If I may state the obvious: Seattle International Film Festival is huge. It's the biggest film festival in North America. It contains multitudes. This year there are over 300 features and programs, adding up to an unprecedented, overwhelming total of 405 films. The festival's vastness means it's almost more interesting to talk about what SIFF excludes than what it includes.
Because of its proximity to Cannes, SIFF is never very strong on the newest, flashiest world cinema—Seattle will have to wait a few months for Wong Kar-wai's first English-language film, and perhaps as long as SIFF 2008 for Une Vieille Maîtresse, provocateur Catherine Breillat's first period piece (no, Anatomy of Hell doesn't count, smartass). Same goes for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the film that's gotten cinephiles heated up about postcommunist Romania all over again.
But since there's less glamour at SIFF, there's more room for average filmgoers to make discoveries on their own. This year SIFF has already introduced me to several filmmakers I hope to follow for a long time: the Paris-based Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, who has two films—Waiting for Happiness and Bamako—in the 2007 festival; Canadian documentarian Jennifer Baichwal, with Manufactured Landscapes; Israeli filmmaker Dror Shaul, with the unusual coming-of-age story Sweet Mud; and Jeff Nichols, whose Shotgun Stories is the best of a number of American films in this year's festival with unapologetic regionalist bents.
One glaring omission from this year's festival is Brand Upon the Brain!, a silent-film/theater hybrid by SIFF favorite Guy Maddin that was shot here in Seattle and produced by a Seattle-based company. The reasons it's not in the program are still a little hazy to me, though the incredible expense of the production—it involves an orchestra, onstage Foley artists, a live narrator, and an alleged castrato—was clearly a factor.
From unexpected highlights in SIFF's new, environmentally conscious Planet Cinema program (The Cloud, Sharkwater) to total disasters you really ought to steer clear of (Anthony Hopkins's experimental film Slipstream, which was roundly savaged at Sundance), The Stranger's writers have been working day and night for the last month to give you the most comprehensive and indispensable guide to SIFF. Signed capsules mean the film has been seen and reviewed by a Stranger critic; if a capsule is unsigned, it means we haven't seen the movie yet—but keep checking back at www.thestranger.com/siff for new reviews, updates to the schedule, daily blog posts, weekly podcasts, straight-up news, tantalizing gossip, and lots, lots more.
Annie Wagner, Film Editor
FESTIVAL GENERAL INFO
ADVANCE TICKETS are available online (24 hours a day), and in person or by phone Mon through Sat from 11 am to 7 pm, and Sun and Memorial Day from noon to 6 pm, at SIFF's two main ticket outlets. Will call can be picked up at any of the festival venues. All theater/venue box offices can process advance-ticket purchases. The immediate screening has priority over advance tickets.
SIFF Main Box Office is located on the second level at Pacific Place (600 Pine St).
SIFF Eastside Box Office is located on the upper level at Lincoln Square (700 Bellevue Way NE; box office is open from May 30–June 17).
To charge by phone, call 324-9996. All tickets (save for Cinematic Six-Packs, the Film Buff 20-Pack, Student/Senior Reel Deals, and voucher redemption) can be purchased by phone with Visa, MasterCard, or American Express during box-office hours. There is a $3.50 handling fee per order.
To charge on the web, go to www.seattlefilm.org. Tickets can be purchased on the website up to 30 minutes before showtime (save for Student/Senior Reel Deals and passes, which need to be processed at one of SIFF's box offices). There is a $3.50 handling fee per order.
INDIVIDUAL TICKET PRICES
$10 for regular screenings and Festival Forums events.
$9 for regular screenings for SIFF members when purchased in advance.
$7 for matinees (Mon–Fri, screenings before 5:30 pm; weekends and Memorial Day, screenings before 3 pm.)
$7 for midnight screenings.
$5 for bargain matinees Mon–Fri (2 pm screenings) and Films4Families matinees.
