Watch Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) traverse Chicago's Southside on their first "date" in Southside with You.

There are only a few days left of the excellent Seattle International Film Festival, which ends on Sunday, June 12. Since it would be impossible to see all 47 films playing this weekend, we've compiled the 11 best ones below, along with reviews from our critics and links to see trailers and buy tickets. Also of note this weekend: the newly announced film The Love Witch, A Tribute to Viggo Mortensen, the very bizarre-sounding The Greasy Strangler, and these special SIFF events, including the closing gala.

FRIDAY
Contemporary World Cinema (Latvia)
1. Dawn
Life on a Latvian commune undergoes a major upheaval after a young boy questions his father’s dedication to Soviet ideals. Inspired by an unfinished work of Sergei Eisenstein, this wicked allegory features stunning B&W photography and an amazing lineup of characters, many of whom appear to have lurched directly out of the nearest Dick Tracy comic strip. (Seriously, this thing is a phrenologist’s dream.) Extremely odd, and very good. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

2. The Night Stalker
While notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez (Lou Diamond Phillips) languishes on death row, an ambitious lawyer (Bellamy Young) attempts to unravel just exactly what makes him tick. Writer/director Megan Griffiths successfully captures the burbling hysteria of mid-’80s California, when every open window and slow-moving car carried a horrific potential energy. A smartly structured, admirably non-exploitive drama, anchored by a fine, scary performance from Phillips, who always remains just on the verge of chewing the scenery. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

FRIDAY-SATURDAY
3. Amama: When a Tree Falls
Contemporary World Cinema (Spain)
When a child is born into this Basque farming family, a tree is planted. The grandmother (Amama, in Basque) then paints the trunks of the grandchildren’s trees red, white, and black in a ceremonial tradition—for the chosen son, the lazy child, and the devil. The protagonist of this film is of course the devil, and an artist. Relationships are visually represented and acted out through this little forest; the landscape is destroyed and transformed (the movie’s subtitle is When a Tree Falls) in a way that elegantly portrays changing familial ties alongside the accelerating demise of farming culture. (JULIA RABAN)

4. Awaiting
Contemporary World Cinema (Spain)
The couple from a rich Western European country (Nora Navas and Francesc Garrido, in terrific performances) arrive in a poor Eastern European country to choose the child they’ve been preparing to adopt. They look weary, but first thing, they joke and have sex; they’re happy. Gradually, they find themselves deeper in the country, facing corruption, deceit, and violence. They begin to unravel. This movie is a thriller, not just a drama. It’s about the lengths we’ll go to when we can’t bear our own children, and about how far is too far. No wonder it rings so emotionally true: Director Daniela Fejerman went through it herself a few years before making this fictional film. (JEN GRAVES)

5. Chicken People
Documentary
This is one of those documentaries that open a window into a whole other way of life: in this case, competitive chicken breeders. These single-minded people are striving to create the ideal bird that will win grand champion at the big chicken show. Who knew there were so many ways to groom a chicken? Baths, beauty products on the feathers, comb enhancers, blow-drying. These folks lay it out there with their personal problems: alcoholism, low self-esteem, relationship issues, bullying, panic attacks—and how raising chickens has helped their lives get better. As one person says: “Poultry is a bit of an oasis for me. Chickens don’t judge you.” Chicken People is very entertaining, and I’m sure all the chicken fans around here will love it. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)

SATURDAY
6. Family Film
New Directors Competition
I'm reminded of the 2004 Japanese film Nobody Knows. In it, a mother feels overwhelmed by her responsibilities and flees her home, leaving four children behind to fend for themselves. Family Film raises some interesting parallel questions: Can children succeed when left to their own devices? What does separation do to a child's psyche? I admire the movie for its hollow style, as the loneliness that the characters feel resonates in the emptiness of its production design, but more importantly, a tale where separation meets technologic attachment: Does loneliness change when you're a Skype call away? (JACOB LICHTY)

7. The General
Don't Miss | Archival Presentations
Every so often I’m reminded that there are lots of people who haven’t seen any Buster Keaton films. The miracle of Keaton’s physical and cinematic gift is a mandatory addition to any cultural education worth a damn, but more importantly: You won’t see a funnier movie in this festival. (SEAN NELSON)

8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Tribute
Frodo and Sam head to Mount Doom, Gandalf and Aragorn (SIFF honoree Viggo Mortensen) take the fight to Sauron, and you most likely know all of this already. Peter Jackson’s 2003 Oscar vacuum is the all-too-rare instance of a blockbuster where everyone involved seems to sincerely, unironically believe in the tale they are telling, from director to cast to key grip. Even the oft-lampooned multiple endings now feel like an excusable victory lap. Plus, I mean, that scene with the War Elephants, holy cripes. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

9. Maya Angelou and Still I Rise
Documentary
Everyone knows Maya Angelou for her now canonical auto-bio, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but this doc reminds you that there weren’t many major artistic or political post-war movements that Maya Angelou didn’t contribute to in a serious and enduring way. The film tracks her life from the day her parents put her on that train to Arkansas, where she suffered serial rape as a child, to her rise out of that mess. Writing with Hughes in Harlem, chilling with Baldwin, MLK, Malcolm X. Starring in Jean Genet’s The Blacks. Writing lyrics for B.B. King. Being Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in Roots. Publishing a million books. Formally, the doc’s just interviews with people in chairs cut with photographs of those people when they were younger. But you'll clap internally for two hours as Maya and friends (even Hillary Clinton!) talk about how she made made history. (RICH SMITH)

10. Red Gringo
Face the Music
Equipped with excellent bone structure and a serviceable voice, Dean Reed was an aspiring American romantic balladeer whose career was stagnating in the late ’50s and early ’60s. But once the slick crooner moved to Chile, he scored many hits, coming off like a cross between Neil Diamond and radical-lefty folkie Phil Ochs. Red Gringo recounts Reed’s transformation from teen idol to political activist, crosscutting among a jumbled mélange of concert footage, newsreel clips, and interviews. Reed found purpose for his life and art fighting for social progress for the proletariat, but died in East Berlin in 1986 under mysterious circumstances. (DAVE SEGAL)

SATURDAY-SUNDAY
11. Southside with You
New American Cinema
Thank you, director Richard Tanne, for releasing this presidential rom-com in the midst of one of the ugliest election seasons in recent memory. The film follows a young, chain-smoking Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and a deeply principled Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) as they traverse Chicago's Southside on their first "date." The tension throughout is that it's not really a date, at least not until Michelle says it is. She's Barack's advisor at the law firm where he's working for the summer, and as she explains early on in the film, she has to work doubly hard to be taken seriously because she's a woman, then thrice as hard because she's black. What would happen to her credibility if she fell for the first cute black guy that walked through the firm's doors? A relentlessly charming Barack pursues her anyway, but Michelle calls him on his ignorance and puts him in his place. It may be difficult for viewers to believe that the real Barack and Michelle spent so much of their first date outlining their childhoods, their experiences with structural oppression, and their theories of change, but who cares? This is a sweet and schmaltzy film, and one that celebrates the mythic figures of Barack and Michelle Obama. Conveniently, the film takes place in a time before the Obama legacy became complicated by massive deportations and overseas drone wars, but... well, there's nothing that ought to be said after that. (SYDNEY BROWNSTONE)