This year the Seattle International Film Festival will screen 273 features and 187 shorts representing 75 countries, from more than 5,676 submissions worldwide, compared to 5,213 in 2011, with the final selections representing 24 World, 25 North American, 16 U.S. premieres and 56 short film premieres. There will be 180 features at this year’s Festival arriving without U.S. distribution and 85 films by female filmmakers, up from 62 last year.
“There are so many things to be excited about this year with the opening of our flagship SIFF Film Center headquarters and the acquisition of the historic Uptown Cinemas,” said SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence. “This is the first time in SIFF’s history that we will have the opportunity to show films on multiple screens in a single location allowing us to present the most wide-ranging and diverse selection of films possible. There are films for every kind of movie lover whether you are a cinephile or multiplex guru, running the gamut from food, politics, comedy, action, thriller, classic, auteur cinema and everything in-between.”
We worked with SIFF to choose a selection of Blackbirdy films for your consideration (see below). For a complete line-up of movies and events, check out SIFF.NET and be sure to secure tickets to any movies that you decide are must-sees as seating is limited! Have fun and take advantage of the awesome film celebration that is the Seattle International Film Festival!
Despite the troubles of their eccentric front man and an unbelievable run of bad luck, the widely influential, D.C.-based punk band Bad Brains has endured for 30 years, alternately inflaming and inspiring their fanbase. Stretching back to the mid-’70s, when the four teens met in middle school in Washington, D.C., the film shows their evolution from jazz-fusion enthusiasts to lightening-fast punk players. All the while they endured a tragicomic series of misfortunes from record label woes, to equipment theft, and the more sinister manifestations of frontman H.R.’s battles with mental illness and unflattering homophobic tendencies. Featuring commentary by Henry Rollins, Ric Ocasek, Ian MacKaye, Adam Yauch, and Don Letts, this documentary weaves together archival footage and current interviews with the band, while artful animation by comic book artist Rita Lux and animator Grant Nellessen fills in the narrative gaps and underscores both the transcendent moments and the brutal truths about the band’s backstory.
Actor-turned-director Matthew Lillard successfully translates K.L. Going’s novel into a hilarious and deeply touching cinematic examination of two societal outcasts who have all but given up on the world. Troy, an overweight teen, lives in his fantasies and decides to end it all by stepping in front of a bus. Marcus, a druggie and high school dropout, saves Troy at the last moment and begins using him for occasional money to buy food or drugs. When Marcus eventually invites the musically challenged Troy to join his new punk rock band, Troy discovers that banging on the drums unleashes a confidence that forever alters his reality. As Troy, Jacob Wysocki (Terri, SIFF 2011) continues to display a remarkable seriocomic range, humanizing a teen who is always looking for an escape from every social interaction. Matt O’ Leary’s performance as Marcus is no less complex, demonstrating tightrope-treading precision in crafting a sympathetic character that teeters between friendship and mean-spirited derision. Lillard confidently demonstrates that his acting achievements are not his only talent, as his direction elevates Fat Kid Rules the World into the epic experience that high school feels like when you are living it. Filmed in Seattle by the first-time director.
“Monorail.” When Grant Cogswell hears that word in 2001, he sees an inexpensive, elegant form of mass transit, a Jetsonian future of silent public transportation and unclogged streets. In order to make his dream a reality, Grant needs to run for City Council. But there's one problem: Grant is a loud, obnoxious, sometime music critic for The Stranger, with no connections and no voice in Seattle politics. How can Grant campaign for office? Enter Phil Campbell. Recently fired from the same paper, Phil initially comes on board because he doesn’t have anything better to do, but Grant’s enthusiasm wakes up something new inside him. Soon, Phil’s shrewdness and emerging political savvy, coupled with Grant’s Monorail-mania, attract a ragtag army of young volunteers. The crew is just smart enough, just arrogant enough, and just idealistic enough to believe they can change the world. Together, they wage an energizing, hilarious campaign. Along the way, Grant and Phil both learn that one person really can make a difference, and that some things in life are worth fighting for.
Set in 1958 against the breathtaking backdrop of the titular South Dakota mountain range, Terrence Malick’s broodingly beautiful debut feature chronicles the murderous journey of an ill-fated couple, portrayed unforgettably by Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. Their story is narrated by Holly (Spacek), a naïve and malleable teenage girl living in a small, dead-end plains town. An encounter with a charming, rebellious young greaser—who has a sociopathic appetite for grisly violence—takes Holly down a dark spiritual path and eventually into a harrowing, homicidal road trip that has life-altering consequences for them both. Cited by Spacek as an experience that would forever change her perspective on the art of filmmaking, and perennially hailed as a landmark achievement in how cinematography can drive storyline, Badlands was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1993.
Opening with his 62nd birthday, Soul of America follows the extraordinary journey of singer Charles Bradley during the electrifying and transformative months leading up to the release of his debut album No Time For Dreaming. Abandoned as a child and nearly shattered by the senseless murder of his brother, Bradley has spent his itinerant life in constant poverty. But from Florida to Seattle to New York, he never gave up on his dream to be a professional singer. Discovered while moonlighting as Black Velvet, a James Brown impersonator, Bradley teams with musician Tommy Brenneck and record producer Gabriel Roth. Together, they shed the James Brown covers and focus on finding Charles' unique voice. Charles' heartfelt songs and impassioned performances take him from the projects to an opening slot on a national tour, and eventually to the crafting of a debut album that will become one of the most celebrated albums of the year. Braiding together interviews, rehearsal and performance footage, and the daunting realities of Bradley's struggle, Poull Brien reveals a deep appreciation for the spirit of this remarkable man. Bradley may call himself “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” but this film proves he's actually a phoenix, rising from the ashes to live again.