SIFF Recommendations: Week 3 and Beyond

​May 30 - June 8

Ballet 422

Wetlands Screenings: May 30 and June 6 Not for the queasy or the prude, Wetlands is a bizarrely tuned exploration of the teenage psyche in the aftermath of trauma. Seventeen-year-old Helen’s hygienic and sexual habits frame her story. She’s an average teenager, except that she does a lot of things with her body that would make anyone else sick. Somehow Wetlands makes these happenings (often involving bodily fluids) intriguing, laughable, and maybe even understandable. It’s a compelling watch, if you can stomach it. - Kali S.

Ballet 422 Screenings: June 2 and 3 There’s no doubt that ballet is absolutely fascinating. The limber bodies, flowing costumes, and synchronized music of even the most standard ballet performance can leave viewers in awe. But what does it take to create that effect? Ballet 422 offers some insight. The documentary follows choreographer Justin Peck as he creates the New York City Ballet’s 422nd original piece. Not too surprisingly, the creative process rivals the result. - Kali S.

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A “Perfect” Baby

​Review of B for Boy at SIFF by Kelsey G.

B for Boy is a powerful film about one strong woman’s struggle between staying true to herself and following her Igbo culture. Amaka is a 40-year-old Nigerian woman who is pregnant with her second child. Her first child is a daughter, so during this pregnancy there is pressure from her culture and her husband’s family to bear a son. If she does not bear a son there is the possibility that her husband will take a second wife.

During the third trimester of her pregnancy, a few days after she learns she is having a boy, the baby dies in utero and she learns she cannot conceive any more children. To add to that struggle, her husband’s brother dies, leaving her husband as the sole heir of the family name, putting even more pressure on Amaka to have a boy. As the movie continues it shows the story of how she deals with that knowledge and how much outside pressure she receives to have a boy and what it pushes her to do.

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A Tender Teenage Tale

​Review of Boys at SIFF by Vida Behar

Boys, a film from the Netherlands directed by Mischa Kamp is unbearably tender. It’s about Sieger, a 15-year-old who is recently motherless during a stifling summer in which he grapples with his burgeoning attraction toward Marc, his new track-and-field teammate.

The setting of the film is beautiful, especially the prominently featured pond area. There's an old rickety bridge, dark murky waters, lily pads scattered across the mirror-like surface of the water, and a leafy canopy — all of these contributing greatly to the intensity of the scenes. The beauty of nature is actually an important theme of Boys, because it mirrors the beauty between Sieger and Marc.

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Six African Shorts

​Review of African Metropolis at SIFF by Daniel G.

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I’ll start right off by saying the one element of African Metropolis anyone can enjoy is that it starts off fast. There’s no fancy or a drawn out introduction sequence. That being said, the rest of the film is an utter rollercoaster. It’s actually six short 10-15 minute films, and each one is drastically different. Thus the only way to properly criticize and praise the film is to review the films individually.

The first film, "Homecoming," set in Nairobi, is the tale of a man obsessed with an engaged woman. He escapes into fantasy worlds where he saves her life, but in each daydream the man is still defeated by her fiancée. From a psychological standpoint it’s fascinating, but the poor acting and pacing make the film suffer as a whole, which is too bad because I couldn’t help but wonder if this idea could’ve been fleshed out and made this opening story more engaging in return.

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24 Hour Photo

​Review of Time Lapse at SIFF by Daniel G.

This is one of the most heart-pounding movies I've ever seen. It's a brilliant psychological and supernatural story that asks the question, “What would you do if you knew your future exactly 24 hours ahead of time?” Though it sounds tacky, Time Lapse is far from it.

The story, though it has a couple additional characters, mostly focuses on three friends and roommates: Jasper, Finn, and Callie. The group finds one of their local residents missing, and when they go to check on him, they find a machine that shoots photos into their living room, but with the added twist that it's 24 hours into the future. And from there things go into the obvious downward spiral of distrust and tragedy.

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Exploring the Inner Mind of a Serial Killer

​Review of Cannibal at SIFF by Vida Behar

Cannibal, a Spanish thriller directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca, is about a Carlos, a Granada tailor with a concealed desire for human flesh who has to grapple with the fact that he has fallen in love with his next prospective victim. In the words of Carlos, “I kill them. And I eat them.”

