Certain things about STIFF (Seattle's True Independent Film Festival) are annoying to me: There's the fact that it happens during SIFF, at exactly the moment when my brain is melting and coming out my ear all gross. And there's the kinda-victimy false opposition implied by its name (the "I" in SIFF doesn't stand for Independent, it stands for International). That said, it's hard not to like STIFF. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It brings some great stuff to town and provides a more affordable, less stuffy alternative to SIFF. (Plus, STIFF sent a bottle of bourbon to every person on our staff, and I am nothing if not completely bribable! P.S.: I also enjoy Doritos, plane tickets, and haircuts!)
Anyway, here's what I semirandomly pulled out of the STIFF bag this year! (See trueindependent.org for a full schedule.)
Freeing Silvia Baraldini (Fri June 12, NWFF, 7:20 pm)
I don't know how you can make FBI-sanctioned domestic assassination boring, but this film sure tries. Chronicling former political prisoner Silvia Baraldini's life from her childhood in Italy through her involvement with the Black Panthers and the Puerto Rican independence movement, this super-dry documentary veers all over the map: 1960s civil rights, present-day prisoner abuse, the legal intricacies of RICO statutes, the philosophies behind self-determination and noncollaboration. The ground covered is fascinating and important, but you wouldn't know it from the glacial narration (and by that I mean cold AND slow AND seemingly on the verge of death).
Bronx Paradise (Fri June 12, NWFF, 9:30 pm; Sat June 13, Rendezvous, 4 pm)
An intimate, mockumentary-ish look inside one man's road rage, Bronx Paradise is a nicely constructed little hard-knock story about a bald dude named Wayne who yells a lot. A LOT. And beats the shit out of people. And punches girls in the head. All of which is confusing, because Wayne, a semicriminal family man, is the moral center of the film. His constant aggro freak-outs are grueling and the shoestring budget can't quite pull off gritty mob-movie swagger, but it has a scrappy charm.
Frat House Massacre (Fri June 12, Rendezvous, 8 pm)
I guess if you're a slasher-movie fan, you desire to see the slasher-movie scenario play out under as many different circumstances as possible. Bar Mitzvah Massacre! Pizza Party Massacre! Burlington Coat Factory Massacre! Here we have Frat House Massacre. The film (campy though the title may be, it has no sense of humor) is not terribly done, if you like this sort of thing—lots of boobs and pubes and sorority brunettes who all look the same and blood-pouring-out-of-the-mouth-to-signify-death (does that really happen? Surely not always). Basically, it's a massacre. In a frat house. Seriously, brah!