isn’t meritocratic at all. That’s a paradox in bad need of a resolution…”

~ Michael Pattison Manifestoes Film Criticism

“It’s easy to forget when you’re reading a critic every single week or multiple times a week, that most of us who do this job, and have been doing it for a long time, understand that this is basically a parasitic profession. I don’t mean in the sense that we’re evil bloodsucking creatures, but we couldn’t exist if we didn’t have something to analyze. And I’m always conscious of that. So whether I like or don’t like a particular thing you do, my point of view is always that of an appreciator. I just like to be in the world that you create.”
~ Matt Zoller Seitz To Sam Esmail

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