Alison Janney and Viola Davis star with Mckenna Grace in the sweet-natured '70s-set Troop Zero.

We're in week three of SIFF, the Seattle International Film Festival, one of the very best events Seattle has to offer! 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 34 movies that our critics think are worth watching this week. Highlights include the snarky new Mindy Kaling/Emma Thompson comedy Late Night, Charles Mudede's work-in-progress Thin Skin, and the documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool. Follow the links below for showtimes, trailers, and ticket links, and check out our SIFF Guide for the full schedule.

MONDAY ONLY

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Afterlife
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)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

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)
Shoreline Community College

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

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 Egyptian

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)
Lincoln Square Cinemas

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 Uptown

Stuffed
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)
Shoreline Community College

Thin Skin
Get a sneak peek of Stranger film critic Charles Mudede's upcoming film Thin Skin—starring musician, comedian, and frequent Mudede collaborator Ahamefule Oluo—followed by an onstage interview with the creative team.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

MONDAY & THURSDAY

Take It or Leave It
This Estonian story follows a man who’s thrust into unexpected fatherhood and his struggle to be seen as a capable parent. Erik is a peripatetic construction worker and an immature hothead. His ex-girlfriend calls unexpectedly to tell him she had a baby, and it’s his. When she says she doesn’t want the baby, he must decide if he will take the baby or give her up for adoption. Affecting without being overly sentimental, the film looks at the role of fathers and society’s expectations of them, learning to care about someone else instead of just yourself, and finding strength you didn’t know you had. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
AMC Pacific Place & SIFF Cinema Uptown

MONDAY & THURSDAY–FRIDAY

Piazzolla, The Years of the Shark
Astor Piazzolla was a genius bandoneon player (the instrument looks like an accordion) who caught tons of flak for revolutionizing tango with gestures from jazz and classical composition. Sort of like what A Tribe Called Quest did for hiphop, or what Magma did for rock. This documentary weaves together two stories with newly found archival footage and home movies. The first story is Piazzolla’s rise to international acclaim, and the second is about his son, Daniel Rosenfeld, the film’s director, who’s been tasked to preserve his father’s legacy while also facing their complicated past. Both stories don’t hold tons of tension, but the music makes the movie worth a watch. And, I mean, this man changed tango with a squeeze box. What did you ever do? (RICH SMITH)
AMC Pacific Place, SIFF Cinema Uptown, Kirkland Performance Center

TUESDAY–WEDNESDAY

Fight Fam
There isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking or moving about this short, locally produced documentary from Ruben Rodriguez Perez, created in part with funds from a 4Culture award grant. It’s about Amy and Dex Montenegro, the matriarch and patriarch of an Issaquah family, who are both mixed martial arts fighters. It touches on how they met (training at the same gym), how they support each other’s careers, and the three daughters they’re raising and coaching to be the next generation of fighters (two wrestle, one boxes). The competitions in the film create a nice sense of tension and drama while also offering an intriguing glimpse at a segment of the population many of us probably don’t know much about, showing how MMA has grown from cult status into a full-fledged spectator sport. (LEILANI POLK)
AMC Pacific Place & SIFF Cinema Uptown

Roll Red Roll
Steubenville, Ohio, is synonymous with two things these days: high-school football and sexual assault. They go hand in hand. There’s a line in Roll Red Roll, Nancy Schwartzman’s documentary about the 2012 Steubenville rape case, that goes something like this: “This is not a victim-blame BUT…” and then the speaker, the defense attorney for one of the high-school boys who raped a teenage girl at a party, predictably goes on to victim-blame her. Rape culture, and the social-media posts that added fuel to the fire, are laid bare in this expertly shot, explicit, and hard-to-watch film. Also, did you know Anonymous, the hacker group, got involved? Me neither. (NATHALIE GRAHAM)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY & FRIDAY

