Eating the Elephant

If SIFF refuses to get any smaller (and maybe we should just grudgingly admire that), then we'll have to take smaller bites.

Cancel your plans for the next 25 days. That's the implicit message—threat?—from SIFF, which basically wants to monopolize your life for the price of one of those laminated passes that you can snobbily swing on its Sundance lanyard while standing in line. Do the screenings create conflicts at the office? Quit your job and go on unemployment. Better yet, volunteer for the fest. Join the cult, enlist in the cause, surrender to the cinematic inevitability that is the 31st Seattle International Film Festival. Resistance is futile; submit to the force, Luke. It's useless to complain, I've found, about SIFF's bloat—there's always one more title from Kazakhstan its programmers have simply got to have; one more panel discussion featuring a director from Beijing who doesn't speak any English; one more program of wacky shorts that can't wait for Bumbershoot. Befitting its status as the biggest popular fest in the U.S. (as opposed to a film market, like Sundance), SIFF goads you into its own spirit of greed and acquisitiveness. For the already overstuffed SIFF-goer, it's like the restaurant scene in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: Wouldn't you like to see just one more movie? It's wafer thin. If you insist. So to help you choose from the platter of 300-plus titles, Seattle Weekly is shining the spotlight on some noteworthy entrées in the following pages. We're boldly listing 57 picks from the buffet, and our critics tell why they're salivating for some as-yet-unseen goodies. The smorgasbord is particularly strong when it comes to documentaries, which we also examine at length. The dozen-odd music docs we'll highlight in an upcoming issue, and there will be SIFF news updates all during the fest. As for those pesky missing prints and visiting celebs stopped by the Department of Homeland Security ("What is this 'SIFF,' Mr. Abdul? Some kind of code word to trigger a terrorist plot?"), it's always best to check the official festival Web site for changes in the schedule. But we're not going to pretend we've seen everything, nor suggest—for your belly's sake—that you see everything, either. If you're full, you're full. If you want to loosen your belt another notch, that's fine, too. There's no law that says quality doesn't come along with quantity. And sometimes it's worth paying a premium price for the gala opener (Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know) and closer (Gus Van Sant's Kurt Cobain movie, Last Days), especially when there's real food involved. Never mind what the poster says; for this year's fest, the slogan might as well be: Super-size me. Seattle International Film Festival Inside-Hollywood documentaries. MORE Films focus on the family. MORE Nature as victim: Enough! MORE What our critics want to see. MORE All 57 Seattle Weekly picks. MORE Download and print our picks. PDF

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