Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Can you believe it's that time of year again? I can't.

But it is: the Seattle International Film Festival is about to unspool for the 34th time. Put on your standing-in-queue shoes, prepare to get tired of the clever SIFF 08 trailers (they've already been screening at Landmark theaters 'round town), and get yourself to one of the twelve venues participating this year in our local cinema megathon.

The festivities begin with a star-studded (well, Charlize-studded) opening night 5/22 at McCaw Hall with Stuart Townsend's horribly titled Battle In Seattle (a drama about the 1999 WTO protests, partly filmed here in town), and end the night after closing night 6/14 (don't ask me why that is), when Randall Miller's '70s-California winemaking drama Bottle Shock will be uncorked (hee) at the Cinerama.

Charlize Theron in 'Battle in Seattle'And in between these two screenings will be the good stuff. Here's a bit of number-crunch for you: 250 features and 169 short films from 59 countries. 43 are world premieres, 38 are North American premieres, and 19 are US premieres. Half of this year's offerings are by first- or second-time directors, and 70% of SIFF '08's official selections are currently without US distribution.

Post-Charlize, among the festival's other special guests will be filmmaker John Waters (back again to present a film from his cache — this time Cecil B. Demented — and get interviewed live on stage 6/3), Julia Sweeney (with her new one-woman filmed performance piece Letting Go of God), and acclaimed animator Bill Plympton (with his new film, Idiots and Angels). Sir Ben Kingsley will also be around to accept a special 2008 Golden Space Needle award ("in recognition of his extraordinary career" per the press release) and introduce the North American premiere of his latest film, Elegy, on 5/25.

Fugitive PiecesSpeaking of extraordinary careers, 2008's Emerging Masters program (the latest work from filmmakers poised to become the world's next cinema greats) spotlights four already-proven international talents: Young Adam director David Mackenzie, from the UK, here with his new one, Mister Foe; Germany's Faith Akin (2003's Head-On, this year's The Edge of Heaven); France's Abdellatif Kechiche ('03's Games of Love and Chance, new offering The Secret of the Grain); and, the one I most look forward to, Fugitive Pieces from Canada's Jeremy Podeswa (director of Eclipse, The Five Senses, and several episodes of Six Feet Under and Wonderfalls).

This year's Face The Music program includes eight documentaries on such subjects as Anvil, Billy Strayhorn, Patti Smith, studio musicians The Wrecking Crew, and Sudanese hip-hop star Emmanuel Jai. For one of several live-scored silent films, Sub Pop mainstays The Album Leaf will present new original live music accompanying F.W. Murnau's Sunrise during a special evening at the Triple Door. (As I love me some Triple Door, and some silent cinema, I will be there.)

Many of the festival's other trademark programs and events will return as well: the Secret Festival (hush-yo-mouth screenings which make you get out of bed early on Sunday mornings and about half the time are hardly worth it), the edgy Midnight Adrenaline series, all-ages Films4Families matinees, and themed programs like Alternate Cinema (experimental works).

About WaterAlso returning this year is the Planet Cinema sidebar, showcasing eight films about the environment and global climate change issues. From populist documentaries (Fields of Fuel and The Greening of Southie), local work (Good Food), international non-fiction (Up the Yangtze and About Water), and even a sci-fi doomsday epic (Half-Life), there's something to appeal to the cinephile eco-citizen in all of us.

Aside from Good Food (Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin's look at PNW efforts in sustainable farming and agriculture), other locally-themed docs include Tiffany Burns' Mr. Big, about a 1994 Bellevue murder involving the filmmaker's brother; Johnny Symons' Ask Not, a look at gay Americans in the military; John Andreas' Creative Nature, a profile of glass artist William Morris; Linas Phillips' Great Speeches from a Dying World, in which members of Seattle's homeless community recite famous speeches from history; and Deirdre Timmons' A Wink and a Smile, a look at the local burlesque scene.

These are all part of a strong non-fiction lineup of nearly 60 feature-length docs from around the globe, including six world premieres.

This year's Shorts Programs, featuring 4- to 34-minute cinema nuggets that may rank among the best of the fest, will mostly screen during a single weekend (5/29-6/1). Packages I'm most looking forward to: Waking Dreams (fantastic/absurd shorts); Wild Bunch (cinematic outlaws); FutureWave (international student filmmakers); and Rare Gems from Pilot Studios (works from the first private animation studio in new Russia).

Rare Gems from Pilot StudiosAnd if you'd rather get a taste of it all for free, and/or from the comfort of your sofa, the new SIFF Interactive programs might be just the thing. You can view trailers at, participate in the new MyFestival competition (and help program a screening on the final day of the festival), check out's SIFF Channel (launching 5/21), or view's SIFF Short Film of the Day once the festival gets underway.

Non-virtual festival venues include SIFF Cinema, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Pacific Place, Uptown, Northwest Film Forum, and Cinerama. You can find handy print guides to the festival at several cinema venues around town, or visit SIFF's website for complete schedule info. Prices range from $850 for a full series pass to $57 for the popular Cinematic Six-Pack to $8 for individual matinee and midnight screenings. More how-to info can be found at the SIFF site.

And we'll have three TIGgers covering the SIFF beat this year. ChrisB, Roxie Rider and I will be blogging regularly about our cinema adventures, and I'll be keeping a tally of the films we've covered. Be sure to comment regularly about what you've seen and liked (and, of course, what you haven't liked).

Three Imaginary Girls are among SIFF's media sponsors for the fourth year running, and we'll be among some 3,000 revelers present at the opening night of the 2008 edition. It's gonna be a fun 24 days. Come share in the cinema overload with us, won't you?