There are many splendid aspects of this movie, especially the unique cinematography. Much of the beginning shots feature small pockets bright of light in an ocean in darkness and were either very zoomed out so that the only thing the viewer sees is taking up a tiny fraction of the screen and everything else is just darkness, or focusing on the faces of the characters to the point that they hardly looked like faces and instead just like patches of light. This kind of “light in a tunnel of darkness” aesthetic is used when the tailor, Carlos, is in a dark place and is symbolic of his tainted mind, whereas in other parts of the movie it is the opposite where the viewer sees an ocean of white snow with just two black figures, which is symbolic of the purity and uncontaminated nature of his psyche when he is with his amour.

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A Cautionary Tale of Leaving Your Values in Purgatory

​Review of A Patriotic Man at SIFF by Daniel G.

It's interesting to see a foreign take on patriotism; so much of the American conception of it is mostly seen as a stereotype. But how does it manifest in other countries? More specifically, in Finland? That seems to be one of many questions that A Patriotic Man attempts to answer, and it doesn't completely fail on that front. But in terms of lighthearted entertainment, the movie lacks just enough to be something even of satirical nature. I truly wanted to enjoy the film. It's a story based on true events with completely fictional characters, but unfortunately those same characters are actually what makes the film feel so bland at points. None of them feel entertaining or as if they have depth. The main character Toivo feels more like the type who's just too blank from beginning to end. He never changes who he is and that makes him feel as if he's a blank easel that other people write on and then wipe away before any significant changes can be made, which makes him mostly unlikable.

Surprisingly, the real concept outshines all the characters as a whole. The basic idea of athletes so determined to win that they'll be willing to submit to near-daily blood transfusions from Toivo (who has massive amounts of hemoglobin that any athlete could use for better performance) is interesting, which makes it too bad that the events of the film feel so mismatched with the characters. The second strongest component of A Patriotic Man is its wit, which comes with its ups and downs. It's supposed to be a comedy, but the best you'll be able to draw is some smart one-liners. It's more akin to another anti-hero tale that's morally gray, which wouldn't be bad if I had come into the movie expecting the latter. The director does a fantastic job of capturing this, and the cinematography is stellar as well. It's great that the few moments of comedy are so intelligent, but it's disappointing that there's so little.

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SIFF Recommendations: Week 2

​May 23 - 29

Desert Runners Screenings: May 23 and 24 In Desert Runners a group of amateur runners all decide to attempt the same feat and complete all four of the major desert runs on the planet in one year. These races are in some of the windiest, driest, hottest and coldest places on earth and are hundreds of kilometers, but hey, marathons were getting pretty cliche. Whether or not you’re a runner, these absurd and sometimes desperate journeys will bewilder and fascinate you. - Emily H.

Standing Aside, Watching Screenings: May 23 and 25 Protagonist Antigone refuses to do what the title of this film suggests when she returns to her hometown and finds it violently controlled by a group of thugs. Domestic violence, bribes, threats, and crime cover-ups don’t sit well with Antigone, but she’s the only one willing to do something about it. Paired with expertly framed landscape and architecture shots, Antigone’s tale makes Standing Aside, Watching, a surprisingly quiet, yet heart-racing thriller. - Kali S.

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Everything Will Be OK

​Review of Obvious Child at SIFF by Kali Swenson

Joining the ranks of Girls, Broad City, and Frances Ha, Obvious Child is humorous take on young life’s tragedies. The plight of the 20-something female has become a genre unto itself, and Obvious Child exemplifies this oeuvre. The film is a lighthearted, hilarious depiction of the heartbreak, job changes, and personal growth punctuating that rollercoaster of a decade.

Obvious Child is a feel-good comedy not just in its humor, but in that the plot can certainly make one feel better about the situations of their own life. Though it must be obvious that such “tragedies” should be taken with a grain of salt, this genre is popular because the depiction of 20-something crises feels all too real for many (Trust me; I’m 22.), and it’s a relief to see others similarly struggling and still coming out OK on the other end.

