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SIFF 2003 Picks and Previews

SIFF brought me to Seattle. It's true – I came for a visit on opening weekend in May 2000, and by the time the festival had ended that June, I'd moved here permanently.

My point? The sheer magnitude of our city's main film event is staggering. SIFF is a colossal mamma jamma! It's the largest and best-attended film festival in the land. It's one of only seven film festivals in North America that qualifies films for consideration in the Independent Spirit Awards. And it has a strong reputation for having a truly international scope – a big factor in bringing me here in the first place.

So I'm honored to be covering SIFF 2003 for tig. And what an event it promises to be – 54 world, North American, and US premieres; 220 features from 40 different countries; illustrious special guests; fascinating panel discussions and programs. A cinema-rific 25 days awaits us, beginning with the 5/22 North American premiere of Valentín and ending 6/25 with the US premiere of Jet Lag (starring the one and only Juliette Binoche).

My preliminary festival picks follow. Hurry up and grab a program guide at your friendly neighborhood Starbucks® or one of the SIFF box offices (Broadway Performance Hall and Pacific Place), or visit the SIFF website for ticket info and details. I'll review each of the 40+ films I see, so check back for regular updates.

See y'all at the movies!

films

American Splendor. Big Sundance winner about underground comic-book artist Harvey Pekar, co-starring the one and only Hope Davis.

Bollywood/Hollywood. Unique hybrid of Bollywood musicals and old-school Hollywood romantic comedies, with star-crossed lovers and sweeping musical numbers intact.

Camp. Sundance audience favorite about teenage freaks/geeks staging a musical performance at a camp for talented misfits. Uh, why didn't such a camp exist when I was in high school? Stephen Trask (of Hedwig fame) wrote some of the songs.

Capturing the Friedmans. A well-to-do Jewish family is put to the test when patriarch Arnold is accused of making child pornography. Winner of the Grand Jury documentary prize at Sundance.

A Decade Under the Influence. Documentary exploration of the rebelliousness and controversy of 70s filmmaking. A slew of high-profile interviewees (including Scorsese, Spielberg, and Coppola) shed light on the decade that redefined American cinema.

The Event. Parker Posey and Sarah Polley are in it. Oh, you need more? It's a mystery about a group of friends confronting the possible assisted suicide of a loved one.

The Hard Word. Ever since I holed myself up in my apartment to watch the first season of Six Feet Under, I've been lovin' me some Rachel Griffiths. She stars as Memento dude Guy Pearce's cheating wife in this twisted Aussie tale of a bank heist gone awry.

I Capture the Castle. An aspiring writer relocates to a remote castle in Sussex, England, where she's soon pursued by two hot, rich young brothers who live within walking distance. In other words, my dream life. Based on Dodie Smith's autobiographical novel.

In This World. Michael Winterbottom's follow-up to 24 Hour Party People is a quasi-documentary about two Afghan cousins making a dangerous trek from Peshawat to London. Top prize winner at this year's Berlin Film Festival.

Kopps. Small-town Swedish cops create a bogus crime wave to preserve their jobs. The key word here being Swedish.

The Last Great Wilderness. An unlikely pair of roadtrippers get mixed up with a motley mélange of country manor inhabitants when they run out of petrol near an isolated Highlands guesthouse. So what if we won't be able to understand a word they're saying? It's Scottish!

The Last Train. When's the last time you saw a movie from Uruguay? Well here's your chance! Three rebellious old men set out to hijack the country's last remaining steam engine. Adventure and hilarity most certainly ensue.

Love and Diane. Intimate documentary (and Independent Spirit Award winner) chronicling the lives of recovering crack addict Diane and her single-mother daughter Love.

The Magdalene Sisters. It's about sadistic nuns, and it won the top prize last year at Venice. I am there.

Marion Bridge. The one and only Molly Parker stars as a woman dealing with some heavy family shit when she returns to her Nova Scotia hometown.

Mondays in the Sun. My boyfriend Javier Bardem stars in the film that beat out the fabulous Talk To Her as Spain's official 2002 Oscar nominee.

Northfork. This highly-anticipated follow-up from Twin Falls Idaho brothers Mark and Michael Polish is a surreal take on the Old West dream.

The Sea. Buried-family-secrets drama from acclaimed Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (101 Reykjavik).

The Secret Life of Dentists. Another Hope Davis movie! This one (by Alan Rudolph) has Hope's hubby (Campbell Scott) gettin' all obsessy-pop with the assumption that she's having an affair.

Shorts program: The Hush. A bunch of silent or almost-silent short subjects.

Shorts program: Camp & Circumstance. Wicked little films designed to test the limits of common decency.

So Close. Armed with a high-tech security-hacking system, two hot ass-kicking sisters become fierce assassins. The trailer looks like an extra-high-octane episode of Alias – these gals could give Sidney Bristow a run for her money.

Together. A young violin prodigy must choose between newfound fame and enduring loyalty toward his provincial father. This is the latest from the very gifted Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), so bring tissues – it's a tearjerker.

The Trilogy: On the Run, An Amazing Couple, and After Life. Taking a cue from Kieslowski's iconic Trois Couleurs, this set of three Grenoble-based flicks (thriller, comedy, and melodrama, in that order) by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux were filmed back-to-back,
with the same cast of characters appearing throughout.

Whale Rider. An 11-year-old girl believes she is destined to become the new chief of a patriarchal New Zealand tribe. Another Sundance audience favorite with a highly favorable buzz factor.

special programs

Secret Festival, Saturdays (5/24, 5/31, 6/7, 6/14), Egyptian. A series of four films you will not be able to see elsewhere. I can't reveal exactly what I've been witness to in years past (you're required to sign a binding nondisclosure agreement before they'll sell you the $30 series pass), but these off-limits cinematic treats are well worth the mystery. This thing sells out quick, so get hoppin'.

Fly Filmmaking Challenge, 5/26, Egyptian. Ten local filmmakers, along with a 5-person crew, each made a short (3-5 minutes) "on the fly" documentary film on a Seattle theme with only 5 days to shoot, 5 days to edit, and 2 days to post.

An evening with Ray Harryhausen, 5/30, Egyptian. Legendary stop-motion animator Harryhausen will discuss and screen his new work The Tortoise and the Hare and the 1963 classic Jason and the Argonauts.

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