Due the unfortunate fact that we are merely human and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is just beginning its three-week film rampage, we’ve sifted through the Festival’s gigantic catalog to come up with the best films of the bunch — or so we suspect. SIFF is annually guaranteed to have a mixture of some of the best and worst films that one can see — and these film recommendations come from the minds of three REDEFINE writers with good intentions. Yet at best, these selections are our most educated hypotheses, determined from a mixture of film industry knowledge and intuitions based on trailers.
On the right, we’ve grouped our selections for 2013 by world region.
Stay tuned in the weeks to come, as we offer updates throughout the festival’s progression, with general thumbs up and thumbs down summaries of the films we will painfully and enjoyably slog and float through, as well as one-off full-length reviews. Happy SIFFing!
The Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is upon us again, and we have whittled down their list of 100+ international shorts and full-length films to summarize the most interesting, socially-conscious, and boundary-pushing of the bunch.
This year’s festival runs from February 7th through the 23rd, beginning with an Opening Night celebration featuring Blancanieves, a silent Spanish reworking of Snow White. Purchase tickets and find out more.
Our festival preview begins below with this year’s top five picks, followed by the rest in alphabetical order.
Beyond The Hills
Directed by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)
Based on the novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, which are real-life documents of demonic possession, Beyond The Hills is a bleak and stark religious drama set an Orthodox monastery in Moldovia. Though Alina (Cirstina Flutur) heads to the monastery to convince her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) to leave and return to Germany, Alina finds herself sucked more and more into the environment and its callings. Flutur and Stratan both shared the Best Actress Prize at Cannes Film Festival for these performances.
Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
Directed by Margarethe von Trotta (Germany)
Based on the life of German philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, Hannah Arendt chronicles her writings for The New Yorker on the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann covered a scenario that was not black and white but veiled in greys, causing great conflict and protest amongst an American public and the publication’s editing staff. Hannah Arendt is a drama about journalism, and the social duty of reporting as one sees as truthful, rather than as it is idealized or pressured to be.
Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 5:15 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
Directed by Xavier Dolan (Canada)
Despite being happy and in love, high school teacher Laurence finally reveals to his girlfriend Fred his long-standing desire to become a woman. Fred agrees to support him on his quest, though once the transformations begin, social complications begin to pressure, ostracize, and place fear into the hearts of the couple. Through it all, Laurence Anyways is a tale of love and the ability to weather storms for it.
Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8 PM (Cinema 21)
Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 7 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)
Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel (United States) Leviathan presents experimental filmmaking at its finest or its worst, depending on your opinion of macro-view, immersive documentary art. The New York Film Festival describes Leviathan as “a hallucinatory sensory experience quite unlike any other”, and the trailer is seems to assert this with views of commercial fishing, as presented with only abstract sounds and imagery.
Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)
Directed by Cate Shortland (Australia)
After World War II and the death of Adolf Hitler, five young children are left to fend for themselves when their Nazi SS parents are captured. In an attempt to reach their grandparents in Hamburg, they traverse 500 miles of changing landscapes, meeting unfortunate families along the way and finding a savior in a young Jewish man whose kindness goes against all of their programmed teachings.
Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)
During the 1960s, a flood of immigration brought thousands of Turks from their homeland to Germany, with promises of well-paying career opportunities. Without cultural context, one might find such a German and Turkish association to be bizarre — but when given historical context, which the heartwarming and humorous Almanya — Willkommen in Deutschland provides, one begins to understand the fascinating culture surrounding that population, which has now spent decades in a foreign country.
Almanya documents the story of a Turkish family, headed by a grandpa who has seen his children grow to father more children in Germany. Each member of the large family seems to hold a different opinion about his or her Turkish-German upbringing and personal degree of assimilation — so when grandpa declares over dinner that he has purchased a home in Turkey and would like to take a family trip for everyone to see it, he is met with much resistance. Even his wife of many years is surprised and disappointed by the news. To this, he sternly questions, “Have I ever asked anything of you?” and the family falls silent, only to eventually acquiesce to grandpa’s will. From there, the film flies through timelines and decades, recapping the family’s immigration from Turkey to Germany with all of the pomp and romanticism that all who dream of a new opportunities no doubt have. But while the film humorously spotlights the excitement of grandpa’s past, it also expresses, on the behalf of both the grandparents and their Turkish-born children, a sense of nostalgia for a motherland that lies as a gateway between Europe and Asia.
