There wasn't an Emma's Bliss for me at SIFF 2008. You know, the singular moment that rocks your existence, that you know you'll remember always, that makes all festival-going inconvenience worth it all, that you're always prepped to talk about when friends ask what your favorite was.
I topped out at 50 films this year, and the two that came closest to being "the film" for me were Sita Sings the Blues, with its thrilling originality (and the difficulty it's sure to face in ever seeing the light of distribution), and Savage Grace, which I'm obsessed with for several reasons and which is currently in limited release here in Seattle. (Seriously — go see it now.)
"Seattle's enthusiastic film audiences continued to affirm SIFF's prominence as a world-class showcase for extraordinary film experiences," said Carl Spence, SIFF Artistic Director and (per ChrisB) lousy John Waters interviewer. "Almost half of this year's feature films were from first or second time directors, and seventy percent entered the Festival without US distribution, maintaining SIFF's reputation as a fiercely independent showcase for audience discovery."
Overall it was a great SIFF. I'll save the gripes that I've already griped — having to pay for drinks at the opening night party, having to sit through pre-sreening SIFF Cinema ads and City Arts Magazine "short films" ad nauseam — and brag on our intrepid TIG SIFF staff: Roxie Rider, re-entering the TIG fold and doing a fabulous job on two dispatches, and superstar ChrisB, who managed an incredible amount of work (full-length reviews, blog entries, filmmaker interviews) in addition to a demanding dayjob and his other TIG commitments. He added a robustness to this year's coverage that I never would've thought possible… and I just remembered that still owe him an ass-whoopin' over Savage Grace, which he actually had the nerve to dislike. (Watch your back, Chris.)
Team TIG covered around around 17% of the 250ish feature-length films screened at SIFF 2008. Here are ChrisB and Roxie Rider in their own words on their festival experiences, followed by a complete linked list of all the films we covered.
"I saw more films than at any previous SIFF (final tally: 19) and it was the first year I attended as a member of the media (and, really, my first time in the world of film criticism). It certainly had its benefits: dozens of party invitations, the chance to interview filmmakers, quite a bit of free booze, etc… But the movies were the centerpiece.
"This year I didn't have much of an agenda and decided that I was going to be as open-minded as possible and take chances on seeing films. I wasn't going to be beholden to a set agenda (not having to purchase advance tickets sure helped) and ended up seeing some really enjoyable films. Previously, I wouldn't have even considered the Korean film about suicide (Fantastic Parasuicides) or the Hungarian movie set in an insane asylum (Opium: Diary of a Madwoman) but I would have never known what a loss not seeing those films was. Not every film was fantastic — and nor should they have been.
"By the end, it was exhausting — I worked my full-time job while taking in as many films as I can and still trying to continue my obligations as a rock writer. During the final weekend I was out late every night for screenings and up early the next morning for interviews or for the awards banquet, so the festival ended at the right time. I took the final day off from screenings to write. Instead I slept the entire afternoon."
"I've lived in Seattle for ohmygod 9 years now, and the two SIFF films I managed to see this year were the second and third I've ever seen. Ever! I realize that could be construed as pitiable, but from another point of view – mine — it was quite the victory. I've been frankly lousy at getting to the movies since I added "mom" to my resume, and it was a real treat to get out and stretch the movie muscles again.
"Anyhoo, I happen to have enjoyed both of the films I saw immensely — particularly Encounters at the End of the World, which was beautiful in unexpected ways — but I enjoyed the camaraderie of the festival almost as much. It's always a treat to see a movie in a packed theater, and it's especially fun when the crowd is really into it. I think the SIFF excitement must help oft-stereotyped Nor'westerners shake off some of their famed reserve. People were downright enthusiastic, and I had a couple of quick chats in line about it all. I got a real kick out of that. Next year I'm shooting for double digits, yo."
Covered by Team TIG at SIFF 2008:
Alexander Nevsky | "elegant, refined, and melodic" | blog
American Teen |"slick, stagey, and completely skin-deep" | blog
Ask Not | "the first 73 minute movie I've ever seen that felt too long" | blog
Ballast | "I loved [this] Mississippi-set family drama" | blog
Battle in Seattle | "passion alone doesn't make for a good movie" | blog
Ben X | "good-not-great" | blog
Bottle Shock | "uses nearly every cliche" | review
Brick Lane | "nasty affair with a hot hot hottie" | blog
Cafe deo Los Maestros | "almost involuntary applause" | review
Cecil B. Demented | John Waters interview highlights (blog)
The Edge of Heaven | "elegant and moving shell-game of a film" | blog
Elite Squad | "an intense movie that takes its morality serious" | blog
Encounters at the End of the World | Roxie Rider's favorite | blog
Foster Child | "gripping, guerilla-style, micro-budget drama" | blog
Heartbeat Detector | "convoluted, drag-ass French psycho-thriller" | blog
Heavy Metal in Baghdad | "a very impressive film" | blog
Idiots and Angels | "quite wonderful" | blog
Island Etude | "a paean to unbridled adventure" | blog
The Last Mistress | "a poo
rly-executed snooze" | blog
Letting Go of God | ChrisB's favorite | interview with Julia Sweeney
Mermaid | "the loveliest Russian film I've seen in recent years" | blog
Milky Way | "fantastically deliberate" | blog
Mister Foe | "dark (often really fucked-up) romantic-entanglement comedy" | blog
Mr. Big | "an enormously compelling film" | blog | director interview
Opium: Diary of a Madwoman | "brilliant character study" | review
Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema | "star-studded but pitifully produced" | blog
Saturn in Opposition | "approaches a few moments of greatness" | blog
Savage Grace | "I loved every sick and wonderful minute" | blog
Saving Luna | "nicely shot but overly narrated" | blog
A Secret | "ok-to-good" | blog
The Secret of the Grain | "gorgeously observed, unaccountably mesmerizing" | blog
Sita Sings the Blues | "one of SIFF 2008's true great treasures" | blog
Song of Sparrows | "lovely Iranian family drama" | blog
Sunrise | "brash, crazed, and wonderfully messy" | blog
Tulia, Texas | "[tells the] story without getting too heavy-handed"| review
The 27 Club | "very fascinating film" | interview with director Erica Dunton
Up the Yangtze | "exquisitely, unaccountably moving" | blog | opens in Seattle 6/27!
Vexille | "gorgeous and well-crafted Japanese sci-fi CGI" | blog
Walt & El Groupo | "oddly dull" | blog
The Wave | "broad, overly emphatic" | blog
A Wink and a Smile | "a deep knowledge of burlesque" | blog
The Wrecking Crew | "one of my favorites" | review | director/subject interview
Young People Fucking | "made a promise in the title and kept it" | blog