A LITTLE MORE than a month ago, Cal Godot published a scathing, if poorly written and researched, indictment of the 26th annual Seattle International Film Festival in the popular online film journal Indiewire. Mr. Godot took aim at SIFF's inattention to the local film scene, decrying their "[inability] to program a significant number of local films," and railing against the Festival's policy of bringing in out-of-town directors for its Fly Filmmaking program, claiming it "demonstrates what SIFF really thinks of local filmmakers: Good enough to be servants, but not good enough to be served." He concluded, "SIFF is a perfect example of the smug, self-satisfied attitude that permeates this dot-com city."

Mr. Godot's somewhat reckless diatribe was immediately and soundly trounced by a slew of counterarguments made by fans and filmmakers alike, who took gleeful note of his numerous factual errors and declared shame on him for not citing the Festival's best features: excellent audience relations and diverse programming. While no response was forthcoming from SIFF, it is evident that, perhaps because of Godot's factual errors, his arguments were simply dismissed.

Nevertheless, the fact that an argument is being made in the national media over SIFF's role vis-à-vis local filmmakers begs an interesting question: If we Seattleites are indeed a film-loving people, with the largest U.S. festival and highest film- attendance rates to prove it, why have we been so singularly unable to sustain within the festival a significant local filmmaking presence?

A cynical answer would be that, in classic provincial fashion (as opposed to a smaller town's downright rural fashion), Seattle is perennially unable to recognize or appreciate local talent. Indeed, we see such a malaise permeate throughout the local arts: Funders here typically fund Institutions, not Artists, and institutions invariably favor established talent, which, to most passive art consumers, means talent recognized by a mainstream (read: New York City) press. Towns with a smaller, less visible festival, like Maine or Olympia, can reasonably support a greater proportion of local work, partly because the potential audience is not that much larger for a "recognized" work. Larger festivals must serve more and more demanding masters; taking risks in such an environment does not pay off.

But a less cynical answer would be that local filmmakers may not need SIFF. Seattle's filmmaking community is robust, but artistically at odds with the Festival's programming ethos, as well as mainstream film in general. Super 8 film, for example, is currently enjoying an unprecedented creative flowering; experimental short film and video and artistic-if-technically-amateur filmmaking are also doing quite well. Such events as Emerald Reels, Independent Exposure, Satellites, or this weekend's Local Sightings series attest to the vitality of a local film scene. Perhaps the outlets available for local filmmakers are not in the same league as the Film Festival glamour-wise, but why should they be?

Anyway, we've got the Seattle Underground Film Fest in October--and they have much better posters.