SIFF 2023

We Watched and Reviewed 35 SIFF Films!

Here's What We Loved, What We Hated, and What Was as Interesting as an Air-Dried Carrot

SIFF's Shining Star

Talking to Director Megan Griffiths About Year of the Fox, SIFF, and the State of Local Movie Production

The Stranger's Guide to SIFF 2023

We’ve Got Dozens of Movie Reviews, Director Interviews, and Nearby Food Recommendations All for You

Where to Eat Near the 2023 SIFF Venues

Make the Most of Your Seattle International Film Festival Experience

More than 260 movies, from shorts to feature-length films, will show at this year's Seattle International Film Festival and we've watched dozens of them in an effort to help you sort some of the cream from the crap.

There are tear-jerking documentaries about war and dancing! There's a movie with too many gratuitous boob shots and another with rivers of puppet blood! Some of them we loved (Punderneath It AllArt for Everybody, Egghead and Twinky), some of them we strongly disliked (Copenhagen Does Not Exist), and there was at least one movie that was very, very borny. What's borny, you ask? Read on to find out.

* Means we loved it!

20 Days in Mariupol COURTESY OF SIFF

*20 Days in Mariupol

Ukraine, 2023 (95 min.)

Dir. Mstyslav Chernov

There's a lotta war documentaries in the world, but this one's special. In 20 Days, an AP news crew begins filming in coastal Ukraine before the war actually starts, as they suspect Putin will start shelling the city of Mariupol any day now. (They're right.) It results in early personal interviews with townspeople and some poignant callbacks later on—e.g., a lady whom they told not to worry because civilians won't get bombed after the crew apologetically meets her again in a shelter. Usually considered B-roll footage, shots of crying/pissed-off doctors, orderlies wiping up pools of children's blood from gurneys, and families cowering in apartment basements with their pet cats, are much more intimate—and ghastly—than what we Americans end up seeing on the nightly news. It's also a graphic reminder of the bravery and valor of journalists, who, although civilians, run toward danger rather than fleeing it. MEG VAN HUYGEN


*26.2 to Life

USA, 2022 (88 min.)

Dir. Christine Yoo

A documentary setup like "convicts rehabilitate their lives by becoming long-distance runners" could be the stuff of carceral state propaganda in the wrong hands. Thankfully, 26.2 to Life threads an incredible needle as it recounts three felons' membership in a marathon-running club, each no less than 15 years into their respective life sentences. This is less of a running movie and more about three very different stories of regret, crime, violence, and hope. The film's leads—a father, a former track star, and a journalist—are not glorified but humanized, and their captivating stories are told with the unflinching conviction that their lives could use more than loaned running shoes. True story: the fantastic soundtrack is co-produced by some of the prison's convicts. SAM MACHKOVECH

A Disturbance in the Force COURTESY OF SIFF

*A Disturbance in the Force

USA, 2023 (85 min.)

Dir. Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak

This is how it went down. The world-historical box office success of Star Wars catches Hollywood completely by surprise. As a consequence, the time between this space cash cow to the next one (think blue milk), The Empire Strikes Back, looks like a desert that’s worse than the one on the planet of Tatooine. The execs want something to fill this unexpected emptiness, to keep the ticket buyers engaged. Why not do a TV holiday special? Sounds like a good idea. It worked for Charlie Brown. It should work for Luke Skywalker. We can even sell toys. That sort of thing. In 1978, CBS presented The Star Wars Holiday Special. It ran for two fucking hours. It was a mess and a massive flop. This documentary, which must be seen if you are a true fan of all that takes place in that faraway galaxy, is about what led to this very special mess and flop. CHARLES MUDEDE

A Letter From Helga COURTESY OF SIFF

A Letter From Helga

Iceland, 2022 (112 min.)

