Recommendations for this week at the Seattle International Film Festival.
“Wheedle’s Groove.” Director Jennifer Maas brings to light the simmering Seattle soul-music scene of the 1960s and ’70s, whose practitioners never broke through to the big time but who sure made some fine music. It’s a delightful portrait of musical style but also of a community — which membership included future easy-listening superstar Kenny G, whose memory is sharp and affectionate about the old days; 4:30 p.m. today, Everett Performing Arts Center; 9:30 p.m.Sunday, SIFF Cinema.
“Winter’s Bone.” A completely convincing story set in the backwoods of the Ozarks, where life unfolds according to extra-legal rules and ancient blood ties. Director Debra Granik doesn’t take a wrong step in this dark study, and Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes are excellent in the leads; 7 p.m. today, Egyptian; 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Egyptian.
“Ride, Rise, Roar.” It’s not “Stop Making Sense 2,” but this enjoyable documentary does give plenty of concert footage of David Byrne on a 2009 tour, along with behind-the-scenes stuff about how Byrne assembles the show’s elaborate dance component; 9:30 p.m. today, SIFF Cinema; 1:30 p.m. Saturday, SIFF Cinema; 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Everett Performing Arts Center.
“Farewell.” A Cold War espionage thing about a Soviet functionary (played by Emir Kusturica, better known as a director than actor but excellent here) feeding secrets to a Frenchman stationed in Moscow. The first screening of this broad but entertaining film is SIFF’s “Centerpiece” gala — and thus an excuse for a party; 6:30 p.m. Saturday,Egyptian; 3 p.m. Monday, Everett Performing Arts Center.
“Son of Babylon.” After Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime is ended, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother go in search of his missing father, whose fate probably lies in a prison or a mass grave. Mohamed Al-Daradji’s film is plain but powerful, and the landscape (emotional and geographical) is desolate; 7 p.m. Saturday, Pacific Place; 4 p.m. Sunday, Pacific Place.
“Life During Wartime.” That acid-edged filmmaker Todd Solondz returns with a sequel to his 1998 film “Happiness,” but with entirely different actors; the squirm-worthy (but acutely observed) action revolves around sisters in Florida. Solondz and his actors are uncompromising, though with diminishing returns; 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Uptown; 8:45 p.m. Monday, Harvard Exit.
“On the Waterfront.” As part of SIFF’s tribute to Leonard Bernstein, here’s one of the only film projects he directly composed music for: Elia Kazan’s still-powerful story of dockworkers and whistle-blowing, led by Marlon Brando’s great performance; 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Harvard Exit.
“Marwencol.” After suffering serious brain damage in a vicious beating, a man creates elaborate World War II scenarios in his back yard with dolls — a sort of obsessive therapy that rises to art, as this utterly fascinating documentary shows. This is easily one of the most affecting movies in this year’s festival; 4:15 p.m. Sunday, Harvard Exit; 6:15 p.m. Monday, Harvard Exit.
“Gerrymandering.” The screwy process by which elected officials get to redraw their districts — thus virtually assuring permanent reelection — is outlined in this documentary, which qualifies as required (and nonpartisan, since both sides are guilty) civic viewing; 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Harvard Exit; 11 a.m. Monday, Harvard Exit.
“The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls.” It’s far too easy to predict this documentary’s popularity at the fest: It’s a warm and frequently hilarious portrait of the Topp Twins, country-music-singing, sketch-comedy-playing, yodeling lesbian twin sisters from New Zealand. This could be the future of entertainment, ladies and gentlemen; 7 p.m. Sunday, Egyptian; 11 a.m. Monday, Egyptian.
“Splice.” Gene-splicing and cloning and all sorts of moral boundaries are trampled by scientists Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley in this goofy monster picture; midnight Sunday, Egyptian; 9 p.m. Monday, Neptune.
“Garbo: The Spy.” A heckuva true story: how a Spanish double-agent fed the Nazis misleading information and single-handedly affected the outcome of WWII (among other things, “Garbo” convinced the Germans that the D-Day invasion was merely a diversionary tactic and the real attack would come elsewhere). This documentary lays out the facts in somewhat distracting fashion; 5 p.m. Tuesday, Everett Performing Arts Center; 7 p.m. Thursday, Pacific Place.
“Countdown to Zero.” Scary stuff in this nonfiction account of how nuclear threats are still very much alive 20 years after the Cold War ended — in fact the risks for a rogue terrorist attack have their own special fright factor; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Pacific Place; 9:15 p.m. Thursday, SIFF Cinema.
“American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi.” Dumb subtitle aside, this documentary has interesting info on former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. All of which might’ve been more compelling with an objective viewpoint; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Neptune; 4:30 p.m. Thursday, SIFF Cinema.