Seattle International Film Festival

You'll find two main varieties of SIFFgoers at the Seattle International Film Festival, now in its 38th year. First are the savvy veterans, passes dangling on lanyards, schedules heavily annotated, iSIFF apps glowing on screen while standing in the short line. They buy their premium passes before the schedule's even announced. They're members of SIFF year-round. They're always early to the screenings, comparing notes, wearing comfortable shoes. Then there are the random, almost accidental SIFFgoers, the "Hey, what's this line all about?" passersby. If late tickets are available (most screenings are $11 this year), they join the long line—sometimes just out of blind curiosity. It's like restaurants: A crowd implies quality. So my question is, in choosing among the 273 features and docs (plus nearly 200 shorts), who has more fun? Who has more sense of discovery—the diehards or the newbies? The former camp tends to do the homework in advance, parsing IMDb and other festival reviews. If they know the director's past work, another movie about grain threshing in Kazakhstan won't seem so daunting. As for the impulse filmgoer, there's the satisfaction of weathering something completely unexpected—and sometimes even wonderful. Even a bad movie can be, in its obdurate challenges, a "Wow, Thai brothel workers have it even worse than I imagined" kind of revelation. SIFF needs both contingents—the grizzled pass-holders and the fresh blood—and it rewards them both, too. BRIAN MILLER

May 17-June 10, 2012

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