Dir. Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir

This movie, which is set in some remote place in Iceland that, in the 1940s, had sheep as its entire economic base, has only one star, the cinematographer, Jasper Wolf. The film’s story is so-so (love, passion, sheep). The acting is competent (faces filled with longing, forbidden caresses, sheep). But the cinematography is just superb. Scene after scene, what matters is the way the camera moves through rooms or the dusky landscape. Light of Iceland is so beautiful. CHARLES MUDEDE

A Room of My Own

Georgia, 2022 (107 min.)

Dir. Ioseb “Soso” Bliadze

Set among the leafy courtyards and breezy, high-ceilinged apartments of Tbilisi, Georgia (the country), A Room of My Own concerns 20-somethings Tina and Megi, who share a two-bed despite being strangers. Quiet, sheltered Tina’s running from something, and outgoing, hard-partying Megi wants to know what. Allegedly, this film’s a condemnation of the crushing old-school patriarchy that’s still in full effect in Georgia, but there are wayyyy too many gratuitous titty shots for any (non-teenage) audience to buy it. The pointless nude scenes pretty much start right away. Watch it for the travelogue of beautiful, ancient Tbilisi, and I guess for the titties, but don’t show up expecting any sage feminist lessons to be told. MEG VAN HUYGEN



USA, 2023 (89 min.)

Dir. Einar Thorsteinsson

Blake Leeper, a double amputee who runs on "blade" legs with Olympic track-and-field aspirations, is both the best and worst part of sports documentary Abled. The film's single-minded focus on Leeper, and no other competitors in the paralympic sphere, skips a lot of nuance about how athletes are classified in various professional leagues—and that means it skips crucial questions about how other modern athletes have been dehumanized by politicians and sports organizations alike. But it only takes Leeper a few minutes to establish himself as a must-see athlete in Abled; his mix of hunger, drive, charm, and fearlessness, as he collides against an unfeeling Olympic machine, is the stuff of the greatest sports docs. SAM MACHKOVECH



France, 2023 (94 min.)

Dir. Juan Sebastian Torales

A young boy named Nino moves to a remote Argentinian village with his family after falling victim to hate crimes in his hometown. His new home is next to a very pretty yet forbidden forest in which spooky demon Almamula lives and punishes those who commit carnal sins. This bitch hates the gays, but that doesn't stop Nino from doing gay things there! The film is set in Santiago del Estero, offering dreamy natural lighting and luscious greenery. The cinematography alone is worth the view. Trigger warning! Almamula contains a significant amount of violence and the film starts right off the bat with a brutal homophobic attack on Nino. Wish I knew about that one before starting the film at dinner! BRITTNE LUNNISS


USA, 2023 (80 min.)

Dir. Sudeshna Sen

A sentimental, yet often silly, story about dealing with death, Anu is a locally made feature whose rough edges are smoothed over by its unwavering sincerity. Based on the novel Looking for Bapu, it accompanies a young Indian-American girl from Seattle whose grandfather has just passed as she tries to make sense of the void he has left in her life. Much like its central character who is trying to find her way, there is much that feels a bit uncertain in its middle section. However, when it arrives at a fittingly simple conclusion, it manages to tap into something more that elevates it above its prior stumbles. CHASE HUTCHINSON

Art for Everybody COURTESY OF SIFF

*Art for Everybody 

USA, 2023 (99 min.)

Dir. Mirand Yousef

The subject of this excellent documentary mesmerized me. He is Thomas Kinkade. His paintings, which were universally bad, made him super-rich and famous. Goofy-looking cottages surrounded by gooey-green trees, cheesy rivers, and corny mountains were his bread and butter. He marketed himself as the “painter of light.” But Kinkade had a gift, though it was nowhere near artistic. He, with an ease that can only be described as preternatural, translated the core feeling (or the structure feeling, if we may borrow one of Raymond Williams’ key concepts) of conservative white American Christians into images. What was powerfully felt by this segment of society was made visible by the genius of Kinkade. The garish light in his cottages wasn’t creepy but welcoming. Everything inside was visible; everything outside, harmless. In the way mid-century physicists cracked open the nuclear power in matter; Kinkade cracked open the spending power of the “moral majority.” They could not get enough of his work because they will never get enough of themselves. There they were on his mass-produced plates and prints. Indeed, Kinkade died too soon, 2012. Had he lived to and through the years between 2016 and 2020, he would have found his true moment. What he did for art, Trump did for politics. Do not miss Art for Everybody. CHARLES MUDEDE


*Bad Press

USA, 2023 (98 mins.)

