Tonight in Seattle:  

Seattle International Film Festival 2005 preview

Seattle International Film Festival 2005 preview

Seattle International Film Festival 2005 preview

Look out -- here comes SIFF! And even though it's long been considered America's largest film festival, the beast just keeps on growing. Running a full 25 days and featuring a whopping 347 films (110 of which are shorts, but still), it seeks to devour every last millisecond of your free time for the next few weeks.

It's even taking over more of the city than ever before: with the 5/19 Star Wars release putting Pacific Place and the Cinerama off-limits, this time around the U-District's Neptune Theatre, Lower Queen Anne's Uptown and EMP, and even Wallingford's Guild 45th will serve as venues. Ten of this year's flicks are world premieres, 18 are North American premieres, and ten more are just plain-'ol U.S. premieres... because the creature knows where you live.

And so do the SIFF programmers, who by the way love the word 'gala'. There's an Opening Night one 5/19 for the delightfully droll Me and You and Everyone We Know, which is arguably the best (and definitely the indie-est) opener of the five years I've been held in the SIFF monster's grasp. Then four Saturday SIFF Galas, for a few special films in the lineup (The Dying Gaul; Red Dust; Bombón, El Perro; and Côte d'Azur). And finally the Closing Gala, with the widely anticipated North American premiere of Gus Van Sant's Cobain biopic-esque Last Days. That's a lotta galas, huh?

But the non-gala programs and sections and things that I'm most interested in and excited about are:

¡VIVA ARGENTINA! 13 offerings from an area where, according to SIFF press notes, "the fight for independent film was fought and won on the terrain of a new aesthetic, resulting in films that show an amazing range ... exploding with some of the most creative, energetic work being created in film today." The previously-mentioned Bombón, El Perro is part of this section, and is on my must-see list, as is Lucrecia Martel's favorably-buzzing Holy Girl.

EMERGING MASTERS, honoring the work of some real up-and-comers in the global cinema landscape. My favorite Emerging Master is the fabulous Susanne Bier, two of whose delectable Danish treats (2002's Open Hearts and the devastatingly good Brothers, her very latest) will be featured.

No disrespect, of course, to the Already-Emerged Masters whose newest works will be screening. SIFF 2005 offers you fresh François Ozon (5x2), Michael Winterbottom (9 Songs), Wong Kar-wai (2046), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle), Wim Wenders (Land of Plenty), and even Ingmar Bergman (Saraband).

AN AFTERNOON WITH JOAN ALLEN. Because who wouldn't want to spend a post-luncheon PM with this fiercely fabulous three-time Oscar® nominee? She's held her own with some of Hollywood's best and brightest during her 20-year career, and this audience-interactive forum promises to give us a tiny glimpse of her passion and grace.

SHORT FILM PACKAGES. Because it's hard to go wrong with these. I mean if a film sucks you know it'll be over soon, and another one's right up on the horizon. The ¡Cinema Fantastico! and Left Turn programs look most promising.

DOCUMENTARIES. A slew of 'em. Over fifty remarkable first-person nonfiction offerings by talented filmmakers who, and I'll go back to the SIFF press notes for this, "have devoted their energies to the field, producing an astonishing selection of films with an incredibly diverse range of topics". Highlights look to be The Aristocrats, Being Caribou, The Debt, Deep Blue, Three of Hearts, Touch the Sound, and The Well.

And I haven't even mentioned Face the Music, with twelve documentaries on notables like Jeff Buckley and The Gits and Death Cab. Or the oddly-named showcase Spawned in Seattle, with 14 films representing the diversity and creative genius of some of the cinema artists from 'round town. Or the popular returning programs Women in Cinema, Films4Families, Midnight Adrenaline, Fly Filmmaking Challenge, or the Secret Festival. I mean, whew!

Have mercy on us, SIFF monster.

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