Recent influence polls with REDEFINE artists and musicians have revealed that director Wes Anderson, known for such hits as The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, and Life Aquatic, has a new film out in theatres! Set in the ’60s, Moonrise Kingdom is the tale of two young kids who fall in love and run away together. When the entire island town mobilizes to search for them, everything turns unpredictable — and unpredictably filled with Boy Scout costumes.
Rent-A-Cat chronicles the good-heartedly travels of Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa), a woman who lives alone. Well, she doesn’t exactly live alone; Sayoko lives with cats. A lot of cats. After her grandmother died, Sayoko operates a cat rental business where she loans out cats to the lonely individuals throughout the world seeking to fill holes in their hearts. All the while, Sayoko deals with her own loneliness, because despite being surrounded by the cats she loves…cats can only love so much.
Directed by Naoko Ogigami
Director Naoko Ogigami is sort of a Japanese Wes Anderson — someone who lives and dies by the quirkiness of her films. Rent-A-Cat is chock full of repeated scenarios. Each time Sayoko loans a cat to someone, that person returns the cat a later date, once his or her life has moved on in the way that he or she had hoped it would. But in the end, for an American audience, Rent-A-Cat is a film about a crazy cat lady. Ichikawa is charming enough as the good-natured Sayoko, but the film gets stuck in a rut that doesn’t really move anywhere. Just when it seems that Sayoko is cracking under the pressure of her loneliness, she is back to loaning out cats to strangers. Characters come in and out as they please, sometimes with little to no reason at all. The pinnacle of all this randomness is Sayoko’s neighbor, an old man dressed as a woman with a tendency for unusually cruel remarks.
The film tends to slow down when not much is going on, and these moments usually involve Sayoko talking to her cats or to herself. It happens often, but when Rent-A-Cat gets going with its quirkiness, the whole plotline becomes a bit too adorable to ignore. The idea of someone loaning out cats to combat loneliness seems so foreign, yet so appropriate for a Japanese movie.
Most often when you are attending a foreign film at a film festival, you expect something dark, heavy, and pretty much non-American. For that reason, it is almost a nice breath of fresh air to see Fuck My Wedding at Seattle International Film Festival, as it is a traditional American romantic comedy that just happens to take place in Santiago, Chile and star Chilean actors and actresses.
Fuck My Wedding takes up where its predecessor Fuck My Life ends. Javier (Ariel Levy) proposes to his berserkly attractive girlfriend Ángela (Andrea Velasco) after she accidentally gets pregnant. From the onset, it is clear that Javier’s head isn’t in the relationship, as he is tempted by his boss’s daughter Lucia (Lorenzo Izzo), and romantic comedy affairs follow. Javier makes mistakes, Angela sticks with him, breaking points are reached, and whether the couple stay together or not becomes the underlying theme.
Director Nicolás López does a good job of keeping the laughs coming throughout Fuck My Wedding. Jávier’s mother’s rotating collection of tracksuits keep the ridiculousness of her character aloof, and outside of a rather unnecessary, slightly racist bit on the topic of an adopted Haitian child, most of the jokes come in the form of good humor and taste. Jávier somehow maintains a slightly loveable demeanor despite being one of the most moronic fiances seen this side of the Panama Canal.
At its heart, Fuck My Wedding is a slightly inoffensive and pretty standard romantic comedy. Of course, the problem with this is that most standard romantic comedies aren’t anything to write home about. Although López tries to keep it a bit different at times, Fuck My Wedding still falls victim to standard cliches that drown a lot of romantic comedies, with characters making decisions that no real person would ever make. But that is the beauty of cinema, perhaps; individuals like the bumbling, yet loveable, Javier still have a fighting chance with the beauties of the world.
SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012 SCREENINGS
June 6th @ 3:30pm, Harvard Exit Theatre