SIFF 2015 (Seattle International Film Festival) really shows off its vitality as the longest film festival in North America this year. Operating a host of its own theatres this year, from the SIFF Cinema Uptown and SIFF Cinema to the newly acquired SIFF Egyptian, SIFF is going strong, and this year, many of our top picks are centered around recent political happenings, music trends, food, murder, and freedom.

SIFF 2015
Schedules are subject to change, so please consult the official festival website before you head out!

SIFF 2015 (Seattle International Film Festival 2015) Top Film Picks

SIFF 2015

African Films

Beats of the Antonov (Sudan)
Directed by Hajooj Kuka
In an area of the world completely torn asunder by war, the one thing South Sudan can hold on to is their vibrant musical culture as citizens are forced into refugee camps to survive. Hajooj Kuka takes a look at the resilience of the Sudanese communities in these terrible situations. Peter Woodburn
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May 21, 6:30 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 22, 4:00 @ Pacific Place 11

Australian & Pacific Islander Films

Charlie’s Country (Australia) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Rolf de Heer
An out-of-sorts and aging aboriginal named Charlie paints tree bark and fishes most days, but feels increasingly estranged from the Australia of his youth. The last straw comes when police confiscate Charlie’s spear as a weapon, prompting him to leave his community and head out indeterminately into “the bush.” But the new Australia isn’t done with him yet. Charlie’s Country is a heartbreaking portrayal of a changing world with little respect for marginalized peoples. Best Actor (David Gulpilil), Cannes Film Festival. Aaron Bruner

May 15, 4:00 @ Harvard Exit
May 16, 9:30 @ Harvard Exit

Carribean Films

Behavior – Conducta (Cuba) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Ernesto Daranas
A polarizing hit in its home country, this rare film from Cuba chronicles the drama that ensues after a seasoned school teacher makes it her mission to remove her student from a governmental re-education facility. Vivian Hua

May 15, 3:30pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas Cinema
May 17, 6:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 19, 3:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

East Asian & Southeast Asian Films

A Hard Day (South Korea)
Directed by Seong-hun Kim
Homicide detective Ko Gun-soo accidentally commits a hit and run on a lonely stretch of highway. As he quickly tries to hide evidence and cover his tracks, his life goes from bad to worse in this South Korean thriller. Peter Woodburn
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May 19, 9:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 20, 9:30pm @ SIFF Egyptian

 

Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories – Cha và con và (Vietnam, France, Germany)
* TOP PICK *

Directed by Phan Dang Di
Modern Saigon is seen in all its raw, bold, and sensuous colors, when viewed through the eyes of three promiscuous youngsters who explore their own boundaries without fear. Vivian Hua

June 3, 9:30pm @ Harvard Exit
June 5, 12:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

The Cave of Silken Web – Pan Si Dong (Hong Kong)
Directed by Meng Hua Ho
“This 1967 Shaw Brothers’ classic is an action-packed remake of the 1927 silent epic. In The Cave of the Silken Web, our traveling monk and his three companions encounter seven sexy spider demons, convinced they will live forever on their flesh.” SIFF Website
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May 19, 9:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 20, 9:30pm @ SIFF Egyptian

 

Daughter – Dukhtar (Pakistan)
Directed by Afia Nathaniel
In old-school dramatic fashion, this film from Pakistan follows the journey of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter as they flee from an arranged wedding with a local tribal leader, through cityscapes and natural formations. Vivian Hua
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May 20, 9:30pm @ AMC Pacific Place 11
May 21, 4:30pm @ AMC Pacific Place 11

 

The Golden Era – Huang Jin Shi Dai (China, Hong Kong)
Directed by Ann Hui
The Golden Era focuses on five years in the life of Xio Hang, a political writer and influencer during the 1930s. The film offers insight on the Chinese political climate of that time as well as weaves in her philosophical musings: “I cannot choose how I will live or how I will die, but I can choose how I love and how I live. This is the freedom that I want. My Golden Era.”
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May 23, 1:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 24, 7:30pm @ Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
May 30, 9:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

