As the Seattle International Film Festival heaves into view once again — the official kick-off gala was last night — and as SIFF grows bigger and bigger each year, it continues to spread out in different directions. Along with its Seattle theaters, the fest now has events in Renton, Kirkland, and West Seattle.
And, for the second year, Everett. Last year’s week of screenings in Everett was considered a success, and SIFF returns to the Everett Performing Arts Center beginning Thursday and running through June 2.
The slate of titles scheduled for Everett is representative of different countries, styles and moods. That’s often been the SIFF policy: throw enough variety out there, and you’ll probably get something for everyone.
So what does that mean? You could catch the American premiere of a Hong Kong biopic about the king of martial arts masters (“Bruce Lee, My Brother”), a documentary about a private detective in India who is also a TV dance instructor (“The Bengali Detective”), or an animated film about a cat who moonlights as a cat burglar (“A Cat in Paris”).
Of the films I’ve previewed, I can recommend “Flamenco, Flamenco,” an extraordinary collection of musical numbers from some of the greatest traditional Spanish singers, dancers and instrumentalists. Luscious to both the ear and the eye, the film was made by the Spanish master Carlos Saura, whose “Fados” did the same thing for Portuguese folk music a couple of years ago.
Documentaries can be relied on to provide some of the most thought-provoking movie experiences. A likely source of controversy is “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” which examines the actions of the environmental activism group that includes property damage in its strategy (including the destruction of the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001).
Probably less controversial — although you never know, these days — is “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times,” for which filmmaker Andrew Rossi wormed his way into the offices of the Times in an attempt to catch what the newspaper of record is facing in an era of violent change for print journalism. By all accounts, media columnist David Carr emerges as the profane star of this chronicle.
Along with indie pictures and documentaries, you really will get to see films with actual movie stars, such as “The Whistleblower,” a thriller with Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz as a U.S. peacekeeper in Bosnia who investigates human trafficking in Eastern Europe.
The Everett leg of the festival officially kicks off Thursday night with “Young Goethe in Love,” a German film about the writer; a party will follow.
Preceding the official kick-off of the Everett week of SIFF will be some screenings of the SIFF film “Finding Kind,” a spirited documentary on the subject of female bullying. The best sections of the movie allow girls from all over the country to tell their stories of being bullied (and sometimes bullying), reported with an honesty that suggests they haven’t told anyone about this before. Filmmakers Lauren Parsekian and Molly Stroud will screen the film at six Everett schools and lead discussions, which will likely be as intense as those seen in the film.