On the day of the show, tickets are available at all venues. They are also available by phone and on the web, subject to availability. Less than 30 minutes before the show, tickets are available at the theater only. Theater box office opens 30 minutes before the first screening of the day, and closes 15 minutes after the last screening of the day begins. If day-of-show tickets are no longer available, rush tickets can be purchased if available. No discounted day-of-show tickets. Seating is guaranteed up until 10 minutes prior to the show. No late seating.
Note: You do not have to pick your films or events at the time of purchase. Instead, you can redeem a voucher at a later date at the box office, any festival venue, and online (depending on availability). This year, packages can be purchased either in person or online.
Cinematic Six-Packs are $57 and include admission to any regular screenings or event priced $10 or less, with a one-ticket limit per film.
Student and Senior Reel Deals are $35 for any five films priced $10 or less, and are available to all students and seniors (65 and older). One ticket per film.
Film Buff 20-Packs are $170 and include admission to any 20 films priced $10 or less. Two-ticket limit per film.
Films4Families are $5. Screenings happen at 11 am every Sat and Sun.
Gift Certificates are available in the amount of $25, and are good for merchandise and tickets to any SIFF event.
Secret Festival Memberships are $50 for admission to the four Secret Festival screenings every Sun at 11 am at the Egyptian. Those purchasing passes are required to sign an oath that they won't disclose any information about the films shown in the series. Film titles are not announced until showtime. Limited to two passes per person.
SIFF Gala Passes are $175, which lets you in to all Saturday Night Gala screenings and the following receptions, as well as Opening and Closing Night Galas. Sorry kids, but Gala Passes are 21+.
A whole mess of seats are reserved for passholders at every screening. While a pass (save for the Platinum and Gala) doesn't guarantee you a seat, passholders are allowed priority entry up to 20 minutes before the show, or until all the passholder seats are taken. Passholders should show up 30 minutes before the show. All passes are nontransferable and photo ID must be shown at the theater. Passes can be purchased during regular box-office hours at Pacific Place or Lincoln Square.
Platinum Passes are SOLD OUT.
Full Series Passes are $800 and include admission to all public screenings and press screenings, save for Opening and Closing Night, Galas screenings, Special Events, the Secret Festival, and the Festival Forums.
Weekly Passes are $300 and are good for all public screenings, excluding Opening and Closing Night, Gala screenings, Special Events, the Secret Festival, and the Festival Forums.
VIP Opening Night Gala: $200; Opening Night Gala: $50; Closing Night Gala: $40; Festival Gala (film and reception): $25; Festival Gala (film only): $12; Remains of the Day and Tribute to Sir Anthony Hopkins: $35; Conversation with Julien Temple: $12; Sanctuary and Evening with Lisa Gerrard: $15; Kinski Performs Berlin: Symphony of a City at the Triple Door: $15 adv/$18; Opticlash 2: The 2nd Annual VJ Battle: $15; Face the Music Rock Party at Neumo's: $15 adv/$18
When advance tickets are gone, a small number of rush tickets may be available at the door. Rush tickets are first-come, first-served, depending on how many seats are available after pass holders and advance-ticket holders are already inside. Rush tickets are sold 5–10 minutes before the screening. Cash only.
Metro buses are available from all points in Seattle and surrounding areas. For information call the Metro Information Line at 553-3000. Bus information and schedules can also be found at http://transit.metrokc.gov.
CINERAMA 2100 Fourth Ave, 441-3080; EGYPTIAN 801 E Pine St, 781-5755; HARVARD EXIT 807 E Roy St, 781-5755; NEPTUNE 1303 NE 45th St, 781-5755; NORTHWEST FILM FORUM 1515 12th Ave, 267-5380; SIFF CINEMA AT McCAW HALL 321 Mercer St, 324-9996; LINCOLN SQUARE 700 Bellevue Way NE, 425-450-9100; PACIFIC PLACE 600 Pine St, 652-2404