Emma Peeters
A woman struggling to make it as an actor in working-class Paris is starting to wonder if she will ever get a break. She takes acting classes where she is overlooked for the young hotties, lives in a tiny apartment, works an unsatisfying sales job, and does ineffectual singing bowl therapy. Since she hates everything about her life, she decides to kill herself on her 35th birthday, “the expiration date for actresses.” She begins working her way through her list of things to do before she dies, like giving away her stuff and having more sex. The film has a European, lighthearted sensibility and is full of somewhat dark absurdist comedy. It isn’t the depressing story you would think from hearing the plot, and there is a refreshing through line of respecting her decision to not live anymore. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
Shoreline Community College, SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Cinema Egyptian

TUESDAY & SUNDAY

Pause
After a fateful encounter at the doctor’s office, a long-suffering Mediterranean housewife finds herself bombarded by visions of a life without her boorish husband. Said daydreams rarely end peacefully. Tonia Mishiali’s absorbingly odd directorial debut keeps the viewer hopping throughout, combining grim routine and violent flights of fancy to fascinatingly wobbly effect. (A running gag involving a chatty neighbor with a fondness for cosmetic surgery just kills, every time.) The film jumps between humdrum reality and surreal gallows humor with ease, anchored (barely) by Stella Fyrogeni’s tremendously adaptable lead performance. Whenever her eyes get that faraway look, watch out. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Lincoln Square Cinemas & SIFF Cinema Uptown

WEDNESDAY ONLY

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)
Shoreline Community College

WEDNESDAY & FRIDAY

In Fabric
We’ve seen inanimate objects that become carriers of evil—from cars to houses to dolls to a VHS tape. But what about a dress? Peter Strickland’s homage to giallo (Italian horror films) is a dark satire about consumerism that follows a cursed, life-destroying garment (killer couture!) after its latest victim/owner, Sheila (played by the great British actor Marianne Jean-Baptiste), purchases it from a department store that happens to be run by witches. The LA Times calls it “a movie of ravishing colors and textures that ultimately elevates style and sensuality into something genuinely meaningful.” (LEILANI POLK)
AMC Pacific Place & SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Miles Davis was one of the greatest musicians ever. He was also a nasty motherfucker. Stanley Nelson’s documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool pivots on these two immutable elements of the jazz trumpeter’s existence with a penetrating, analytical approach that doesn’t stint on emotion. It’s about as rewarding a dissection of a great artist and problematic human as one could hope for in under two hours. Nelson enlists an elite cadre of Davis’s bandmates, wives and lovers, childhood friends, family members, promoters, music critics and historians, managers, label bosses, and Carlos Santana to provide key insights into this tormented genius. They’re generous with praise, but not afraid to call out the man’s faults, of which there were plenty. While the film’s commenters deem Davis the epitome of a hip black man who took no shit, he was also physically and mentally abusive to some of his wives and girlfriends, actions that would likely get him “canceled” today. Nelson fairly presents Davis’s blemishes and virtues, but he ultimately can’t help elevating Davis to godhead status. (DAVE SEGAL)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & SIFF Cinema Uptown

THURSDAY ONLY

DJ NicFit Presents Fantastic Planet
I was really stoned watching the animated French film, Fantastic Planet, for good reason—it’s trippy as fuck and can only be truly appreciated after a bong hit or two. In the distant future, humans are stolen from Earth and taken to the plant Ygam where they are kept as pets to a race of technologically advanced giant blue humanoids called Draags. The film follows a group of rebellious humans attempting to escape from Ygam to the Fantastic Planet where they are safe from the tyranny of these giant blue freaks. The Draags are a little disturbing to look at—their freaky, unblinking red eyes seem like they're beaming right into your soul. And the other creatures that inhabit this world are equally peculiar, coming straight out of the deep recesses of a surrealist subconscious. The otherworldly animated classic about the small human-like Oms and their much larger blue-skinned oppressors is presented by Seattle's own DJ NicFit, who parallels the film's themes with those of alternative-rock icons The Flaming Lips. (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