Dir. Rebecca Landsberry-Baker

Of the 573 sovereign tribes in the United States, only a small handful guarantee freedom of the press. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation was one of those tribes until 2018, when its top officials repealed a law in that guaranteed press freedoms. In this kick-ass, hilarious, fast-paced, gorgeous documentary full of colorful local characters and small-town villains, the journalists at a small-but-fierce outlet called Mvskoke Media stand up to politicians who seek to muzzle the truth-tellers. You don't have to spend your life grinding out blogs about local politics to love this paean to the press, a cry we need to hear from every corner of the country as big tech scoops up the last of the ad funding and hedge funds chew up papers and sell them off for parts. RICH SMITH

Circus of the Scars: The Insider Odyssey of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow

USA, 2022 (96 min.)

Dir. Chicory Wees

I was an impressionable teenager and avid consumer of all things grunge in the Northwest in the mid-90s when the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow rose to fame. I remember seeing photos and TV footage of Zamora the Torture King pushing long, thick needles through his skin, the Amazing Mister Lifto hanging cinder blocks from his nipples, and the Enigma with his full-body puzzle tattoo. It was Kurt Cobain approved and it made the normies faint. What's not to love? But there was a dark side, unsurprisingly, I suppose. Circus of the Scars shows that the traveling sideshow wasn't all freaky fun and games behind the scenes. The film is full of interesting vintage footage—the group's appearance on Sally Jessy Raphael's daytime talk show and the first time they toured with Lollapalooza in 1992 are especially fun to see—and it’s fairly low-budget, as far as modern documentaries go. Several of the interviews with former performers are done virtually, but that doesn’t keep people from being candid. Turns out, Jim Rose was kind of a dick at times! Some of his former colleagues describe him as “controlling,” “manipulative,” and a “conman” who was too focused on selling the brand he was building than the people behind it. It's worth seeing if only for the footage of a young Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder chugging down a cocktail made of Matt "the Tube" Crowley's stomach contents. MEGAN SELING

Coldwater Kitchen COURTESY OF SIFF

Coldwater Kitchen

USA, 2020 (120 min.)

Dir. Brian Kaufman and Mark Kurlyandchik

A pensive look at the people cooking and coping while locked up at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan. The documentary follows three men who go through Chef Jimmy Lee Hill’s gourmet culinary program at the prison. The scrumptious shots of ribs, cannolis, and popcorn shrimp are contrasted with sometimes uplifting, but mostly depressing vignettes about the reality of mass incarceration in America. The pace can be slow at times, but the insights into drug addiction, the way a criminal history follows a person, and the isolation that follows after a person is released from prison are all well worth taking the time to learn about this singular program in Michigan. ASHLEY NERBOVIG

Confessions of a Good Samaritan COURTESY OF SIFF

*Confessions of a Good Samaritan

USA, 2023 (105 min)

Dir. Penny Lane

Penny Lane wanted to donate a kidney but she didn’t necessarily want to make a film about it. As the director of several documentaries and films—including the award-winning Nuts!, Our Nixon., and Hail Satan?—Lane is more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. But every day in the United States people die because they don’t get the transplant they need, and Lane knew documenting her journey could help spread awareness. But this film is about so much more than Lane’s journey. It’s a deep dive into all sides of kidney donorship, far beyond just the "Why would anyone do this?" Are people who volunteer for altruistic kidney donation—giving a kidney to a stranger—clinically crazy? If you’re donating a kidney to a stranger, how would you feel if that person’s morals or politics were opposite yours? Why do the communities most impacted by kidney disease have the hardest time finding willing donors, and how far do some people have to go to find a match? Does being an organ donor automatically make you a Good Person? It’s fascinating, poignant, and even funny. And oh boy, the way Dr. Keith Melancon talks about the magic of kidneys is downright delightful. I’ll never look at my urine the same again. MEGAN SELING

Copenhagen Does Not Exist COURTESY OF SIFF

Copenhagen Does Not Exist

Denmark, 2023 (99 min.)

Dir. Martin Skovbjerg

Don’t get me wrong. I love Denmark. I also love Copenhagen. I even admire Søren Kierkegaard. But the same cannot be said about this film, which begins nowhere in particular and ends nowhere in particular. Sure, it’s gorgeous and all of that. But the story, which concerns the disappearance of a young woman, is as interesting as a time-dried carrot. CHARLES MUDEDE

*Demigod: The Legend Begins

Taiwan, 2022 (103 mins.)

Dir. Huang Wen-Chang

So much puppet blood! Demigod: The Legend Begins is a grandiose puppet-opera action film from the Taiwanese production group behind 2000's Legend of the Sacred Stone. Turns out, this "budaixi" style of filmmaking has come a long way in 23 years. Demigod's tiny sets are wonderlands of colorful design, and the film's unique style makes up for its generally incoherent plot. Thankfully, Demigod leans into the inherent humor of its puppet, frozen-face stars portraying a serious tale; it's okay to giggle at moments when Barbie-like hair sways in slow motion between blood-soaked sword swipes. When you're not laughing, you'll cheer at clever camera staging, violent battle choreography, and impressive practical effects. SAM MACHKOVECH

*Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy

United States, 2022 (101 min.)

Dir. Nancy Buirski

Let’s get right to it. This documentary is about a film that made Jon Voight famous, Midnight Cowboy. Back then, Voight played a bisexual prostitute. Today, he is a hardcore member of the MAGA church. He even claims that those who do not support Donald Trump support none other than the Prince of Darkness. Buirski interviews this right-wing nutter, who, when making Midnight Cowboy, was soberly on the left. Does he slip something MAGA related into the doc? I will not say. That would be a SPOILER. This documentary, which is worth your time (it is, after all, about one of the iconic works of American cinema), only complicates our picture of Voight. He is one strange dude. CHARLES MUDEDE    

Douglas Sirk - Hope as in Despair COURTESY OF SIFF

Douglas Sirk - Hope as in Despair

Switzerland, 2022 (75 min.)

Dir. Roman Huben

The mood of this documentary, which orbits one of the greatest directors of the 20th century, Douglas Sirk, is tranquil. It calmly describes Sirk’s life in Germany, his second marriage (to a Jewish actor), the Nazification of his only son (from his first marriage), the stardom his son reached in Nazi films, the death of his son on a battlefield; Sirk’s exile in Los Angeles, his rise as a Hollywood director, his return to Europe after completing 1959, his final film, the masterpiece Imitation of Life. Sirk’s final years were settled in a country that attracted two other Europeans who made their fame in the US (Charlie Chaplin, Vladimir Nabokov). But what made him a great director? This is the answer that can be drawn from Huben’s documentary, which features an interview with America’s Sirk, Todd Haynes (watch Far From Heaven): The social and the intimate cannot be untangled. Politics, class, and race cannot be dissolved by even the most perfect kiss or the passion called love. This is why it’s inaccurate to describe Sirk’s films as melodramas. This description robs his work of its social force. The life of his son was taken by fascism. This German permanently lost his homeland because he loved a German who happened to be Jewish. These profound losses shaped the core of his most famous films. CHARLES MUDEDE

*Egghead and Twinky

USA, 2023 (87 min.)