How To Win At Checkers (Every Time) (Thailand, USA, Indonesia, Hong Kong)
Directed by Josh Kim
A well-shot but not overly slick coming-of-age film, Checkers tells the story of Oat, his older brother Ek, and the military draft lottery that comes for every Thai man at age 21. The film’s use of Thailand’s complex sexual spectrum as a subtle backdrop rather than the main focus is a refreshing conceit. The film does a wonderful job of showing the character of Thailand, as well as telling a fairly compelling story of growing up and brotherly love. Allen Huang
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May 20, 9:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 27 4:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

Little Forest (Japan) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Junichi Mori
This gargantuan, four-part series has to be the quietest, most insular movie featured at this year’s festival. This film is about two things: the beautiful Japanese countryside and cooking. The food looks good, the scenery is wonderful, and everything else doesn’t matter. Each portion represents a season, and features the delicious foods you can cook using sources found/harvested during that period. Pure audio/visual catnip. Allen Huang

May 18, 6:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 24, 12:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

A Matter of Interpretation (South Korea) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Kwang-kuk Lee
A talky, Jarmusch-esque meditation on life transitions and dreams. The film’s convoluted structure (yes, dreams within dreams) is confounding at times, but the excellent acting of Shin Dong Mi provides the necessary compass for one’s enjoyment. The Korean language can be very nuanced and clever; this film aims to show just how. Allen Huang

May 28, 8:30pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 29, 9:30pm @ Harvard Exit
May 31, 1:30pm @ Harvard Exit

 

Snow on the Blades – Zakurozaka no Adauchi (Japan) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu
A tangentially relevant take on the Samurai Vengeance trope, Snow on the Blades has fallen retainer Kingo fighting against two unbeatable foes: Gentrification and Modernization. What is the importance of “right” and “wrong” when it comes to the passing of time? What do you do when you swear revenge but then everyone is just, “who cares?” Allen Huang
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May 16, 6:00pm @ SIFF Egyptian
May 17, 1:30pm @ Harvard Exit
May 18, 6:00pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas

 

When Marnie Was There – Omoide no Marnie (Japan)
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
The (potential) final feature film produced by legendary animation studio Ghibli. Marnie is not an ambitious film but features all the Ghibli notes: a young woman coming-of-age, supernatural occurrences tempered by the simple joys of loving and being loved. Go see it, just because you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Allen Huang
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May 16, 10:00am @ SIFF Egyptian
May 20, 7:00pm @ SIFF Egyptian

Eastern European & Western European Films

Liza, The Fox-Fairy (Hungary) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Károly Ujj-Mészáros
Advertised as the newest Amelie, Liza, the Fox Fairy is a romantic romp featuring off-kilter color palettes and slick editing. Though the Japanophile quirks (especially the poor parodies of Japanese ’60s pop) are ultimately an unnecessary and orientalist distraction, the comic timing is on point and the characters are likable enough to guide viewers through the lumpy cultural mish-mash. Allen Huang

May 25, 12:00pm @ Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
June 3, 8:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 5, 3:45pm @ Pacific Place

 

Marshland – La Isla Minima (Spain)
Directed by Alberto Rodríguez
A pair of detectives head to southern Spain to investigate the brutal murder of two sisters in 1980. What they unearth is a drug trafficking ring and a possible serial killer looking to strike again. Peter Woodburn
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May 18, 8:45pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas
June 5, 9:30pm @ Pacific Place
June 7, 8:45pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

Next Time I’ll Aim For The Heart – La prochaine fois je viserai le coeur (France) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Cédric Anger
This is the true story of French serial killer Alain Lamare, who also just happened to be a policeman in charge of investigating his own crimes. Director Cedric Angers tells the story from the killer’s point of view, with a strong performance from Guillaume Canet to carry the film as one of the better crime thrillers. Peter Woodburn

May 31, 9:45pm @ SIFF Egyptian
June 2, 9:45pm @ SIFF Egyptian
June 3 @ 8:30pm @ Kirkland Performance Center

 

