The party is about to get started at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). We’re just two days away from the official kick-off of the 42nd edition of this well-regarded and long-running film festival, which will bring Seattleites an opportunity to enjoy a broad selection of domestic and international films, documentaries and shorts, along with awesome parties and the possibility to get in touch with local and worldwide talent through special events, forums and panels. SIFF 2016 will run from May 19 to June 12 and it will feature a total of 421 films representing 85 countries, so there will definitely be something for everyone’s taste.
The festival will start its activities this Thursday night with the North American premiere of Woody Allen’s latest period comedy Café Society, which just had its world premiere last week as the Opening Night act at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie, distributed by Amazon Studios in partnership with Lionsgate, features Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively as the headliners of a star-studded ensamble.
Here at Cinerama Online, we’re super excited to join the SIFF celebration for the 11th time (and to volunteer with an amazing organization for the 3rd consecutive year!) and we wanted to share our excitement with you by presenting our 10 recommended picks for SIFF 2016. Are you ready to #LightTheSIFFUp?
01. The Lure
(Genre: Musical/Drama. Country: Poland. Year: 2015)
This 80s-influenced, wild and bizarre musical adventure stars two mermaid sisters with cannibal/vampire instincts who are taken by a family of musicians that perform at a shady nightclub. The two ladies become an immediate sensation thanks to their “magical” powers that allow them to switch form between mermaid and human, but trouble ensues when one of them falls in love with a human, and well, you know the rest of the legend. The Lure was our favorite film out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and all we can say is that it is an unforgettable experience and a complete blast. Its original and risky take on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Little Mermaid surely pays off, with strong performances, lots of memorable moments and catchy tunes.
Playing: Friday, May 27 at 9:30pm, Saturday, May 28 at 4:00pm and Sunday, May 29 at 9:15pm
02. Mountains May Depart
(Genre: Drama. Country: China/Japan/France. Year: 2015)
Acclaimed chinese director Jia Zhangke brings us an emotional family drama that spans across three decades and takes us between two continents. Love triangles, failed marriages and complex mother-son relationships are some themes carefully analyzed and contrasted with the social panorama of China. Mountains May Depart had its worldwide premiere at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and it has played at important festivals ever since, including Toronto and New York. We’re really happy that this movie will finally find a release platform, even if limited, here in Seattle.
Playing: Thursday, June 9 at 3:00pm and Friday, June 10 at 9:45pm
03. A Monster with a Thousand Heads
(Genre: Drama. Country: Mexico. Year: 2015)
Director Rodrigo Pla is no stranger to SIFF. His 2008 feature Desierto Adentro (The Desert Within) screened in the festival a few years ago. This time, Pla takes us through a hopeless and violent ride that delves into the broken Mexican healthcare system, but that also serves as a reflection and critique with a universal scope. Running at only 74 minutes, A Monster with a Thousand Heads follows the calvary of bureaucratic processes that Sonia needs to follow in order to ensure her husband gets the necessary medical attention. The movie premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival to high critical praise and it has been nominated for 7 Ariel Awards, the awards handed by the Mexican film academy.
Playing: Monday, May 23 at 9:00pm and Tuesday, May 31 at 9:30pm
(Genre: Comedy/Drama. Country: Spain/Argentina. Year: 2015)
This dramedy reunites two of the greatest Spanish-speaking actors: Ricardo Darin from Argentina, and Javier Camara from Spain. You might remember Darin from the captivating Wild Tales and the Oscar-winning drama The Secret in their Eyes, while Camara has worked several times with Cinerama Online’s favorite Pedro Almodovar and he also played the main role in SIFF’s favorite Living is Easy with Eyes Closed from a few years ago. In Truman, they play Julian and Tomas, two best friends who reunite years later after being apart. Now, both men, accompanied by Truman (Julian’s dog), must face some terrible news together and take care of each other. This crowd-pleaser premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year and won the Goya award for Best Movie (Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars).
Playing: Sunday, May 29 at 4:30pm, Monday, May 30 at 6:30pm and Friday, June 3 at 9:00pm
05. Under the Shadow
(Genre: Horror. Country: Iran/Jordan/Qatar/UK. Year: 2016)
If you’re looking for a scary experience at this year’s SIFF, then you shouldn’t miss the heart-rushing and extremely terrifying Under the Shadow. This Iranian-set film played at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it was a complete knock-out with both audiences and critics. Directed by newcomer Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow takes us to the city of Tehran in the 80s to present us the story of a mother and her little daughter who live alone in a creepy apartment complex that appears to be haunted by evil spirits. But, are the spirits real, or is it just simple superstition? A well-rounded psychological and character study, kind of similar to what we saw in The Babadook, but this one has a more interesting back-story and political/social context, and it also has a lot of scary sequences that will keep you holding on to whoever’s sitting next to you.