Dir. Sarah Kambe Holland

Chaotically cute and queer! This Gen-Z-produced film follows a 17-year-old and her best friend Egghead as they drive cross-country to meet Twinky’s crush, BD (Big Dyke). Think Scott Pilgrim but gayer—fun illustrations throughout, colorful text bubbles, and shared internal dialogue. In addition to exploring their gender and sexual identity, Twinky further considers what it means to be an Asian-American teenager in a white-adoptive family. This film is a lighthearted tale of friendship and growing pains. It would be perfect for a teen sleepover or PG-13 family movie night (with like, non-homophobic parents). BRITTNE LUNNISS

*Even Hell Has Its Heroes

USA, 2023 (110 min.)

Dir. Clyde Petersen

Read our interview with director Clyde Petersen here.



Hong Kong, 2020 (200 min.)

Dir. Brillante Mendoza

A meandering tale about a father who takes the fall for his son’s crime, and the son who honestly didn’t deserve the sacrifice. The dad is a lovable character, though all the acting is pretty awkward. The monotone music and long shots of people walking places made it pretty easy to daydream through plot points. If the movie was about 40 minutes shorter, I think it could have been an interesting exploration of loss and the meaning of justice. At its current length though, it’s difficult to recommend. ASHLEY NERBOVIG

Free Money Courtesy of SIFF

*Free Money

USA, 2020 (70 min.)

Dir. Sam Soko and Lauren DeFilippo

A riveting documentary that looks at one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in the world, GiveDirectly. In 2019, the organization launched an experiment to provide 12 years of universal basic income to adults in three African villages. Soko and DeFilippo tracked the project in one village through its first three years. The start is filled with dry humor, as community members weigh whether to sign up for the program and recount the promises of past charities. By the end, I was left uncertain how I felt about the project, but invested in tracking it through its conclusion in 2031. An absolute must-see. ASHLEY NERBOVIG


The Grab

USA, 2022 (105 min.)

Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite

In this groan-inducing documentary from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (who also directed Blackfish), a source gives "Emmy-winning" reporter Nathan Halverson and his crack team of investigative journalists (Mallory Newman and Emma Schwartz) a trove of emails from a bad man that reveals an earth-shattering reality: global capitalism creates competition for resources between countries, which may upset the liberal international order! But now we're not talking about oil—we're talking about food and water. If you can stomach the chest-thumping patriotism, the borderline xenophobia, and the overdetermined Mission Impossible tone, then you may enjoy The Grab's pretty solid and occasionally even kinda funny reporting on different countries competing for food and water as climate change alters the world's agriculture landscape. But the breathless New Cold War framing of the story and the decision to almost totally skip any mention of US colonialism made me roll my eyes too hard to even watch, until the end, where Halverson and the reporters just state plainly the real culprit behind all this pain, suffering, and inequity. Instead of spending 105 minutes watching this, you'd be better served reading a single book about US imperialism. RICH SMITH 

Gloriavale COURTESY of SIFF


Australia, 2022 (89 min.)

Dir. Noel Smyth and Fergus Grady

How do you document a modern-day human rights nightmare without leaving moviegoers hobbled and hopeless? Gloriavale, named after a decades-old New Zealand commune rife with slavery and sexual assault, doesn't necessarily rise to this challenge. Rather, it shaves off the most egregious edges of the real-life story. Some scenes flatly chronicle a multi-million farming empire built on an elaborate tax-dodging scheme. Others focus the camera lens squarely on a few escapees, and their tears and stuttering words suggest that viewers read between the lines. (As but one example, a story about a child's death somehow skips the most commune-damning details found in news reports.) Despite the filmmakers' best efforts and gorgeous cinematography, the resulting film is still quite brutal. Gloriavale plays more like a call to action and outrage, anchored by its compelling survivors, than a settled story of loss and redemption. SAM MACHKOVECH

Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes COURTESY OF SIFF

*Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes

USA, 2023 (96 min.)

