Sunday, May 5, 2019

Seattle International Film Festival: May 16 - Jun 9


Seattle International Film Festival once again arrives bringing a spectrum of cinema from across the world. In working through the program, this year continues the decade long diversity dip seen in the per-capita of all things contemporary world cinema, deep genre gems, auteur, arthouse and experimental film. These were content agendas that once had prominence within SIFF, on occasion approaching the programming on offer in Toronto and New York. Those times though, are now decades in the past. That said, it's worth noting that this year's festival isn't as painfully omissive as 2011 or 2010 for that matter. We saw string of years that suggested relief from the lackluster programming described above, which waned a bit in 2012 and expressed a further positive direction in 2013. For the 2014 festival, their 40th Anniversary was celebrated with SIFF's strongest programming in almost a decade, suggesting a renewed vision for the festival. That year marked a trend away from the previously seen glut of middle ground contemporary romances and knowingly clever dramas for the sub-Sundance sect. While still lacking, both 2017 and 2018 saw a nominal return to some of the strength of seasons past. One can speculate that this middle road approach to programming, clearly expressed by the programming of the 2015 festival and 2016 after it, has been conceived to entice some imagined Northwest demographic out of their suburban hobbles and inner-city condos. With the inclusion of showcases in the outlying areas of Bellevue and Kirkland suggestive of such. One can't help but consider these factors alongside the changing economic and cultural landscape of Seattle and what may be SIFF's bid at strengthening ties with it all.

This year sees that same disheartening trend continue, with many of the most notable, and award-winning films from Rotterdam, Locarno, and Berlin, overlooked. We can observe, year in and year out, that Seattle continues to go astray of the high standard of the international festival circuit, embodied by the programming seen in New York, Cannes, Toronto, Vienna, and Venice. Seattle International Film Festival in the past has existed as a focal point of visionary cinema curatorialship, with the resources, funds and legacy to be a hugely influential institution. Annually, looking to San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver, one bears witness to these institutions programming festivals of a caliber that SIFF has seemingly un-learned. Even our neighbors in the relatively rural setting of the Orcas Island Film Festival are more incisive and discriminating in their assembly of a quality festival. Again this year, SIFF has chosen to bypass opportunities to program scores of notable films featured in culturally correspondent festivals from around the globe. Instead, we see a over-large, and under-curated selection spanning some 400+ entries, markedly devoid of the year's most significant work being screened elsewhere on the international festival circuit.

This shortfall includes (but isn't limited to) Phuttiphong Aroonpheng's unambiguous highlight “Manta Ray”, from the Rotterdam and Toronto International Film festivals, as well as two pieces of adventurous and stylistically groundbreaking Latin American cinema lauded in the pages of Film Comment and elsewhere, Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias'Cocote”, and Mariano Llinás "La Flor". In the way of politically notable work, there's the second in a series of follow-ups to the most significant holocaust documentary ever made, Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah: Four Sisters", a rarely seen and essentially lost masterpiece of African American cinema, Bill Gunn's "Personal Problems", and a ultra-contemporary satire of the Ukrainian diaspora, found in Sergey Loznitsa's "Donbass". From here the line list broadens to include new Thai cinema from Wisit Sasanatieng in "Reside", Roberto Minervini's highly anticipated "What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?", and Chinese auteur Lou Ye's most recent detour into crime drama, "Shadow Play". Also absent are Japanese Independent and arthouse films from, Kôji Fukada in "The Man from the Sea", Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's "Senses 1 - 5", Ishii Yûya's much delayed in the west, "Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue", and Shinya Tsukamoto's chart-topping, “Killing”. Also missing are the most recent entries from auteurs such as Carlos Reygadas and his "Our Time", Albert Serra's "Roi Soleil", and Lav Diaz' "Season of the Devil". Not that you would know it by looking at the SIFF lineup, but the French provocateur Bruno Dumont has returned with a new entry in his “Quinquin” series, "Coincoin and the Extra-Humans".

Strangely absent are a set of mainland Chinese and Taiwanese film festival highlights from Locarno and Berlin, which include Xiaoshuai Wang's "So Long, My Son", Xu Bing's experimental "Dragonfly Eyes", Siew Hua Yeo's “A Land Imagined", and Tsai Ming-Liang's "Your Face". Japanese horror and thriller maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa returned with another unsettling and exercise "Foreboding", and the increasingly absurdist Sion Sono did as the title describes in "Tokyo Vampire Hotel”. From here this overview of the absent becomes a who's-who of international film figures, all with new and recent works, including in their numbers; Michael Koresky's "Feast of the Epiphany", Wang Bing's "Beauty Lives in Freedom", Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside's "America", Corneliu Porumboiu's "Infinite Football", Gürcan Keltek's "Meteors", Virgil Vernier's "Sophia Antipolis", Yui Kiyohara's "Our House", Renée Nader Messora & João Salaviza's "The Dead and the Others", Shûichi Okita's "Mori, the Artist's Habitat", Fatih Akin's "The Golden Glove", Shô Miyake's "And Your Bird Can Sing", Nadav Lapid's "Synonyms", François Ozon's "By the Grace of God", Agnieszka Holland's "Mr. Jones", Shengze Zhu's "Present.Perfect.", Joanna Hogg's "The Souvenir", Naomi Kawase's “Vision”, Xavier Dolan's “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”, Paul Dano's “Wildlife”, Paolo Sorrentino's “Loro”, and Emir Baigazin's “The River“.

Yet there remain a small handful of legitimate, original, well crafted films to be found in here too. Largely culled from the Contemporary World Cinema, Archival Presentations, Alternate Cinema, Documentary Films, and Asian Crossroads sections. This year I was able to generate a little more than a dozen films of interest, curiosity or critical gravitas from the program of more than 400 titles. These run the spectrum from directors of note, archival restorations and new developing artists. As a consequence the majority of the films listed below are simply films of interest, rather than essential viewing. Making SIFF 2019 one of the least compelling programs in recent memory. Nonetheless, I continue to be enthused about their home at the SIFF Cinema Uptown and expanded screens between the recently acquired SIFF Cinema Egyptian and Film Center. Their curation for these year-round venues has exhibited the scope of SIFF, with a visionary course forward for the institution once exemplified in the short-lived Recent Raves series. Tellingly, this series was discontinued in 2015.

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Saturday, May 18
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3:30 PM -  Ying Liang  "A Family Tour"
Lincoln Square Cinemas
FAMI1819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50411


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Saturday, May 18
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6:00 PM -  Jafar Panahi  "3 Faces"
Lincoln Square
3FAC1819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50402

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Sunday, May 19
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7:30 PM - Denis Côté  "Ghost Town Anthology"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
GHOS1919

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50553

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Monday, May 20
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7:00 PM - Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier & Edward Burtynsky "Anthropocene: The Human Epoch"
AMC Pacific Place 11
ANTH2019

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50439

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Monday, May 20
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9:30 PM -  Camille Vidal-Naquet  "Sauvage"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
SAUV2019

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50735

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Wednesday, May 22
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6:30 PM -  Louis Garrel  "A Faithful Man"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
FAIT2219

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50409

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Wednesday, May 22
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9:15 PM -  Adina Pintilie  "Touch Me Not"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
TOUC2219

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50877

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Thursday, May 23
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9:30 PM -  Jennifer Kent  "The Nightingale"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
NIGH1819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50841

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Wednesday, May 29
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6:30 PM -  Stanley Nelson  "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
MILE2919

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50646

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Wednesday, May 29
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9:00 PM - Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnnon Siriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul "Ten Years Thailand"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
TENY2919

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50785

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Thursday, May 30
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7:00 PM - Werner Herzog "Meeting Gorbachev"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
MEET3019

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50634

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Friday, May 31
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9:15 PM -  Peter Strickland  "In Fabric"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
INFA3119

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=51207

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Saturday, June 01
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9:00 PM -  Claudio Giovannesi  "Piranhas"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
PIRA0119

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50705

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Sunday, June 02
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9:00 PM - Macoto Tezuka "The Legend of the Stardust Brothers"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
LEGE0219

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50828

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Monday, June 03
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6:30 PM -  Emilio Fernandez  "Enamorada"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
ENAM0319

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50517

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Tuesday, June 04
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7:00 PM -  Olivier Assayas  "Non-Fiction"
AMC Pacific Place 11
NONF0419

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50670

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Friday, June 07
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6:30 PM - Ho Wi Ding  "Cities of Last Things"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
CITI0719

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50481

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Saturday, June 08
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6:00 PM -  Jim Jarmusch  "The Dead Don't Die"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
DEAD0608A

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=51242

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Saturday, June 08
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7:00 PM -  Alexandre O. Philippe  "MEMORY: The Origins of Alien"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
MEMO0819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50636