The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Nation's largest film festival hits Seattle
By KATHERINE CLINE, Features Writer
Published: May 31, 2006
The largest film festival in the United States, and one of the best in the world, the annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) has arrived. The festival expects over 160,000 people to participate in viewing over 300 films. Each year, the SIFF Group brings a large array of foreign and independent films to many central Seattle theaters. The festival happens for three weeks, this year between May 25 and June 18.
This season, the SIFF celebrates its 30th year, as founders Dan Ireland and Darryl Macdonald began the festivities in 1976. Ireland and Macdonald were operators of the Moore-Egyptian theater, now just the Moore, at the time they began the program.
Thirty years later, it is the biggest film festival in the United States, remains non-profit, community-building, culture-enriching, and affordable. Soon after its conception, the duo moved the festival to be held primarily at the Egyptian theater on Capitol Hill.
The festival, which manages to show a staggering 300+ films in only seven venues over the three-week span, has lately been known for its documentaries. Thanks to the very successful documentaries of recent years, such as "Supersize Me" and "Fahrenheit 9/11," the genre has taken off in major fests like SIFF. Dozens of documentaries are being shown among the films, both foreign and local.
The festival opened last Thursday at the Paramount Theater, showing "The Illusionist," a film set to open nationwide in August. The film, featuring actor Paul Giamatti, a critic's favorite since "Sideways," received rave reviews from movie-goers this week.
One quite unique aspect of the SIFF is its concentration on the viewing public, rather than the industry heavyweights, regarding who to please. Possibly because the festival overlaps with the Cannes Film Festival for almost a week, or just because of its public accessibility, it truly is a festival by the people, for the people.
When Ireland and Macdonald began the festival 30 years ago, they intended it to be an outlet for art and culture into the city, available to all. In fact, it is still only $10 for a standard one-film ticket. Students, members of the SIFF group, children, seniors, and anyone on weekday matinees, can even get in to a film for only $5. It is mainly viewed by the mainstream, with very few industry folk to hinder the local feel.
The Film Festival can be viewed in its original place, Egyptian Theater, or the Broadway Performance Hall, Harvard Exit Theater, Neptune Theater, Northwest Film Forum, and the downtown Pacific Place AMC 11. While it opened at the Paramount, it was for the opening night gala only, and will continue until June 18 only in the more commercial theaters. It plans to close in the Moore Theater, finishing off with a glamorous VIP experience. This, along with other offers, is one of the pricier options, including a $175 season pass, which most students would not see a need for.
Films to look forward to this season include "The Heart of the Game," "Wah Wah," and "Russian Dolls."
One particularly stirring film relevant to the United States' current relations with Iraq is "Ahlaam," a film-turned-documentary set in Iraq. In Arabic with English subtitles, "Ahlaam" is the story of three Iraqis imprisoned in an asylum in Baghdad; the film is as stirring in the story it has to tell as the story that lies behind the art. While filming, both cast and crew lived in conditions worse than those depicted in the film itself, as several of the cast and crew underwent kidnappings by local insurgents. However difficult the creation of the film, it managed to be completed, and was shown at the festival at the Harvard Exit Theater on Saturday.
Besides the regular film viewings for the public, the festival also offers $35 tickets to four separate weekend showings of a "Secret Festival." Not much more can be said than that, as participants are asked to sign an oath of secrecy, swearing never to reveal what they saw or experienced during the "Secret Film."
In order to ensure tickets for a particular film or certain time or day, check out http://seattlefilm.org to either buy tickets over the phone, online, or just check out available tickets and show times. The Web site also offers the convenient feature of searching films by genre, keyword, time, or country of origin. Box offices are located at the Pacific Place Theater as well as the Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill.
The SIFF is a Seattle gem, and our city is proud to sponsor the cultural phenomenon each year. The price can't be beat to take part in a work of art that Seattle has created, and join in the conversation