Lorenzo Ferro plays the serial killer El Àngel, playing this Saturday (and May 30).

The 25 best days of the year are here—SIFF, the Seattle International Film Festival is upon us! 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 23 movies that our critics think are worth watching this weekend. Highlights include the serial killer thriller El Àngel, Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)'s white-knuckler The Nightingale, and local Stranger Genius Award winner Ben Kasulke's Banana Split. Follow the links below for showtimes, trailers, and ticket links, and check out our SIFF Guide for the full schedule.

THURSDAY ONLY

The Sword of Trust
Lynn Shelton is the first local filmmaker to open the Seattle International Film Festival twice. Her last film to kick off SIFF, Your Sister’s Sister, back in 2012, starred Emily Blunt and was set in the San Juan Islands. Shelton is probably best known for 2009’s Humpday, starring Mark Duplass, or 2014’s Laggies with Kiera Knightley and Sam Rockwell—both films set in the city of Seattle. Her latest, Sword of Trust, starring Marc Maron (who will be in attendance at the SIFF kickoff screening, and whom Shelton has directed on the Netflix show Glow), is her first set outside Washington State. She shot it in Birmingham, Alabama, in a mere two weeks. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
McCaw Hall

FRIDAY ONLY

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

Monos
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 Uptown

FRIDAY–SATURDAY

Good Kisser
Threesomes can be tricky. If someone isn’t up-front about their feelings—or is withholding information—things can get weird. This dynamic is the subject of local director and screenwriter Wendy Jo Carlton’s Good Kisser, which debuts at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. The film opens with couple Kate (Rachel Paulson) and Jenna (Kari Alison Hodge) taking a rideshare to go have some hot threesome-times with the sexy and worldly Mia (Julia Eringer). Filmed in a house in Wallingford, the movie unfolds over the course of one evening. The women play spin the bottle, read palms, rub ice on each other, dance—and there’s a particularly provocative scene with bright lime popsicles. There’s no brashness to the way the women touch each other, but a softness, one that’s still raw, still hot. It’s sapphic as hell. (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & AMC Pacific Place

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)
Ark Lodge Cinemas & SIFF Cinema Uptown

Running with Beto
Beto O'Rourke made headlines for challenging Ted Cruz during his 2018 senatorial campaign. Independent filmmaker David Modigliani was embedded with O'Rourke during the last 12 months of the Texan's unsuccessful—but widely mediatized—campaign. The film focuses not only on the campaign, but on the stresses it puts on O'Rourke (a relative neophyte) and his family.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & Uptown

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes
In 1956, just after graduating college, Anne Innis Dagg went alone to South Africa to study giraffes. She was a pioneer in the research of a single animal in the wild, bringing back amazing film footage and observational notes. After returning from Africa, she earned a PhD, published numerous articles, wrote a foundational textbook on giraffes, and got into teaching. She wanted to do more giraffe research but found her way frustratingly blocked by sexist attitudes. So she worked to expose gender bias in academia and the failure to support women’s research. There’s been an effort lately to shine a light on women whose work may not have been adequately recognized before, and this doc shows the important scientific contributions and fascinating life of a giraffe-loving feminist pioneer. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Ark Lodge Cinemas

FRIDAY & SUNDAY

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)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & AMC Pacific Place

SATURDAY ONLY

El Àngel
Serial-killer mania isn’t just happening in the United States. Carlos Robledo Puch, Argentina’s famous baby-faced serial killer, is getting his own strangely sexy biopic, rivaling the slew of films coming out about Washington State’s most famous Republican, Ted Bundy. Known as “The Angel of Death,” Puch—who, at the time of his arrest, looked like a young Leonardo DiCaprio with Shirley Temple curls—was convicted of 11 murders, multiple rapes, and many robberies, among other crimes. Starring the precocious, talented, and charismatic Lorenzo Ferro as Puch, the film is less of a character study and more of a smutty (and pretty gay) romp through Puch’s crimes. Ferro’s confusingly electric chemistry with his costar Chino Darín will make you spend the whole film asking yourself: Are these murderers ever going to fuck? It’s hot, but also people die. (CHASE BURNS)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

