Seattle Film Festival shifts into high gear

  • Wed May 16th, 2012 6:50pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

Sure enough, just at the sun finally comes out, the Seattle International Film Festival rolls into view to entice moviegoers back into the dark. Officially the 38th installment of SIFF, this year’s festival is once again a marathon affair, rolling out 250 or so features and a couple hundred more shorts.

It began last night, with the red-carpet treatment for Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister.” The real barrage begins in earnest today and continues until June 10 in eight outlets, not counting special events.

Among the festival’s highlights are tributes to actress Sissy Spacek and director William Friedkin, who will attend, and a real coup of a premiere: the new Pixar feature, “Brave.” The usual fest traditions are in place, including zany midnight movies and the “Secret Festival” of unannounced titles.

One of SIFF’s key venues this year will be the Everett Performing Arts Center, with a week’s worth of movies beginning on Thursday, May 24. The big opening-night party for the Everett leg of the fest will showcase “Lola Versus,” promised as an “anti-romantic comedy,” which stars Greta Gerwig.

The remainder of the week will bring a collection of indie offerings, foreign films and documentaries, many of them with a variety of special guests in attendance.

Of the documentaries, I can recommend an outrageous movie called “The Ambassador,” which somehow mixes Michael Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen in the body of the Danish journalist-filmmaker Mads Brugger.

Going undercover with a hidden camera, Brugger demonstrates how easy it is for someone with money to get an ambassadorship — and thus the kind of diplomatic immunity that would allow someone to cross borders with criminal intent.

And if those borders happened to include the corrupt (and diamond-rich) Central African Republic, well, you begin to see how money unofficially travels around the globe while undeveloped countries stay undeveloped. Brugger adopts a hilariously obnoxious persona as he pretends to set up a matchstick-making factory operated by pygmies.

Of the fiction features, Matthew Lillard’s “Fat Guy Rules the World” is a Seattle-shot coming-of-age tale about a chubby hero who finds his way in a world not built for him. It’s a generous-hearted movie with a strong cast and affection for the local music scene.

“Rebellion” is a strong film from France, directed by and starring Mathieu Kassovitz. It’s a superbly-shot and intensely-plotted account of a 1988 incident in the French Pacific possession New Caledonia, where native rebels took hostages at the exact moment France was staging a presidential election.

Kassovitz does a lethal job of showing how political backside-covering affected the hostage negotiations in various disastrous ways. It’s a taxing but suspenseful movie.

Much bouncier is “Year of Grace,” a Spanish film by the veteran director Ventura Pons. It’s hard not to get caught up in the adventures of a teenager who moves from a rural area to the big city of Barcelona. Even if his adventures are somewhat stock, they’re still adventures.

Other locally made offerings during the Everett slate include Rick Stevenson’s “5,000 Days Project,” a 10-years-in-the-making documentary about two brothers and their shifting relationship; “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas,” a tale of a Jewish kid in search of the Santa-related holiday; and “Eden,” a harrowing-sounding story of a young woman forced into sexual slavery, by Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffiths.

For information on securing tickets (there are a variety of different methods), you can visit siff.net, which also has a full calendar to browse through.