Playing: Friday, June 3 at 11:55pm and Wednesday, June 8 at 9:30pm
06. From Afar
(Genre: Drama. Country: Venezuela/Mexico. Year: 2015)
Lorenzo Vigas’ debut film won the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival and all we can say is that it was greatly deserved. From Afar steps away from the “queer” cinema tag it carries in order to tell us a story that dissects the social and economical problems in troubled Venezuela. Armando is a middle-age man who lives alone in an apartment in the city of Caracas. He finds pleasure inviting street guys into his place and paying them to have weird and physical-less encounters. That’s until he meets Elder, a teenager who will rattle his tranquil lifestyle, forcing him to establish an unimaginable bond. The story moves along the lines of SIFF’s previous entry, the French drama Eastern Boys, but the different layers and textures of From Afar make it a better and more unique tale.
Playing: Friday, May 27 at 9:45pm and Sunday, May 29 at 1:30pm
07. Between Sea and Land
(Genre: Drama. Country: Colombia. Year: 2016)
This Colombian drama had its premiere at Sundance where Cinerama Online had an opportunity to watch it, and we can tell you it is a very emotional film that was able to connect very well with the audience, so it’s no surprise the movie snatched the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic category. Between Sea and Land follows the lives of Rosa and her disabled son Alberto, who live in extreme poverty in a swamp near Colombia’s coast line. Alberto is paralyzed and tied to his bed, but that hasn’t impeded him from having a dream: he wants to go to the sea. Rosa’s endless love for her son will push her to do whatever’s in her power to seek out her son’s happiness. A powerful story of love, life and sacrifice featuring two powerhouse performance from Sundance favorites Vicky Hernandez and Manolo Cruz.
Playing: Sunday, June 5 at 6:00pm and Tuesday, June 7 at 4:00pm
08. Captain Fantastic
(Genre: Drama. Country: United States. Year: 2016)
Viggo Mortensen stars in this family drama from actor-turned-director Matt Ross. Set in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, Mortensen plays Ben, a father of six kids who has raised them apart from civilization. After his wife’s health worsens, the family decides to move to the city where they will face a different and harsh reality. Steve Zahn and Frank Langella co-star in this study about parenthood, loss, and the meaning of family. Actor Viggo Mortensen will be attending the screening and presenting the movie in person, all of this as part of this year’s SIFF homage to his excellent filmography. The festival will also play three other Viggo favorites: A Walk on the Moon, Eastern Promises and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, so don’t miss them!
Playing: Saturday, June 11 at 1:30pm and Sunday, June 12 at 2:30pm
(Genre: Documentary/Musical. Country: Germany/Switzerland/Iran. Year: 2015)
Sonita is the name of a young Afghan refugee in Iran who’s the main subject of this critically-acclaimed documentary. A big hit at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film grabbed both the Audience and Grand Jury prizes for World Cinema Documentary. Sonita follows the dream of this girl of becoming a musician, while rebelling against the society and the traditions she grew up with. There will be an amazing selection of documentaries playing at SIFF 2016, but if we had to pick only one, we’ll go with Sonita.
Playing: Thursday, May 26 at 6:30pm, Saturday, May 28 at 1:00pm and Saturday, June 4 at 3:30pm
10. The Fits
(Genre: Drama. Country: United States. Year: 2015)
The Fits marks Anna Rose Holmer debut as a director and she has already made a name for herself after premiering the film at Sundance this year. This spellbinding drama centers around an 11 year old girl who’s willing to do whatever it takes in order to fit in and be part of an all-girls dance group. The movie has had a good run in the festival circuit this year and critics have been raving about its director’s new and fresh voice, as well as newcomer Royalty Hightower’s performance as tomboy Toni.
Playing: Wednesday, June 8 at 6:30pm and Friday, June 10 at 4:30pm
Showtimes and venues may change, so don’t forget to check the SIFF website for additional information, and also for buying your tickets online! http://www.siff.net/festival-2016