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)
Lincoln Square Cinemas

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)
Lincoln Square Cinemas

International Falls
International Falls has a similar feel to Fargo—the setting is a small, frozen Minnesota town whose residents are made up of friendly kooks—and its humor is dark, though the morbid plot device doesn’t happen until the film is almost over. Rachael Harris is radiant and perfectly cast as the subtly funny Dee, a middle-aged wife and mother stuck in a tedious job and a marriage that has obviously gone past its expiration date. Rob Huebel is Tim, a depressed comedian who comes to International Falls to perform his admittedly not-very-good stand-up at Dee’s hotel. It’s ostensibly about two people who use each other—and comedy—to deal with real-life shit. But it’s also about the momentary comfort we find in strangers, how deeply you can get to know someone in a brief period while never really knowing them at all, and how a person can completely change your life without ever really being a part of it. It will leave you feeling both sad and supremely satisfied. (LEILANI POLK)
Ark Lodge Cinemas

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)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

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 Uptown

The Phantom of the Opera
Austin indie-rock band the Invincible Czars will provide a live soundtrack to Rupert Julian's 1925 version of the gothic horror classic The Phantom of the Opera. We hope they don't shy away from the organ.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

SATURDAY–SUNDAY

3 Faces
Dissident director Jafar Panahi has been persecuted and jailed in Iran, and banned from making films or traveling abroad. Since then, he has produced several unauthorized films, sometimes having to smuggle them out of the country. In 3 Faces, he stars with actress Behnaz Jafari, each playing a version of themselves in this fictional story that finds them lured to a rural village after receiving a disturbing video from a young woman. The film is shot in Panahi’s neorealist style, with long, meditative scenes of everyday interactions and naturalist dialogue. But throughout, the themes of how Iranian culture sees “entertainers,” the subjugation and harassment of women, and the hardships and persistence of the old ways of thinking are revealed. The film won an award for best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
Lincoln Square Cinemas & SIFF Cinema Uptown

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)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & AMC Pacific Place

Eastern Memories
You’d think there would be more egregious displays of Orientalism in a documentary that fuses the journal entries of a late-19th-century Finnish diplomat (G.J. Ramstedt) with visually stunning, modern-day footage of Mongolia and Japan, but these documentarians largely avoid that. The film mostly focuses on Ramstedt’s observations of Mongolian and Japanese philosophy, namely various iterations of the notion of impermanence. The juxtaposition of the contemporary footage with the voice-over of Ramstedt’s journal nicely demonstrates East Asian expressions of the concept of permanent impermanence, and many of his observations about language are fascinating, if not occasionally dour. Top of my list of films to watch either completely stoned or extremely sober. (RICH SMITH)
AMC Pacific Place & Majestic Bay

SUNDAY ONLY

Cold Case Hammarskjöld
In 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash on his way to Congo to oversee ceasefire negotiations between UN forces and the Katanga rebels. For years, many have suspected foul play over the official's demise. Hammarskjöld may have been too anti-colonialist for certain UN powers' states, for one thing. In this muckraking documentary, Mads Brügger makes the case that Hammarskjöld's strange death was just one result of an incredibly evil conspiracy. Whether you buy everything he claims or not (and the New York Times has challenged some of his most incendiary implications), he unveils some truly shocking facts.
SIFF Cinema Uptown

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

Pachamama
Named for the earth/fertility goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes, Juan Antin’s César-nominated animated adventure follows two precocious youths and their trusty animal companions from a small Peruvian village at the edge of the vast Incan empire. They embark on a quest to the royal capital (which ends up besieged by Spanish conquerors) to retrieve a sacred statue forcibly taken by an Incan overlord. Antin’s gorgeously wrought 3-D CGI animation is inspired by vibrant indigenous art, and has a soft, simple, and whimsical feel, like a children’s storybook. Paired with a soundtrack that features pre-Columbian music (ancient water flutes included) and themes of love, respect, and gratitude to our earth threaded throughout, Pachamama entertains, charms, and introduces a new culture to younger viewers. The film was acquired by Netflix and will be available for streaming in June. (LEILANI POLK)
AMC Pacific Place

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.
Lincoln Square Cinemas

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 mineing company lost. But now Trump is in office, and Bristol Bay is threatened once again. The Wild tells this new story.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian