If you’ve been to TIG any time over the past twenty days or so, you’ve noticed that the Seattle International Film Festival is one of our favorite events. Some 400+ short and feature films will have been screened by the time the whole thing wraps up on Sunday by giving out the Golden Space Needle Awards that morning and closing it out with a screening of the Bill Murray/Robert Duvall film Get Low and a party.
To get some more insight into the festival, we posed some questions via e-mail to SIFF’s wonderful and extremely knowledgable Programming Director, Beth Barrett. Here’s what she had to say.
What particular movies are you most excited for?
I can’t wait to see THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS – a great mix of music, camp, politics, folk songs and yodeling! They truly are New Zealand’s pride… I’m also very curious about UTOPIA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS – it is a “live” documentary, created by Sam Green and Dave Cerf with input from the audience. I love the mix of established documentary footage with the idea of spontaneity.
Are there any favorite movies that you hope people see, beyond the obvious favorites?
I would love for people to come see HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST AND REBEL – this biopic really took my by surprise, not really knowing much about Hugh Hefner except the obvious “Tales of the Mansion”… through a lot of documentary footage and interviews, I discovered that I actually really didn’t know ANYTHING about him, and the progressive nature of his work.
If I’m not mistaken, SIFF is the largest film festival in the US, both in terms of filmgoers and number of films screened (and if I’m wrong, it’s likely pretty close). What is it about Seattle that makes it such a great city for film and is able to sustain and support the festival?
The audiences of Seattle are really adventurous and willing to take chances with film. We have a great level of film knowledge as a community, but even more than that, Seattle-ites are naturally curious about the world around us, and sincerely
Can you talk briefly about how films are chosen for SIFF? Is there a specific process for deciding which films make the cut and which don’t?
Programming is an incredibly subjective process, and reflects the interests and thoughts of our 15 person programming team. We watch over 4000 films to arrive at the 405 that we will be screening this year. We discuss the films as a team, and what films we think will work best in the Festival. We have a number of programs, and really strive to have a wide variety of genre and styles within them.
In what ways has SIFF grown from when you first started working with the festival?
I started in 2003, and in the last 7 years, we have become a fully year-round organization, of which SIFF is the largest and most well known program. Our footprint has increased both in numbers of screenings, and venues both in and out of Seattle. Opening SIFF Cinema really allows us to concentrate on bringing the best film to Seattle year-round, and be more adventurous in our programming choices.
Last year, the Best Picture winner screened at SIFF (The Hurt Locker), how do you plan on topping it this year?
Full sweep. TOPP TWINS in 2010.
Who is responsible for disciplining people who reveal what was screened during the Secret Festival? Has it ever happened and what is the punishment, somewhere between politely asking not to reveal the names of any more movies and being put to death?
I’ve been sworn to secrecy about our methods….
How did you become involved with the festival?
I was a film-goer for many years, and then a volunteer, and then in 2004, became the Programming Manager. I came from the Publications world, and have a soft spot for the SIFF Catalog.
Last question. What would you say to someone who has never been to SIFF about what they could expect?
Expect something un-expected… Going to SIFF is different than going to the mulitiplex, since you will be surrounded by people who are very knowledgeable about the films, and often even more esoteric knowledge…. You should listen to the people in line and in the theatres and take a chance on a film you have never heard of, and stay for the Q&A’s – directors often say something you aren’t fully ready for.