Dir. Sam Shahid

Send copies of this documentary to Florida high school art classrooms, stat. Hidden Master handily wins this year's SIFF medal for "most penises per minute"—and does so through the masterful lens of early 20th-century photography pioneer George Platt Lynes, a name you may have only heard attached to the likes of Gertrude Stein. Turns out, the man led one helluva high-society life while innovating the genre of male nude photography, as recounted by enraptured art historians and Lynes's few living contemporaries. Hidden Master presents the remarkable story of how Lynes got so many men in the "cocktail party" art world of 1930s New York to take off their pants in his studio—then shows how, through his incredible photos, he carved their gorgeous bodies into the universe's eternal record. SAM MACHKOVECH

*I Like Movies

Canada, 2022 (100 min.)

Dir. Chandler Levack

A dynamite closer of a film whose affection for cinema that is spelled out in the title becomes intertwined with a more complicated portrait of growing up, I Like Movies is all that a dramedy like this should be. Placing us in the shoes of an aspiring 17-year-old Canadian filmmaker who gets a job at a local video store before he’s supposed to head off to college, it sees him forming an increasingly fraught connection with his boss and trying to come to terms with his future. Sweet without being saccharine, humorous while still having plenty of its heart, and painful without losing its playfulness, it is a quietly truthful triumph of independent film. Eat your heart out, Blockbuster. CHASE HUTCHINSON


King Coal

USA, 2023 (78 min.)

Dir. Elaine McMillion Sheldon

This one really had potential, man. King Coal is half documentary and half ghost story, stitching together everyday scenes of sleepy Appalachian villages in West Virginia and Pennsylvania—teenage girls competing for the title of Coal Queen, a miner giving a pro-coal lecture in an elementary school classroom—and sweeping landscape shots of coal boats drifting down the foggy mountain rivers. Cool idea, but it's dragged down by a maudlin voiceover and just super tedious pacing. It took me four tries to get through this film, despite being pretty fascinated by the subject, it was so alternately boring and corny. Sometimes your cool film idea turns out borny. Oh, well. MEG VAN HUYGEN

LIFT Courtesy of SIFF


USA, 2022 (87 min.)

Dir. David Petersen 

Tears welled in my eyes every 15-20 minutes during this cinematically and structurally beautiful story about a New York City ballet program that serves homeless kids. Steven Melendez, a professional ballet dancer, returns to the shelter where he grew up to shepherd through the ballet program a new generation of homeless children (and their parents), who struggle with the instabilities and indignities the system introduces into their lives. LIFT serves a sterling example of a documentary that looks at one extremely particular thing and ends up saying everything about living life in a city right now. It really makes you want to pay a 0.1% sales tax to increase access to the arts in King County, or attend every middle school dance recital in town and scream your head off for an encore, or call your state and federal representatives to demand they adequately fund housing and transit. Bravo. RICH SMITH 

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes COURTESY OF SIFF

*Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes

USA, 2023 (82 min.)

Dir. Sam Pollard and Ben Shapiro

This crucial music documentary opens with drummer Max Roach rejecting the word "jazz" in no uncertain terms. His work, from his pioneering days in the bebop era to the experimental drum troupe M'Boom, was "African-American music," he counters. With that statement of intent, The Drum Also Waltzes focuses on Roach's decades of combining the musical and political, as anchored by interviews recorded by the co-directors in the 1980s and '90s. Stars like Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, and Questlove pay their respects, while pristine audio, video, and photography cement Roach's place in the musical record. Sadly, a few too many questions about his dense musical and personal life are left unanswered. Still, what’s here is raw, unapologetic, and full of Roach’s unique sense of rhythm—not just behind the drumset. SAM MACHKOVECH

Mom Courtesy of SIFF


Mexico, 2023 (80 min.)

Dir. Xun Sero (Tzotzil)

This is a documentary about director Xun Sero’s mother, their tumultuous past, and hope for the future. The film feels like an ongoing conversation in which Sero follows his mother around with a camera. The production is very simple, and it should be—it’s like taking a secret look into someone’s life story. We come to learn about the unjust violence Sero’s mother experienced throughout her life, and how these experiences are widely shared by women throughout Mexico. Refreshing and raw, Mom is a tale of pain and regret. It is also a tale of the resilience of mothers, particularly in South American cultures. I feel like I know and love Sero’s mother just from watching, and I have a feeling you will too. BRITTNE LUNNISS

*Punderneath it All

USA, 2023 (76 min.)

