Tonight in Seattle:  

SIFF 2015: Closing Weekend Highlights

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

OK, SIFF procrastinators, this weekend is your last chance to partake in this year's grand cinema binge... until the "best of fest" program rolls around next weekend at the Uptown. But who knows what'll be included in that lineup. (I'll preview it for you when I find out.)

In the meantime, I can give my seal of approval to two very good films I've seen already, and my safe-bet certification to a few more I plan to stand in queue for, all on offer during SIFF 2015's final weekend (6/5 - 6/7).


Eisenstein in Guanajuato
{6/6 7p Harvard Exit, 6/7 5p Uptown}
Septuagenarian filmmaking dynamo Peter Greenaway gives us a challenging, visually ambitious, downright playful film about Sergei Eisenstein's misadventures in Mexico in the early '30s during production of ¡Que Viva Mexico! (an Eisenstein-unapproved version of which will also screen during closing weekend). Greenaway's typically dizzying pictoralism, sex-and-death juxtapositions, and unapologetic salaciousness are all present, as is his unending devotion to sheer experimentation: he remains one of cinema's last true innovators, and no film of his should be overlooked, ever.

The Wolfpack
{6/5 7p Uptown, 6/6 11a Egyptian}
Enthralling, often seriously creepy documentary about a nine-member family sequestered for nearly two decades in a Manhattan housing project. The film focuses on the six brothers, the off-kilter inner lives they've developed after copious consumption of Hollywood home videos, and their efforts to step outside the bizarrely arbitrary boundaries set by their once-devout Hare Krishna father. A big Sundance winner, and a strong contender for best non-fiction film of the fest.


SIFF Take: Cartel Land

Cartel Land SIFF 2015

A documentary about a Mexican vigilante group fighting drug cartels! And: a documentary about the Arizona Border Recon fighting drug cartels! And: a story about how hopeless it is to fight drug cartels!

It’s really hard to take your eyes off Cartel Land—even when you might need to (re: graphic images of cartel victims). The most compelling subject is Autodefensas leader Dr. Jose Mireles (above)—and that’s all I can say without giving anything away. This isn’t a pleasant watch, but boy howdy it’s informative … and terrifying.

{Cartel Land screens at SIFF 6/1, 6:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown, and again 6/2, 4pm at The Harvard Exit. Director Matthew Heineman is scheduled to attend both screenings} 

Sasquatch 2015 - Monday: Alvvays, Courtney Barnett, Kendrick Lamar, Run The Jewels, Tame Impala, THEE Satisfaction

at The Gorge

Sasquatch Music Festival 2015

Getting things started right on Monday afternoon were Seattle hip-hop R&B duo THEE Satisfaction. With local producer and beat maker O.C. Notes as their DJ, MC”s Stas and Cat vibed their way through a set filled with cool jams and some heavy beats. The bass in this set hit HARD. The duo even worked out some choreographed moved, and they played off of each other really well. Young rapper and fellow Sasquatch performer Porter Ray even joined the group onstage to spit a verse.

As the weather started to take a slight turn towards the ugly side, Courtney Barnett and co. took the main stage and put on a pretty powerful show. Winds and light rain started to infiltrate the festival in the middle of her set, and with roadies frantically running around stage behind her and with wind blowing all around her, Barnett ripped through her catalogue of fantastic rock songs.


Sasquatch 2015 - Sunday: James Blake, St Paul and the Broken Bones, St. Vincent, Temples

at The Gorge

Sasquatch Music Festival 2015

One of the pleasant surprises (at least for me) was the late afternoon Bigfoot stage performance from the Birmingham soul septet St Paul and the Broken Bones. Front man Paul Janeway sang with a ton of energy. He’s got a voice that seems to have an Otis Redding tone to it, with some occasional touches of Al Green. Backed by a pretty solid backing band, he worked the crowd with his pipes and energetic dance moves and spent most of his time on the catwalk at the front of the stage. Towards the end of the set they performed a couple covers of some soul classics; Sam Cooke’s “Shake” and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”.

Following St Paul on the Bigfoot stage, Temples brought their 70’s influenced psych rock and huge, chugging guitar sound in all its glory. The quartet broke out a new song titled “Henry’s Cake”, and although it started out soft and melodic, it didn’t take long to get loud and heavy. Watching this set I couldn’t help but imagine the band walking around in the artist areas trying to meet Robert Plant.


SIFF Take: The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse is based on the true story of Genesis Potini, a bipolar Maori former chess champion. His older brother, the only one who can secure his release from the mental hospital, has had his own choices whittled away by extreme poverty until only compromise remains. The outside, then, offers Genesis liberty, but no haven. So he looks for purpose, something to help him focus his attention as he gingerly protects his fragile sanity, like an easily distracted hen corralling her chick. He seizes on a scheme to teach a group of cast-off kids to play chess. To bring them to a tournament in Aukland. To find an outlet for the bounty of knowledge and compassion that’s been tangled in the chemistry of his brain. And to try to offer some sanctuary to his nephew (Boy’s James Rolleston in a heartbreaking performance), who’s set to inherit his father’s all-but-optionless life.

After it screened on Saturday night at SIFF Cinema Uptown, the film and its star Cliff Curtis received a several-minute standing ovation from the crowd, and who knows how long we would have stayed standing had Curtis not finally shushed us. Every performance defies superlatives. It’s an extraordinary, tremendous film. 

{The Dark Horse screens at SIFF 6/3, 4:00 at The Harvard Exit} 


Latest comment by: imaginary embracey: "

So sorry to've missed this. Fingers crossed for a proper release (or inclusion in the Best of SIFF program)!