We're in the middle of SIFF, the Seattle International Film Festival, one of the very best events Seattle has to offer! As always, true movie-lovers will be tempted to cancel all other plans to consume as much delicious cinema as possible, as well as to enjoy the special guest appearances, parties, talks, and more. We've already compiled a list of all of the picks for the full festival that you absolutely shouldn't miss, but below, we've rounded up 25 movies that our critics think are worth watching this week. Highlights include the Obama-Netflix coproduction American Factory, the rhino caretaker doc Kifaru, and the thriller The Invisible Witness. Follow the links below for showtimes, trailers, and ticket links, and check out our SIFF Guide for the full schedule.


This is one strange beast of a movie. Set in the fog-enshrouded mountains of Colombia, the action centers on the scrappy, Lord of the Flies–like members of a guerrilla operation called The Organization. When they aren’t dancing around bonfires, firing assault rifles into the air, and beating up on each other, the soldiers are training to do… something (the politics are intentionally vague). Their companions include a compact drill sergeant, a milk cow named Shakira, and a POW they call Doctora (Julianne Nicholson, fully invested in a physically demanding role). If you insist on likability in your movie characters, Monos isn’t for you, because these kids are basically assholes. Recommended mostly for the jaw-dropping topography, Mica Levi’s synapse-scrambling score, and the Apocalypse Now–level cinematography. (KATHY FENNESSY)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian


American Factory
This feature-length documentary is the first work to emerge from Netflix’s partnership with the Obamas. The former president and his wife have a company, Higher Ground Productions, that finds and/or produces content for the California-based media distributor. American Factory is just amazing. It concerns a Chinese corporation, Fuyao Glass, that opened in Moraine, Ohio, a factory that makes glass for vehicles. The plant was abandoned by General Motors during the crash of 2008. In the Obama-produced doc, we not only see the comic and tragic clashes of two very different labor and management cultures, but a process that is actively shaping the world today. This is the American factory of tomorrow: lower wages, less benefits, higher production, no unions. Nevertheless, many of the American employees are just happy to have a job. As wages in China go up, wages in the US are going down. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & AMC Pacific Place


Another Day of Life
All the macho foreign-correspondent bullshit swirling around the documentary’s central figure, the renowned Polish writer and reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski, makes the first 15 minutes of this otherwise incredible film difficult to watch. But once all that nonsense settles down, the power of the story and the innovative way it’s told grabs hold and doesn’t let go. As Portugal shuffles off from its colonial grip on Angola, a civil war fills the power vacuum. Kapuscinski is one of the few journalists covering the war. As he travels through the war-torn country to the front line of the conflict, he meets communist fighters who change the way he thinks about the country and about the whole idea of objectivity in journalism. The great innovation here is the use of animation. Rather than employing shitty historical reenactments to immerse you in the scene, the directors chose to animate the whole story. At times, the animation artfully and seamlessly gives way to real-world interviews with the film’s subjects, many of whom are still alive, which is something I’ve never quite seen before. Highly recommended. (RICH SMITH)
SIFF Cinema Uptown


Orange Days
This superb Iranian film illuminates the raw reality of Iranian capitalism. And yes, Iran is a capitalist society, and so many of the problems that define this economic system in the US and Europe (class struggle, for example) are also present in this Islamic state. But what makes this feature really great are the performances, the director’s eye for detail, and the effortless rhythm of his blocking (the direction of the movement of the actors during a scene). In this film, which concerns a fruit-picking enterprise and a woman in a man’s world, the camera and the bodies of the actors form, scene by scene, a dance that’s naturally expressed. Those who love the Dardenne brothers will love Orange Days. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Lincoln Square Cinemas, SIFF Cinema Uptown, AMC Pacific Place


