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Seattle Int’l Film Fest 2009


It is time once again for the massive Seattle International Film Fest, and once again I find myself in Seattle as it kicks off. However, with 395 films (!!) over three weeks I will only be able to catch a flick or two towards the beginning. Still I have poured through the catalog in order to give NWers a few recommendations of films that might be worth checking out. The fest website is great this year with trailers for many of the films on their own slick embedded player. Click the film title for the SIFF page and Enjoy!

(500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer
Quite possibly the film I am most looking forward to this summer is music video director Marc Webb’s feature debut. This Sundance hit stars Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an offbeat romance. Fox Searchlight is set to release the film in mid-July but if you can’t wait (why would you?) then catch it at SIFF during the fest’s last week.

We Live in Public
Ondi Timoner, director of one of my favorite documentaries ever, DiG!, finally has a new film out and it looks incredibly interesting. The film goes inside a social experiment that put 100 people underground New York to live and party together – all in front of a ton of cameras. Anyone who saw DiG! knows Timoner is one of the best at letting his subjects tell the story and this is sure to be a first rate doc.

Il Divo
This award winning Italian film is the dramatization of the true story of a highly influential Italian politician with deep mafia roots. The film won a Jury prize at Cannes last year. SIFF says: “Sorrentino’s stylized portrait of Andreotti manages to be seriously political but wraps its message in an entertaining package featuring wicked wit and brilliant cinematography.”

Maradona by Kusturica
What film festival would be complete without a soccer documentary? This is award winning filmmaker Emir Kusturica’s examination of the life and career of one of the best footballers of all time, Argentine Diego Maradona.

Burma VJ
Burma VJ
A behind the scenes look at the 2007 Burmese political uprising shot covertly by people on the ground – Burma VJ has already been hailed as one of the year’s best docs winning an editing award at Sundance. I’m planning to see this film May 26 at 5pm.

The Beast Stalker
This is the other flick I am gonna try to catch May 27 at 7pm. Called by SIFF “the Hong Kong action hit of the year,” Dante Lam’s cop/triad battle begins with “a thrilling car chase that ends with a $200,000 multicar stunt you have to see to believe.” Sounds good to me.

Hansel and Gretel
Also while I’m in town is this Korean surrealist take on the old fairy tale directed by Yim Phil-sung . The trailer is definitely worth checking out.

Don’t Let Me Drown
I’m pretty intrigued by this ultra indie about latino teens set in NYC shortly after 9/11. Director Cruz Angeles is a name that might be worth looking out for.

Favela on Blast
The most interesting thing about this documentary examining the Brazilian club culture of Baile Funk is that it is co-directed by musician/dj Diplo.

Forever Enthralled
Forever Enthralled
Director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, Together) returns from his abysmal The Promise with this Chinese romance starring the always amazing Zhang Ziyi as an opera singer in 1920s Peking. This big budget biopic looks to have a fair bit of, ahem, promise.

The Garden
This doc looks at a large plot of land in South Central Los Angeles that was transformed into a community garden after the 1992 riots and the city’s battle to develop the land out from under the locals.

The Strength of Water
This is the story of Maori kids in rural New Zealand. Said to be less kid friendly than The Whale Rider, this film looks to be just as interesting.

Still Walking
Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with this Japanese meditative family drama. While I didn’t love 2004’s Nobody Knows, Kore-eda’s After Life from 1998 is one of my faves.

Inju, The Beast in the Shadow
This French erotic thriller is based on a Japanese novel and set in Japan. It is directed by veteran director Barbet Schroeder most famous (to me, at least) as the director of Bukowski’s Barfly and hilarious character in Bukowski’s novel ‘Hollywood.’

The Maid
Chilean director Sebastian Silva’s second feature is an interesting character study of a maid and her awkwardly comedic assistant. This film won the Grand Jury World Cinema prize at this year’s Sundance.

Cold Souls
Cold Souls
This feature debut from Sophie Barthes looks to be an extremely interesting and entertaining story about an actor, Paul Giamatti, playing himself, Paul Giamatti. Many have compared this to Jonze/Kaufman’s Being John Malkovitch – a high standard to match, but a nice comparison none the less.

Paper Hearts
This Sundance hit is actually the only film on this list I have seen. It is co-written by and stars Charlyne Yi (who you might remember as Martin Starr’s hilarious Asian gf in Knocked Up) as she embarks on a journey to discover if there is really such thing as love. Along the way a relationship develops between she and Michael Cera and the story evolves into their love story. Part doc, part scripted, not quite everything works in this off beat film but it is interesting and certainly charming.

This surprise Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Feature by Yojiro Takita is the story of a Japanese cellist who has to take a job in a funeral parlor after his orchestra is dissolved.

It Takes a Cult
This documentary looks at the Northwest’s own hippy commune known as The Love Family and their controversial leader Love Israel from the point of view of one of the children of the family.

I am intrigued by this French dramedy about an 11-year-old over achieving daughter of a barmaid assigned to an upper-class Parisian school.

Spring Breakdown
You know it isn’t a good sign when the trailer for the film on the fest’s website ends with “Now available on DVD and BluRay” but this comedy deserves a mention because it stars Parker Posey, Amy Poehler, and the funniest actress in Hollywood, Jane Lynch.

Kabei Our Mother
Kabei — Our Mother
Festival and personal favorite Yoji Yamada returns to SIFF with the first film since finishing his Twilight Samurai trilogy. Yamada takes on the decidedly different setting of prewar Tokyo. From SIFF: “Unashamedly emotional without lapsing into sentimentality, Kabei—Our Mother is lightened by a subtle undercurrent of humor and exceptional performances. The film’s meditative approach and impeccable formal construction make it a rewarding exploration of a family’s resilience in the face of distress.”

The trailer for this interesting looking Sam Rockwell starrer is a must watch! Sony Classics is set to release the film June 12.

The Clone Returns Home
A good old Japanese sci-fi clone thriller from relative newcomer Kanji Nakajima.

The Cove
This documentary about a dolphin trainer turned dolphin activist was a huge hit at Sundance winning the Audience Award for U.S. doc.

Unmistaken Child
This doc takes a look at the Buddhist practice of the reincarnation search. From SIFF: “While the film is ostensibly about the identification and education of a remarkable child, it also portrays hardworking Zopa’s evolution from shy disciple to resourceful teacher, capturing the beauty in wild nature and timeless, elaborate Buddhist rites and rituals.”

The Higher Force
This Icelandic take on the darkly comedic mob genre looks great from the trailer.

Messrine: A Film in Two Parts
This looks to be a bit more classic style mob film. This epic French film runs a full 4 hours in total.

This big budget HK costume actioner stars Jet Li, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro. With names like that this has a ton of potential.

Food, Inc.
This documentary from good guys Participant (An Inconvenient Truth) goes in depth into the world of big agro-business and asks the question, just where does our food come from?

Opium War
In his follow up to Osama, Afghan filmmaker Siddiq Barmak tells an interesting looking story of Americans shot down in a poppy field who must try to survive, all the while “licking the poppy essence to bury the pain and anguish of battle.”

The Dark Harbor
This looks like a pretty awesome Japanese comedy with a way-too-ominous sounding title. Check out the trailer.

The Yes Men Fix the World
The gonzo political activists The Yes Men are at it again with this follow up docu to 2003’s The Yes Men.

And we close with this special presentation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vincent Gallo starrer. Let’s all just hope this is better than 2007’s Youth Without Youth.

Posted by enderzero at 4:22pm on May. 14, 2009