Not All Is Vigil – No todo es vigilia (Spain, Colombia)
Directed by Hermes Paralluelo
Old people can be at once adorable and irritating, as is proven in this semi-documentary that follows director Hermes Paralluelo’s real grandparents through their daily ups and downs — which, after so many years, seem to be less ups and downs and more simply just existing, for better or for worse. Vivian Hua

May 31, 6:00pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas
June 1, 7:00pm @ AMC Pacific Place 11

 

One Million Dubliners (Ireland)
Directed by Aoife Kelleher
This documentary takes a tour of Ireland through the business of death. One Million Dubliners focuses on Ireland’s national necropolis, the Glasnevin Cemetery, which hosts more graves than there are living citizens in Dublin. Peter Woodburn
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May 23, 11:00am @ Pacific Place
May 24, 6:30pm @ Harvard Exit

 

Set Fire To The Stars (United Kingdom)
Directed by Andy Goddard
Elijah Wood plays poetry also-ran John Malcom Brinnin, accompanying the unpredictable and wildly talented Dylan Thomas, played by Celyn Jones. Poetry and literature fans will no doubt find much to enjoy in this film, as every line is delivered with the cadence and urgency of a playwright. Those who aren’t privy to the figures portrayed in the film will find enjoyment from the interplay of Woods and Jones, who enact the classic Odd Couple jaunt but with a smidgen more class. Allen Huang
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May 15, 7:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

Vincent – Vincent n’a pas d’écailles (France) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Thomas Salvador
Vincent is just a normal French guy working a normal French job until one day he discovers he has superpowers. His normal life suddenly gets turned upside down as much as Vincent aims to redefine what it means to be a superhero film in a world full of Marvel and DC Comics. Peter Woodburn
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May 25, 3:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 28, 6:00pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas

Middle Eastern Films

The Color of Pomegranates – Sayat Nova (Armenia) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Sergei Parajanov
“Sergei Parajanov’s empirical masterpiece loosely follows the life of Sayat Nova, “King of Song,” an Armenian poet and musician born in the 18th century, through vibrant sets and costumes and hypnotic shots. This colorful and avant-garde masterpiece provides an utterly transformative cinematic experience.” From the SIFF Website

May 20, 7:00pm @ Harvard Exit

 

Red Rose (Iran, France, Greece)
Directed by Sepideh Farsi
Using a mix of cinéma vérité and up-close intimate moments, director Sepideh Farsi weaves a tale of the relationship of a young, Iranian activist and a passive, middle-aged man as they try and make sense of a changing country during the 2009 Green Revolution. Peter Woodburn
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May 17, 8:00 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 21, 3:30 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

North American Films

3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets (United States) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Marc Silver
In 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Davis was gunned down inside his car all because someone thought his rap music was playing too loud. As racial tensions continue to mount in America, this documentary is an essential accompaniment to the national conversation. Peter Woodburn

June 2, 7:00 @ The Egyptian
June 3, 6:00 @ Kirkland Performance Center

 

All Things Must Pass (United States)
Directed by Colin Hanks
Colin Hanks makes his directoral debut with a look into the rise and fall of Tower Records. The documentary combines insider interviews and archival footage as he chronicles a company that has been one of the biggest players in the changing music industry of the past decade. Peter Woodburn

May 30, 7:00 @ Harvard Exit
May 31, 3:00 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

The Astrologer (United States)
Directed by Craig Denney
“A true WTF archival discovery, this mind-bogglingly off-the-wall ’70s flick is a maniacal tribute to DIY filmmaking that tells the director/star/astrologer’s “true” story of discovering psychic powers and using them to become a continent-hopping expert on astrology, diamond-smuggling, and film production. And some other things. Really anything.” From the SIFF Website
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May 24, 11:55pm @ SIFF Cinema Egyptian

 

Experimenter (United States) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Michael Almereyda
Almost everyone knows of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who changed the face of the entire field thanks to his “obedience experiments”. Experimenter, a biopic which features a star cast of Peter Sarsgaard as Stanley Milgram and Winona Ryder as his wife, sheds light on the passionate and controversial researcher. Vivian Hua