Dir. Abby Hagan 

I believe puns are the highest and lowest form of humor because they materialize the immaterial (language), which is magic, but they do it in a cheap and often lowbrow way, which is cringey, but, by the end of this film, even I, a lover of puns, was hanging my head and saying, "For the love of god, you people have GOT to stop punning." But my reaction said more about my threshold for certain kinds of puns than it did about Abby Hagan's documentary, which is sweet and touching and funny and full of thoughtful insights on the relationship between language and the self and community. Any doc that does that while enabling yet another open-air pun market in Seattle is worthy of a star in my book. Plus, it's fun to see people you know from around town—or people you'd like to know—in a film. Bonus points for perhaps one of the most quintessential depictions of Olympia, Washington that I've ever seen in my life. RICH SMITH


Satan Wants You

Canada, 2023 (89 min.)

Dir. Sean Harlo and Steve J. Adams

The book Michelle Remembers is partially responsible for the Satanic Panic, a North American freakout in the 1980s that had believe believing Satanists were disguised as everyday people and were killing, disappearing, and ritually sexually abusing children all over the world. This lurid paperback claims that with the help of a therapist (and later husband), a woman recovers long-lost memories of cultists offering her to the Devil as a child bride. In other words, a grift. But the moral panic the book fed in to was very real—it destroyed families and put people in prison. This is a standard Netflix-style afternoon burning documentary, with a scattershot plot and some cheesy reenactments. But its relevance to this age of misinformation may surprise you. VIVIAN MCCALL


USA, 2022 (78 min.)

Dir. Tyler Doehring

I’m 100% sure that Ciro Oliva’s pizzas are amazing. I would race to his joint, Da Concettina ai Tre Santi, without a second thought if I found myself in Naples, Italy. But this documentary about Oliva’s kitchen, city, and pursuit of a Michelin Star, is just not interesting. There is no art in it. Indeed, one feels that the whole thing could have been done in 4 minutes rather than nearly 80. Also, a pizzeria pursuing a Michelin Star is not the great narrative motor the directors apparently imagined it to be. We just want to learn Oliva’s philosophy of food. We want to know what it’s like to eat his great ideas. None of this philosophy is in the documentary. CHARLES MUDEDE

Subtraction Courtesy of SIFF


Iran, 2022 (105 min.)

Dir. Mani Haghighi

Mani Haghighi's psychological thriller, Subtraction, presents Tehran noir at its most exquisite; rust reds and ochres, sand and shadow, near constant rain. Cinematographer Morteza Najafi's moody hues provide the perfect backdrop for incredible performances from Navid Mohammadzadeh and Taraneh Alidoosti, who play a married couple and the doppelgänger couple who upend their lives. The premise allows Haghighi to ratchet up tension as he sadistically pokes and pries at the million anxieties that haunt long-term, monogamous marriages—suspicion, jealousy, insecurity, etc.—but some plot holes make it difficult to suspend disbelief enough to let the story ride without yelling something like, "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST SHOW HER A PHOTOGRAPH??" a couple times throughout the film. Nevertheless, the ride's worth your time. RICH SMITH 


Theater Camp

USA, 2023 (88 min.)

Dir. Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman

The worst thing a comedy can be is one that ends up telling essentially the same joke over and over ad nauseam. While not the most egregious of offenders to do this, Theater Camp still vastly overstays its welcome. Set at a theater camp for youth that has fallen on hard times, it is a film you can feel is stretched from what may have worked as a short though is rather thin as a feature. It has plenty of comedic talent who seemed to have fun making it, but it remains a far cry from being consistently fun to watch. CHASE HUTCHINSON

Year of the Fox

USA, 2023 (97 min.)

Dir. Megan Griffiths

Read our interview with director Megan Griffiths here.