El Ángel
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

Non-Fiction
Starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, Non-Fiction tells the story of a Parisian writer who blurs the line between fact and fiction by drawing on his real-life love affairs in his incendiary new novel, setting off a chain reaction in his social circle. This flirty, chatty, smart comedy is French and bohemian as hell: Everyone is cheating on each other, having a midlife crisis, expounding on the nature of romantic relationships, and voicing loud opinions about technology. But Non-Fiction feels like breezy, seductive, European fun. So much so, you’ll need a cigarette afterward. (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
Kirkland Performance Center

THURSDAY–FRIDAY

Meeting Gorbachev
"Mikhail Sergeyevich, please allow me to explain myself," says Werner Herzog. "I am a German, and the first German that you probably met wanted to kill you." So begins Herzog's affecting documentary about Mikhail Gorbachev, built chiefly around three conversations with the former leader of the Soviet Union—a once-titanic figure who, at age 87, Herzog now describes as "a deeply lonesome man." Particularly given America's current relations with Russia, Meeting Gorbachev feels disarmingly affectionate—"Everything about Gorbachev was genuine," Herzog reflects—but the director never loses his usual clear-eyed gaze. Meeting Gorbachev also offers plenty of historical context, examining events that shaped not only the Soviet Union, but the world: Chernobyl, nuclear disarmament, perestroika and glasnost, an attempted coup, the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. (Since this is a Herzog film, there's also a sequence in which the director tells viewers how to kill garden slugs with open jars of beer.) (ERIK HENRIKSEN)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & Shoreline Community College

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)
AMC Pacific Place

THURSDAY & SATURDAY

Our Bodies Our Doctors
Nearly half a century after the US Supreme Court legalized abortion, the access to actually getting one is continually shrinking. But at the same time that states all across the US are making it harder, if not impossible, to get this basic health-care procedure, doctors are dutifully committed to serving their patients. Through the stories of abortion doctors in four different cities and towns, Our Bodies Our Doctors explores the stigma attached to this profession, the reality of working in an abortion clinic, and how a number of brave physicians continue to fight for their patients despite the cost to themselves. (KATIE HERZOG)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & AMC Pacific Place

THURSDAY & SUNDAY

Carmen & Lola
Arantxa Echevarría’s assured debut revolves around two Roma teens in Madrid. The brassy Carmen, a high-school dropout, can’t wait to get married and become a hairdresser. The solitary Lola, a graffiti artist and closeted lesbian, longs to be a teacher. The women meet while working at their family’s market stalls, lust blooming with the touch of a hand. Soon they’re sneaking out for smoke breaks and passionate kisses. The potential for tragedy comes from their patriarchal community’s inability to accept same-sex romance, but the possibility for triumph lies with their stubbornness and strength. Bonus: The riot of sequins with which their culture celebrates even the most mundane occasions. (KATHY FENNESSY)
Lincoln Square Cinemas & SIFF Cinema Uptown

FRIDAY–SATURDAY

#FemalePleasure
Women in the US and other Western nations owe a lot to feminist movements. Not only are we no longer considered the property of a man, we can actually vote, run for office, own real estate, not get legally raped by our husbands, and (at least at this moment) have abortions. Women elsewhere haven’t been so lucky, and this is painfully apparent in #Female Pleasure, the 2018 documentary by Swiss director Barbara Miller that focuses on how women’s sexuality is viewed in places where women are treated more like it’s the 6th century than the 21st. It also examines the fundamentally unfair and destructive ways that female pleasure and male pleasure are viewed in these societies. The film profiles five women who have emerged from under the heavy weight of inequality to find some kind of liberation. (KATIE HERZOG)
SIFF Cinema Uptown & AMC Pacific Place

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)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins
Did you know one of George W. Bush’s most ardent critics was a journalist from his own state? Molly Ivins was the loudest liberal voice covering the Texas legislature. She eventually followed the Bush clan from the state house to the White House. But that was hardly the height of her career. Ivins had long made a name for herself as a journalist. Her sometimes abrasive style was unique and boisterous. In Raise Hell, Ivins’s story clips along breezily, punctuated by her dry wit. It’s an easy watch, but it’ll leave you wondering: What would the late Ivins have thought of the White House’s current tenant? (NATHALIE GRAHAM)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

