Thursday, March 25, 2021

Seattle International Film Festival: Apr 8 - 18 | Virtual Festival Exhibitions

As with many of the arts and cultural institutions throughout America's urban centers, Seattle cinema culture finds itself on a doubly precarious precipice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Even with the extraordinary measures that individuals have taken to assure the inclusion and passing of the pandemic relief package in early 2021, which included in it's allocation of federal funds, the Save Our Stages Act, "For Movie Theaters, The Coronavirus Stimulus Bill is a Tale of Two Industries". More explicitly, there is also the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, through which there are the beginnings of "Movie Houses Seeing Hope in New Covid Relief Package". It's clear that this, "Historic $15 Billion Rescue of Struggling Arts and Entertainment Industry" will act as a temporary, but essential measure, "Senator Amy Klobuchar Explains Save Our Stages Act". Yet even with Federal and private funding initiatives, like the resources allocated to Seattle independent theaters through The Criterion Collection's Arthouse America Campaign, the future beyond such stabilizing influences looks uncertain. Particularly, and most notably, with this past month's termination of Greg Olson from the position he held for a half-century, as film programmer at Seattle Art Museum. With the loss of the programmer of the longest-running film noir series in the United States, and author of definitive books on the subject of David Lynch, Seattle now finds that the "Fate of SAM Film Series Unclear as Museum’s Longtime Film Curator Laid Off". All the while, since this past fall, Seattle Art Museum has seen a boon of federal relief funding, grants and private donations, totalling in the tens of millions.

A full year has elapsed since the region declared a public health emergency and cultural venues shut their doors. Globally it has also been a year wherein festival programmers have either indefinitely postponed their programs, or shifted to online virtual settings. What would annually be the spring season's most notable festivals, taking place in Rotterdam, Berlin, and Hong Kong, have selected to have hybrid events or optimistically postponed the physical festival until summer. In the case of Rotterdam and Berlin, they have presented a strong program of films exclusively to members of the press. Hong Kong, finding themselves in a different context of largely containing the spread of the pandemic, have opted to present the most significant new works in the cinema, with a virtual sidebar of offerings. Jonathan Romney's assessment for The Guardian is particularly promising, "Berlin Film Festival 2021 Roundup: The Most Impressive Selection In Years", suggesting great things on the horizon for new cinema in the year. This includes films by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Radu Jude, Hong Sang-soo, with more superb entries from both Anocha Suwichakornpong, and Céline Sciamma. Rotterdam also had a set of noteworthy films, included in Barbara Scharres' "2021 Rotterdam International Film Festival Highlights" writeup for Roger Ebert, were new offerings from Anders Thomas Jensen, Yoshita Koda, Ana Katz, and Itonje Soimer Guttormsen.

Hong Kong seemingly not content to operate on par with the other international festivals of the season, have instead opted to to exceed their European counterparts by a good distance. While their virtual program borrows from the above highlights, the main slate and competition has no peer. They have programmed a festival featuring a number of the festival standouts from Venice, Toronto, Berlin and Rotterdam, alongside numerous premiers and recent films by, Ilya Khrzhanovskiy & Jekaterina Oertel, Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento, Kazuo Hara, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Roy Andersson, Lee Isaac Chung, Pablo Larraín, Agnieszka Holland, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Pietro Marcello, Roman Polanski, Christian Petzold, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Sakahara Atsushi, Frederick Wiseman, Andrei Konchalovsky, Fabio & Damiano D’Innocenzo, Lav Diaz, Cristi Puiu, Rithy Panh, Sergei Loznitsa, Václav Marhoul, Benoît Jacquot, Ahmad Bahram, Valentyn Vasyanovych, Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro, Christos Nikou, Oliver Laxe, Heinz Emigholz, Masaharu Take, Andrey Khrzhanovsky, a set of Restored Classics from the silent era to present day, a Shochiku Cinema 100th Anniversary showcase, and both a Stanley Kwan and Wong Kar-Wai series. By contrast, the offerings in next month's Seattle International Film Festival appear slight. Returning from their hiatus of last year, Seattle have nonetheless programmed a set of the significant films seen in New York and Toronto, like those from François OzonMohammad Rasoulof, and Miwa Nishikawa. There's also a selection of Venice, Berlin, and Rotterdam favorites like the newest from Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo, Anders Thomas Jensen, Ana Katz, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, and Srdan Golubović. As well as a set of Sundance notables from Alexis Gambis, and Prano Bailey-Bond, alongside award-winning films by Yu-Hsun Chen, and Tomas Vengris, and a premiere from Robert Connelly.