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Living Simply and Simply Living

​Review of Garden Lovers at SIFF by Sophie Ding

Virpi Suutari's documentary Garden Lovers is a fascinating study on art and relationships. The slice of life film, which focuses on middle class life in Finland through the vector of gardening, is exquisitely crafted. Almost too exquisitely, actually. Just seconds in, I was struck with how well-made the images I was seeing were. Was I looking at a high-budget commercial for some multinational corporation? The frame just looked too good, too beautiful, soft and muted and finely lit. The camera movement and angles were weirdly perfect. A film about gardening involves things like dirt and physical labor, but even the gritty was idyllic, set to a charming score. So many documentaries are closer to the style of hard news, filled with pertinent information, raw visuals, and agendas. Garden Lovers is closer to an art film than a documentary, though it's really both; it's a documentary that is also a work of art. No shot looks unplanned, though it might have been. The exquisite gentleness of the film speaks favorably about the skill of the creative team and the preparation, which makes us care about something — hobbyist gardening — that doesn't seem like something to care about. This juxtaposition makes the film interesting. The story of a simple way of life is being told in a way that appears simple but is actually meticulous. The film offers a slow pan of a man engrossed in potted plants on a table while a woman and her baby perform acrobatics in the background. The slow, uneventful bucolic life is punctuated with ambition — will this year's pumpkins bring home a championship title? We learn that the typical Finnish homicide is between friends after drinking and glimpse a very different life a crime scene investigator lives when he's not gardening.

Appearances and creative vision aside, what's the viewing experience like? Well, it's slow. Garden Lovers is not about anything particularly important or awe-inspiring, yet it's not boring. It's relaxing in the uninterrupted, methodical way that weeding is (but with less pressure on the knees). "Forget clothing stores. We don't need many clothes. It's more natural to buy plants and bushes," says a nudist gardener. This connection with nature and the peace that exists there is passed on to the viewer for the duration of the film. It's not riveting and breathtaking as some other films are, and it doesn't have a plot. The driving force is simply living.

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SIFF Recommendations: Week 1

May 16 - 22

Monsoon Shootout Screenings: May 16, 17, and 19 Monsoon Shootout, directed by Amit Kumar, is an action-packed and attention-grabbing film that centers on one pivotal moment in a newly hired policeman’s life and the outcomes of three different choices he could have made. With original cinematography and a saturated color scheme that expertly captures the setting of rain-drenched Mumbai, this film explores the relationship between law and justice, as well as the concept of the ends justifying the means. - Vida B.

Ida Screenings: May 16 and 21 The silence of Ida echoes quite loudly. It feels like walking through a history museum full of World War II-era photographs. The artfully shot black-and-white Polish film follows a young almost-nun as she explores a painful family history before taking her vows. Secrets kept and stories of lives untold punctuate this quietly heartbreaking film. Ida’s cinematography is as stunning as its story, with each shot framed as precisely as if it was a photograph. - Kali S.

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Showcasing Life in the Northwest

​Review of "Northwest Life" at NFFTY by Audrey Cooper

What do superheroes, gifts to homeless people, and poisoned blueberry muffins have in common? These were all subjects of films presented in NFFTY’s “Northwest Life” screening on Sunday. Gothingham by Robert Bojorquez follows the misadventures of Batman and Spiderman in the underwhelming city of Bellingham, Wash. In Change of Heart, filmmaker Owen Craft and his team explore themes of altruism and kindness through a simple story about a boy on a shopping trip. A dark and humorous comedy, MUFFINS by Hadley Hillel tells the story of a baker who fails to successfully execute his duties as a hitman. Many of the films featured in “Northwest Life” possessed a quintessentially Northwestern spirit, and all of the talented filmmakers from this region are worthy of recognition. However, the three documentaries in this set of films deserve special mention.

Then and Now This film follows the narrative of Eloise and her family in her fight against cancer. Presented by a team of 17-year-old Washington filmmakers (Ana Krafchick, Dayan Flynn Walsh, and Enjuli Chhaniara), “Then and Now” conveys a poignant and authentic description of a young girl’s life. Eloise and her family are strong, and Eloise articulates the ways in which she has refused to be defined by her battle against cancer. This documentary shares an important story from a local family, inspiring and encouraging the audience.

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Animation Station

​Review of "Reel Animation" at NFFTY by Vida Behar

Saturday's “Reel Animation” series of films showcased a variety of creative artistic techniques, some of them effective and others regrettably not.

Candy Floss by Linnea Ritland is one of the good ones. It is a music video recalling a summer romance. The music is a cute, little ukulele ballad, and the animation provides artwork for the lyrics. The combination of live action, hand-drawn pink figures, and 2D computer-assisted animation creates a unique narrative. The live action segments give the music video a retrospective point of view, while the pink color of the hand drawn characters gave the memory a light-hearted and fun mood, as well as tying into the color of candy floss.

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For Those Who Appreciate Gallows Humor and Solid Cinematography

​Review of "The Last Laugh" at NFFTY by Vida Behar

This series of short films shown at NFFTY on Friday revolves around shared themes of black humor, endings, and death.

