SIFF as Cultural Juggernaut

Yes, we're still the best-attended fest in the U.S.

It's bigger, it's better, it's bigger, it's better. . . . Haven't we all read that 32 times before? Since its founding in 1976, the Seattle International Film Festival has swollen into a cultural juggernaut. Running this year from Thursday, May 24, through Sunday, June 17, it's like the massive stone portal to summer, from which dedicated SIFF-goers emerge pale and blinking in the unfamiliar sunlight. The fest is no less an institution than Bumbershoot, and the new SIFF Cinema beneath McCaw Hall helps cement its institutional status. With around 280 features and docs this year, plus dozens upon dozens of shorts, SIFF is still the biggest and best-attended fest in the country. Yes, Sundance and Tribeca may have their glamour and swanning stars, but we know how to gorge on popcorn, candy, and sensitive coming-of-age tales set among the nomadic sheepherding tribes of central Uzbekistan.

As always, there are a ton of documentaries catering to SIFF's newspaper-reading, reality-consuming, keeping-track-of-the-daily-casualties-in-Iraq demo. Docs are cheap to make, of course, which means their production isn't all moving to Vancouver, B.C. And they're easy to get for SIFF—those directors will show up anywhere for a free meal. This week, we highlight two of the more entertaining Seattle-related films on the schedule: The King of Kong, about an extreme video-game rivalry, and The Life and Times of Yva Las Vegass, which profiles the last woman in the world you'd want in your band.

Also: We review just about every damn film on SIFF's first-week schedule. (No SIFF-supplied ad copy here; no glib "reviews" of films we didn't see.) Because when you're trying to decide whether to spend your Memorial Day weekend with a mah-jong–loving gay Taiwanese hit man with amnesia masquerading as a teacher at a Catholic girls' school, or with three Argentine soccer fans who mistakenly visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (meeting three comely Midwestern sisters in the process!), you really need some critics you can trust.

See you in line—and online for more coverage, news, and reviews throughout the fest. Brian Miller

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