House of My Fathers
When an infertility plague sweeps the land, a man and a woman from two feuding Sri Lankan villages must venture into a haunted forest to seek a resolution. Tagging along for the trip is a “Strange Doctor” who wastes no time in living up to his nickname. Writer-director Suba Sivakumaran’s magically realistic, horror-tinged road trip certainly generates an impressive mood, especially given the bare-bones production values. Unfortunately, the second half bogs way down, stranding the characters in a series of frustratingly static poses. Still, this debut does cast a spell, even if only intermittently. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Q Ball
With Tucker Carlson’s rep, you’d think a film from Fox would want to demonize black and brown inmates, but this documentary does just the opposite. The San Quentin Warriors, an all-inmate team in one of America’s most well-known prisons, are united by a desire to have a winning season. But the basketball games, while as exciting as any March Madness match, are the least compelling part of this movie that uses the sport more as a vehicle to explore the journey these inmates have been on since arriving at San Quentin. (TIMOTHY KENNEY)
SIFF Cinema Uptown


Ever wonder what it’s like to work as a rhino caretaker? This film follows the rangers who care for the only three northern white rhinos left in the world: Sudan, his daughter Najin, and his granddaughter Fatu. They all live together in a protected reserve in Kenya. People outside the reserve are very poor, and a rhino horn is worth a lot of money. Because of poachers, the rhinos can’t live free, they must be behind fences and guarded 24/7. Kifaru is an uplifting story about people caring for animals and working for their well-being, but it’s also a sad story about how humans are driving other species into extinction. One of the caretakers asks: “How did we get to this point? Why do we fight and plunder the world until there is nothing left?” (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & SIFF Cinema Uptown


The Wild
In 2014's The Breach, director Mark Titus addressed the salmon crisis in the Northwest United States—in particular, in Bristol Bay in Alaska, where a Canadian mining company threatened the ecosystem where sockeye salmon thrived. When The Breach was screened, the battle seemed to be over; the mining company lost. But now Trump is in office, and Bristol Bay is threatened once again. The Wild tells this new story.
Majestic Bay & Shoreline Community College


Ghost Town Anthology
A rural Quebecois town, riven by tragedy, is haunted by silent figures in this mysterious not-quite-horror film. Shot on 16mm, the movie explores the aftermath of a young man’s possible suicide. While the mayor insists that the town’s residents are strong enough to carry on, strange figures from the past are intruding on the present, and a newcomer experiences a bizarre transformation. Critics are calling Ghost Town Anthology a meditation on grief and the plight of the depopulated countryside. (JOULE ZELMAN)
SIFF Cinema Uptown


The Invisible Witness
This is a standard thriller, true, but it’s done well. A rich Italian businessman is having an affair he wants to end. He wants to return to being a regular family man. But his gorgeous lover wants to keep the affair going. Then something bad happens, and he ends up as the suspect in his lover’s murder. Did he kill her or not? And did he also play a part in a car crash that killed a young man visiting his parents in rural Italy? The director keeps all the balls in the air until the very end of the film. Great stuff. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Majestic Bay & SIFF Cinema Uptown


X - The eXploited
Much of this excellent crime thriller has aerial shots of an upside-down Budapest. On the ground, there is a detective, a woman who, with dread-filled eyes, can spot the clues that other cops miss, and also make the unseen connections between the dots visible. When she enters a crime scene, her feet are down and her head is up. But from the perspective of the upside-down Budapest—her city, and the city of the crimes she investigates—we see that it is the other way around: Her feet are up and her head is down. There is something truly profound about this inversion. The local (the crime scene) is a lower truth, and the general (the whole city) is a much higher truth. We are in fact always upside down. What holds us down to the ground is gravity. This film will certainly be remembered long after the festival ends. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Ark Lodge Cinemas, AMC Pacific Place, SIFF Cinema Egyptian


What happens after we die? And, if given the chance to live our lives again, would we make the same choices? Dutch film Afterlife explores these questions with a touch of magic and humor. When 16-year-old Sam is killed in a bike accident, she chooses to spend eternity in the afterlife, reuniting with her dead mother. But when it’s determined that Sam was taken too early from the living, the girl and her mother (with the help of an angel) select the forbidden option—Sam gets to live her entire life again. While I wouldn’t get too caught up in the how of it all, Afterlife is a touching film about family, grief, memory, and death. (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
Ark Lodge Cinemas & AMC Pacific Place


Banana Split
Those familiar with Benjamin Kasulke’s work as a cinematographer will be surprised by his directorial debut. It is nothing like those films he shot for Lynn Shelton and other noted indie directors (check out 2017’s Cold November). This film is fast, full of youth-sex energy and hot blasts of rock and rap. The film’s colors are bright, the cast is gorgeous, the story—cowritten by its star, Hannah Marks—adds a new twist to the old love-triangle trope. And there’s not one boring or bad moment from beginning to end. One thing I never expected is that Kasulke, a filmmaker I’ve known for nearly 15 years—and a Stranger Genius Award winner—had it in him to become a 21st-century John Hughes. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Ark Lodge Cinemas

The Nightingale
In 19th-century Tasmania, a young Irish woman and an Aboriginal tracker, united in hatred and a need for vengeance, pursue the British soldiers who committed vile deeds against them. The onslaught of sexual violence and brutality in Jennifer Kent’s second feature (after The Babadook) reportedly drove distressed festivalgoers out of the theater at Sundance. The Nightingale seems to be this Australian director’s unstinting reckoning with the abuse, exploitation, and genocide of the past. Those with a strong constitution and no expectations of a crowd-pleasing revenge arc may consider this a must-see. (JOULE ZELMAN)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Putin's Witnesses
Vitaly Mansky was once the head of documentaries for Russian national television, a role which put him in frequent proximity with President Vladimir Putin. Now, he's settled in Latvia, and he's developed a reputation of documentarian daring—for 2015's Under the Sun, for example, he smuggled unauthorized footage out of Pyongyang. His newest documentary is assembled largely from his own personal archive, much of it shot by the director himself. It's an unprecedented look at the rise of Putin and the strangling of Russian democracy in its cradle.
SIFF Cinema Uptown

This Is Not Berlin
Film critic Nate Jones (or his editor) wrote a good headline in his review of This Is Not Berlin for Vulture: “The Movie That Will Make You Want to Become a Pansexual New-Wave Performance Artist in 1980s Mexico.” I very much identified with this headline while watching director Hari Sama’s semiautobiographical film about being a teenager in mid-1980s Mexico City, although the looming AIDS epidemic part is certainly something to consider when pondering time travel. Anyhow, the film’s riotous new wave fun, paired with drugs and ennui and a bustling Mexico City backdrop, makes it a more interesting addition to the glut of ’80s nostalgic teen movies coming from today’s Gen X filmmakers. Also of note: Academy Award nominee Marina de Tavira, from Roma, stars as the lead character’s mother. (CHASE BURNS)
AMC Pacific Place

Widow of Silence
Deep within the powder keg of Kashmir, a beleaguered Muslim “half-widow” repeatedly makes the hazardous trek to the nearest government center to try to claim the death certificate of her long-missing husband. Her attempts to move on, however, are stymied by a society where, to quote one of the wormier bureaucrats, it’s the “responsibility of the people to keep their government happy.” Writer/director Praveen Morchhale’s film isn’t exactly subtle about its message, beginning with the image of an elderly woman literally tied to a chair. Thankfully, though, much of the thematic heavy-handedness is leavened by an expert use of framing, Shilpi Marwaha’s clear-eyed lead performance, and a final moment of irony that’s keen enough to shave with. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Lincoln Square Cinemas


Crystal Swan
This comedy, set in 1996 Belarus, follows a young DJ who has big dreams of moving to Chicago to pursue her house-music career. But a typo on her US visa application forces her to move to a rural village and befriend a local family in order to live out her American dream. Crystal Swan gives off heavy Xavier Dolan vibes—angsty, dreamy, and retro. It also marks Belarus’s first Oscar submission in 22 years. (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
Lincoln Square Cinemas

A Family Tour
While attending a film festival in Taiwan, an exiled-from-China filmmaker (Gong Zhe) takes the opportunity to secretly reunite with her mainlander mother via the chaos of a sightseeing bus tour. The Chinese government does not approve. Writer/director Ying Liang, himself an exile, brings an absorbing sense of reality to the potentially melodramatic scenario, particularly during the times when the characters are able to briefly drop the charade. (The hushed conversations between the lead and her supportive husband have a gorgeously unforced intimacy.) It’s a small marvel of gentle humor—the glimpses of the surrounding tourists are hilariously on-point—and uncomfortably pointed insights, featuring multiple sneaky moments of grace. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
SIFF Cinema Uptown


Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts
I know this much is true: (1) Trixie Mattel did not deserve to win RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3, and (2) Trixie is one of the funniest people ever to appear on that show. BenDeLaCreme should have won, but she self-eliminated because she hates competitions, and without Ben there, Shangela should have won, but democracy is an asshole. Still! Trixie Mattel is hilarious. Most recent example: BenDeLaCreme tweeted, “What’s Game of Thrones about?” and Trixie tweeted back, “It’s about people fighting for a crown. You would hate it!” Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts is a documentary about the performer. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian


Human Nature
CRISPR, a recently discovered molecular cleaver that revolutionized genetic editing, could end genetic diseases as we know them—but it could also usher in a new era of eugenics and designer babies. Human Nature doesn’t shy away from either of these extremes and offers no easy answers to the ethical minefield of tinkering with our DNA. Far from a dry science seminar, the beautifully shot documentary uses a clever combination of simplistic genetic animations and compelling characters to convey the power of this discovery and why it has the potential to change what it means to be human. (TIMOTHY KENNEY)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Who Let the Dogs Out
I always thought it was obvious who let the dogs out: the Baha Men. But in this documentary, artist and cultural curator Ben Sisto proves that the answer is a bit more complicated than that. Who Let the Dogs Out explores the knotty history of that song, going from London to Trinidad to Miami to Michigan to get to the bottom of who truly came up with the earwormy hook. And though sometimes the short doc reaches for deeper, weightier meaning, it explores creativity and ownership rather well. By the end, you’ll have that song stuck in your head, possibly forever! (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
Shoreline Community College


The Apollo
For 85 years, Harlem’s Apollo Theater has essentially been a mecca for black American culture. So it makes perfect sense for a filmmaker of the stature of Roger Ross Williams (God Loves Uganda) to shoot a documentary about the 1,500-capacity palace, which has showcased the zenith of black musicians, comedians, and writers. From James Brown’s immortal 1963 Live at the Apollo LP to performances by Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Richard Pryor, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, this venue has been an incubator and crucible for integral black expression in myriad forms. It’s past time to revel in the Apollo’s fascinating story. (DAVE SEGAL)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian


Patrinell: The Total Experience
With the public primed by Amazing Grace, the documentary about the making of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel album, it’s a propitious time to view Patrinell: The Total Experience. Reverend Patrinell Staten Wright is the closest thing Seattle has to the Queen of Soul (albeit with a heavier emphasis on church life), and this film portrays the septuagenarian gospel/R&B singer’s inspirational story with utmost reverence. A strict disciplinarian, Wright headed the multiracial Total Experience Gospel Choir and impacted hundreds of lives through her spiritual and artistic tutelage. Patrinell reveals a woman who’s battled racism, sexism, gentrification, and health problems to become what one of her protégés called “our Rosa Parks, MLK, and Barack Obama.” (DAVE SEGAL)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

This is one of those documentaries where you don’t think you’re that interested in the subject matter, and maybe the whole thing seems sort of morbid, but then it ends up being really fascinating and you learn about things that you never even knew were going on. Seeing the dedication of the artists and the broad range of people who are drawn to the craft of taxidermy makes Stuffed a great watch. It’s definitely not (only) a bunch of guys dressed in camo who shoot animals and are trying to figure out what to do with them. There are people working for natural history museums, artists creating still lifes that include real birds and animals, and avant-garde creators making creature hybrids or internal organ taxidermy. It is a science and an art, each piece telling a story about nature. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
SIFF Cinema Uptown