Standing out as a favorite is Applesauce by Nathan Hansen, Cory Soukup, and Drake Tucker. According to the description provided by the program, in this film “A man thinks he has found true happiness. But he quickly learns that this comes with a price.” This happiness comes in the shape of a curious life-sized horse statue by the name of Applesauce. This short has amazingly cheesy sound effects that provide irony and hilarity as well as solid cinematography techniques that are at once tactful and seamlessly blended into the narrative.

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Life Is Hard, But NFFTY Guides the Way

​Review of "A Guide to Growing Up" at NFFTY by Tracy Montes

Friday marked the continuation of an exciting lineup of films at NFFTY. Among the sets shown on Friday was “A Guide to Growing Up” in which filmmakers from 3 different countries (Canada, Australia, and the United States) showed films addressing a plethora of issues regarding the difficulties (and joys) of what it means to grow up and maneuver your way through developing your identity, perspectives, and personality in today’s modern world.

The following films are some of the highlights of the evening and deal with a variety of themes that cover some aspect of what it means to grow up and to overcome the challenges encountered along the way.

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NFFTY Opens With Passion, Excellence, and Innovation

Review of Opening Night Films at NFFTY by Audrey Cooper

On Thursday night, filmmakers and art fans flocked to the Opening Night Gala of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY). This annual film festival, hosted in downtown Seattle, brings together international filmmakers ages 7-22 in order to cultivate the next generation of film talent. NFFTY presents films filled with passion, excellent visual design, and an innovative spirit. The films showcased at the Opening Gala of NFFTY 2014 were compelling and well-made, eliciting both tears and laughter from the audience.The following films are just a few highlights from the evening.

Dave’s Wild Life, directed by UK filmmaker Samuel de Ceccatty, captures the essence of what it means to live a passionate life. Dave would love to be a naturalist, and he keeps with pride a little leather journal full of diagrams and drawings of urban creatures (such as the “London Hipster”). Between Dave’s self-conscious grins and head-bobbing, you can’t help but smile. (Major shout-out to Stuart Benson for a fantastic portrayal of Dave and his endearing awkwardness.) From the outside, Dave’s life appears uneventful and mundane. But Dave lives his life to the fullest, armed with an infectious grin and creative perspective. His imagination makes life a worthwhile adventure. The film raises the question, “Do you live your life with as much passion as Dave?”

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Opening the Doors for Many to Dream Big and Explore What is Possible

​NFFTY's Opening Night Gala by Tracy Montes

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An evening that ignited excitement, joy and appreciation for the art and talent of young directors is the best way to describe the amazing gala celebration that kicked off the 2014 National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY).

The gala was held at Cinerama, where hundreds of spectators were excited to experience firsthand the talent of the young directors who opened the festival with high-quality films that varied in content and style. As crowds walked down the vibrant red carpet that lead to the theater, photographers, press, and audience members young and old gathered to celebrate NFFTY 2014.

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Pick of the Week!

Monty Python and the Holy Grail — Teens Special at SIFF

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Ever dreamed of a world with only other teenagers? Well, that world might be hard to find, but a little taste of it can be had at SIFF tonight.

They're hosting a special screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to which only teens are allowed! For $5 (with or without a TeenTix pass) teens can view the classic film in a fun, interactive, and other-age-group-free way.

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A Deliciously Great Place to Be

​Review of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in Smell-o-Vision at SIFF by Kali Swenson

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Goodie bags are usually given out at the end of a party, but goodie bags are just the beginning at SIFF’s screenings of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in Smell-o-Vision.

The little red bags, containing an assortment of seemingly random items, are the key to a scrumdiddlyumptious time. At first, the contents appear nonsensical, but everything falls into place as soon as the film begins. SIFF has perfectly orchestrated a viewing experience rivaling what Wonka might have created himself.

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In Reality, It’s All Just a Game

​Review of The Institute at Northwest Film Forum

The Institute is a documentary about the pseudo-fictional Jejune Institute in California. I say pseudo-fictional because it is real in the sense that it exists in real life. However, in reality, it is not the mysterious organization of inventors and revolutionaries that it appears to be at first glance. In reality, it's both much more and much less than that. In reality, it's all just a game--a live-action, roleplaying game put on by a small group of people.

The film starts with a good, eye-catching opening that takes us around San Francisco and shows us some of the fliers for the Jejune Institute. It presents a compelling mystery from the start: what is the Jejune Institute? And what do they do?

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