EVERETT — The red carpet was rolled out in Everett on Thursday night for a bit of Hollywood glamour.
The Seattle International Film Festival presented the West Coast premiere of “Mao’s Last Dancer” to a near-capacity audience at the Everett Performing Arts Center.
The screening marked the Everett debut of the festival, and the inaugural use of the center’s movie theater-size screen and a 35 mm projector brought in for the next eight days.
“It’s the most wonderful international film festival in the country,” Everett resident Nancy Sosnove said. “It’s great the Everett gets to taste it without going to Seattle.”
She said she attends the festival every year and was thrilled to be able to see festival fare right here in Everett.
Organizers say the Seattle festival attracts more moviegoers than any other in the country, with thousands of viewers watching more than 400 films from 60 countries.
About two dozen films are scheduled in Everett. Festival artistic director Carl Spence said he tried to select a representative sampling of the best.
Mayor Ray Stephanson walked the red carpet Thursday night and posed for photos with the film’s Australian director Bruce Beresford.
“I am so thrilled,” Stephanson said. “I couldn’t be more proud and pleased.”
Everett’s participation in the festival is a significant step forward in rounding out the city’s cultural offerings, he said.
Nancy Shriver said she’s already seen more than 40 films from this year’s festival. She drove from Seattle to see Thursday night’s show.
“I’m excited that Everett opened its door,” she said.
Thursday’s nearly sold-out crowd bodes well for turnout for the rest of the week, said Deborah Person, the festival’s managing director.
It may take a while to build an audience, but that’s expected, she said.
“This is exactly what we do,” Person said. “We want to bring films to where people are.”
Actor Kyle MacLachlan, who stars in “Mao’s Last Dancer,” had to cancel his appearance because of a family illness. He’s known for his roles in “Twin Peaks” and “Sex in the City.”
“He really wanted to be here,” Spence said.
Still, Thursday’s opening had some serious Hollywood star power.
One of the stars of “The Joy Luck Club,” Lisa Lu, walked the red carpet, along with Beresford, who is perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning 1989 film “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Beresford, who was driven to Everett on Thursday in a white Yukon Denali, said “Mao’s Last Dancer” is based on a true story of a ballet dancer from communist China who defects to the United States, The picture should open around the country this summer, he said.
The director said Everett reminded his wife of the Australian city of Melbourne.
“It looks like a very nice city,” he said.
But he didn’t seem to enjoy the spring temperatures, which dipped into the 50s Thursday.
“I’m expecting snow,” he said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everett’s SIFF schedule
Friday: “Wheedle’s Groove,” 4:30 p.m.; “The Concert,” 7 p.m.; “I Am Love,” 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: “Chihuly: Fire and Light,” 1 p.m.; “Night Catches Us,” 3 p.m.; “The Army of Crime,” 5:30 p.m.; “Peepli Live,” 8:30 p.m.
Sunday: “From Time to Time,” 1 p.m.; “Waste Land,” 3:15 p.m.; “Leaving,” 6 p.m.; “City of Life and Death,” 8:30 p.m.
Monday: “Between Two Worlds,” 1 p.m.; “Farewell,” 3 p.m.; “The Trotsky,” 5:30 p.m.; “Mount St. Elias,” 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday: “Garbo: The Spy,” 5 p.m.; “Please, Please Me!” 7 p.m.; “Mediterranean Food,” 9:15 p.m.
Wednesday: “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” 5 p.m.; “The Milk of Sorrow,” 7 p.m.; “Castaway on the Moon,” 9:15 p.m.
June 3: “The Two Horses of Genghis Khan,” 5 p.m.; “Diamond 13,” 7 p.m.; “Ride, Rise, Roar,” 9:15 p.m.
Order tickets for any of the films at www.siff.net or by calling 206-324-9996.
On the Web
Read Herald movie critic Robert Horton’s roundup of some of the festival’s offerings at www.heraldnet.com/siff.