June 4, 6:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 6, 1:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

H. (United States, Argentina) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Daniel Garcia, Rania Attieh
Set in Troy, New York, H. is an off-kilter drama that takes place during strangely apocalpytic days. After a meteor-like object explodes in the sky, nearby residents awaken suddenly to find that they had slept through entire days while physics goes haywire: coffee leaks through cups and water flows backwards.H. is somehow co-sponsored by Gucci and finds its strength in sound and experimentation that helps tell its increasingly psychedelic tale. Vivian Hua

May 25, 6:30pm @ AMC Pacific Place 11
May 28, 4:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

License to Operate (United States) * TOP PICK *
Directed by James Lipetzky
“License to Operate” makes its world premiere at SIFF. The documentary showcases the LTOs in Los Angeles, a term given to gang members who are leaders and hold power based on actions of their past. Only these leaders are trying to rebuild their community and stop the cycle of gang violence they were not only a part of, but helped proliferate in their pasts. Peter Woodburn

May 26, 8:00 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 27, 3:45 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

natural history (United States)
Directed by James Benning
“Posited by the museum’s director Christian Koeberl as possibly Benning’s only work shot indoors, the 77-minute natural history is a series of almost entirely still, almost entirely humanless shots inside the museum, essentially alternating, or nearly so, images from the archives—not the exhibits—of the museum’s collection with images of corridors, hallways, offices, and other rooms hidden within the building.” Mubi.com

May 16, 8:00pm @ SIFF Film Center
May 17, 4:30pm @ SIFF Film Center

 

Wet Bum (Canada)
Directed by Lindsay MacKay
14-year-old Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) delivers a stellar performance of a girl who explores the horrors and humiliation that is life in middle school and high school. Sarah finds herself most comfortable when in the water, which begins to lead to a confusing relationship with her flirtatious swim instructor. Peter Woodburn
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May 20, 6:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 30, 11:00am @ Pacific Place
May 31, 5:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

Northern European Films

1001 Grams (Norway)
Directed by Bent Hamer
A recently divorced scientist is tasked to with carrying the Norwegian national kilo prototype to Paris in this halfway scientific, halfway romantic, deadpan comedy. Peter Woodburn
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May 15, 4:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 17, 9:30pm @ Harvard Exit

 

A Second Chance (Denmark, Sweden)
Directed by Susanne Bier
Academy Award-winning director Susanne Bier (Brothers) is back with a psycological drama that tells the story of a mourning police officer switching his recently deceased child with a junkie’s neglected infant. Peter Woodburn
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May 16, 6:00 @ Lincoln Square Cinemas
June 1, 9:30 @ SIFF Egyptian
June 3, 4:30 @ SIFF Egyptian

 

Itsi Bitsi (Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Argentina)
Directed by Ole Christian Madsen
The Danish psychedelic band Steppeulven are the subject of this biopic. Set in the 1960s, this story of counterculture music, sex and a lot of drugs brings the birth of a Danish version of Captain Beefheart. Peter Woodburn
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May 21, 9:30 @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 27, 8:30 @ Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 31, 9:30 @ Pacific Place

 

Out of Nature – Mot Naturen (Norway)
Directed by Marte Vold, Ole Giæver
Martin is a socially awkward Norwegian who goes on a hike to try and help resolve the conflicts of his personal demons. Set against the flawless Norwegian countryside, Out of Nature is a hilarious piece about introspection and contemplation. Peter Woodburn
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May 24, 6:00pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas
June 1, 4:30pm @ SIFF Egyptian
June 3, 9:30pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

Paris of the North – París norðursins (Iceland)
Directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson
Recovering alcoholic Hugi has to get a new start, so he decides to move away from Reykjavik to a small fishing town in northwest Iceland. Everything is going fine, until Hugi’s hard-drinking father arrives. His first film, Either Way, screened at SIFF in 2012. Peter Woodburn
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May 15, 11:30am @ Pacific Place
May 19, 9:00pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 21, 3:30pm @ Lincoln Square Cinemas

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