The recession is kinda, sorta ending, but fortunately, says SIFF artistic director Carl Spence, "We tightened our belts last year," cutting $600,000 from the budget of the parent organization to the Seattle International Film Festival. That means—what else?—that Spence is now expanding the 36th edition of the fest with more venues and titles. In addition to the usual screens downtown, in the U District, and on Capitol Hill, SIFF is reaching out to West Seattle, Kirkland, and even Everett. Of the 400-plus titles, most will screen two and even three times, meaning that if you can't get a standby ticket on Friday night, there's always that 11 a.m. screening on Sunday as a fallback. (Assuming you're not too hungover to drive to Everett.)While there's no breakout local title on the order of The King of Kong or Humpday this year, we like the music doc Wheedle's Groove, about Seattle's late '60s/early '70s funk and R&B scene; it's part of the reissue mission of Light in the Attic Records. Nominated for an Oscar, the short documentary The Last Campaign of Booth Gardner recounts how our former governor, now afflicted with Parkinson's disease, became the figurehead of 2008's I-1000 "Death With Dignity" initiative. And we meet a likable trio of local first-time directors who modestly set their sights on SIFF, not Hollywood.From the team behind American Splendor, the festival opening The Extra Man is a bit twee for our tastes, but the after-party at Benaroya Hall should be worth the gala ticket price. Star Paul Dano and the directors will attend; and Edward Norton will drop by mid-fest to pick up an award and screen his crime drama Leaves of Grass, in which he plays identical twins—one a crook, the other a professor. Other demi-celebrity visitors likely to attend SIFF are Mark Duplass (Cyrus) and his wife Katie Aselton (The Freebie), along with many filmmakers.Live music by The Maldives and Stephin Merritt will accompany two repertory screenings, and various SIFF parties are also peppered throughout the festival.You'll find our picks and pans for SIFF's first week. We'll add new reviews daily at seattleweekly.com/siff, along with news and interviews, in print and online, throughout the festival.
Seattle International Film Festival Thurs., May 20—Sun., June 13. Tickets and schedule: 324-9996 and siff.net. Or visit box office at Pacific Place (second floor, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and noon-6 p.m. Sun.).