FRIDAY & SUNDAY

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers
This is one of my favorite cult films of all time. Originally a big flop in Japan, this colorful musical biopic of a fictional new-wave duo in 1980s-era Tokyo has slowly made a comeback, now touring the international circuit as a cult gem. The son of manga genius Osamu Tezuka (Astroboy, Metropolis), director Macoto Tezuka’s visual style is masterful in his first feature, depicting a wild, unique subculture (the Japanese avant-garde new wave) at its apex. If you're curious, the ’80s-era clips from the Instagram account @nippon.tv are good examples of what you’re getting yourself into. (CHASE BURNS)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

SATURDAY–SUNDAY

Late Night
It’s 2019, and there are still no female late-night television hosts. In many respects, this isn’t surprising. But thankfully we have writers like Mindy Kaling to flesh out a world in which there’s one who has existed for 20 years. In Late Night, Kaling plays Molly Patel, a “diversity hire” in the writers room of Emma Thompson’s intimidating (and secretly, delightful) Katherine Newbury, a legendary late-night host who’s on the verge of being fired unless she changes up her act. This R-rated comedy doesn’t break the mold, but it is still a fun and engaging watch. (JASMYNE KEIMIG)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & SIFF Cinema Uptown

Swinging Safari
Few countries have a knack for tales of the tacky quite like Australia, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert director Stephan Elliott’s semiautobiographical outing is an explosion of polyester and lacquered hair. In Wonder Years–style voice-over, an adult Jeff Marsh remembers a 1970s summer dominated by the Jones family—including love interest Melly—on one side, and the Halls on the other. A screening of Jaws spurs him to become a filmmaker, and his Super 8 films punctuate the action. If it starts from a place of fun, the vibe in the cul-de-sac turns as rotten as a beached whale after the adults indulge in a key party. There’s a lesson here about the limits of permissive parenting, but it’s mostly a Martin Parr–like evocation of a cartoonishly narcissistic time. (KATHY FENNESSY)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & Shoreline Community College

SUNDAY ONLY

Ghost Fleet
Faced with a labor shortage and driven to distant waters by overfishing, Thai fishing fleets have been kidnapping and enslaving young men, some of whom never return home. Those who survive accidents, beatings, and torture in “company prisons” are sometimes stranded in Indonesia for years. Enter Patima Tungpuchayakul, who heads a labor rights organization in Bangkok. Her small team, including former slave Tun Lin, sets out on a mission to bring these men back and fights for them to be compensated. Anyone who eats store-bought seafood should watch this documentary, which reveals how an ecological crisis is worsening a widespread human-rights travesty. (JOULE ZELMAN)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Support the Girls
Before there was mumble rap, there was mumblecore, and many believe that Andrew Bujalski’s debut film, Funny Ha Ha, is the first film in this genre, which produced many boring films but also launched the careers of a few movie stars, like Mark Duplass and Greta Gerwig. Bujalski s Support the Girls is instantly interesting because, unlike other films by this white director, it has black people in it. More than that, it stars a black woman. Even more than that, the star is none other than a veteran of black cinema, Regina Hall. She plays Lisa, a woman who manages Double Whammy, a restaurant that is somewhere between Hooters and Fado Irish Pub. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

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)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Troop Zero
Any film that has Viola Davis and Allison Janney in one lineup (not to mention Jim Gaffigan and Mike Epps) is one you want to watch. Set in 1977, Troop Zero is about a misfit 9-year-old girl named Christmas (played by the adorable Mckenna Grace of Gifted fame) who desperately wants to get her voice on NASA’s Voyager Golden Record, and the lengths she goes to with help from her crew of oddball misfit pals. (LEILANI POLK)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian