One of the best times of the year is fast approaching, at least for those of us who like to sit illuminated in the darkness for hours upon hours while vast cinematic stories play out before our very eyes. That's right, the 49th annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is only weeks away and this morning they revealed their entire lineup. Tickets are now on sale for SIFF members, and they go on sale for the general public starting Thursday. You can purchase them online through their website or at the SIFF Film Center

This year’s festival is both in-person and virtual, with in-person screenings running May 11-21 and online screenings available May 22-28. There is a whole lot showing (264 films to be exact), from a sweeping drama about reconnection in Past Lives to a comedic love letter to movies themselves with I Like Movies. There will be plenty more coverage to come on all of it, but I’ve sorted through some of the initial highlights that you fellow lovers of cinema will soon be able to take in for yourselves. 

It had already been announced that the festival was kicking things off with the opening night film Past Lives from writer-director Celine Song, but this story of two childhood friends who are reunited years later as adults remains highlighting as a must-see. It is the one film that has the most buzz from when it showed at this year’s Sundance.

One of the more visually striking films in this year's lineup is the fantastical Mami Wata from writer-director C.J. "Fiery" Obasi, which follows a community in a West African village that begins to face questions about their faith and collective future. Also a film that premiered at Sundance, its beautiful black-and-white shots have the power to linger long after the film has ended.

Speaking of films shot in black-and-white, there is director Babak Jalali's dramedy Fremont, which he co-wrote with Carolina Cavalli. It places us in the shoes of an Afghan immigrant who had worked as a translator for the US military and now lives in San Francisco where she works in a fortune cookie factory. It is yet another film that previously premiered at Sundance and is worth cracking open.

Additionally, I would be remiss to not mention just some of the many films with local ties. Namely, there is the Year of the Fox from longtime Washington director Megan Griffiths, whose previous film I'll Show You Mine showed at SIFF last year. Her latest, inspired by true events and written by Eliza Flug, tells the story of a young girl dealing with her parent’s divorce and the advances of an older man. There is also Anu from local filmmaker Sudeshna Sen, which tells its own distinct and specific coming-of-age story centered around a 12-year-old South Asian-American girl dealing with the recent loss of her grandfather. The core of this is that she believes he may soon be coming back as the holy reincarnation of Siddhartha. 

We love mess sometimes, don't we? There is perhaps no messier yet more intriguing film than director Ira Sach's romantic drama Passages, which he co-wrote with Mauricio Zacharias. The film follows two men in a long-term relationship that becomes complicated when one begins an affair with a woman.  

More of a documentary lover? Then you're probably going to want to check out the timely Bad Press. Following Indigenous journalist Angel Ellis as she tries to carry out the tireless work of investigative reporting against many barriers, it is one of those films that brings into focus the continual importance of a robust free press and what is lost when that is eroded. Looking for something that experiments with the form of documentary filmmaking itself? There is And the King Said, What a Fantastic Machine that serves as a sociological exploration of how we use cameras in all aspects of our lives. Forget your typical talking heads, this documentary throws all that out the window to tap into something all its own. 

Last, but definitely not least, there is writer-director Chandler Levack's I Like Movies that follows an aspiring 17-year-old filmmaker who begins working at a video store. First premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, it will serve as the closing night film to end the festival on a high note.