39th Seattle International Film Festival
USA, May 16 - June 9 2013
True to its name, the 39th Seattle International Film Festival was an event where a diverse array of new works from all over the world converged, reaching an appreciative audience over the festival’s unusually extensive 25-day duration. The competition over which our jury presided however was the New American Cinema selection, consisting of a dozen independent films, each awaiting distribution, each made with budgets ranging from micro- to modest. Our jury of three hailed from Chile, Canada and Sweden, and, looking for a joke to break the ice beforemy presentation of our prize at the awards brunch, I made a point of thanking the festival for letting a bunch of foreigners come to tell them which of their selected works was the Best New American Film.
Of course, joking aside, it’s always an interesting exercise to allow outsiders to analyze and adjudicate your own homegrown cinema, to look in from a distance, to perhaps observe a culture and native landscape with fresh eyes. Many of the films in this year’s competition did indeed speak of what felt to us at least like particularly American experiences, tales of starry-eyed show business ambitions (A Song Still Inside, The Little Tin Man, 9 Full Moons); of class and/or religious tensions (C.O.G.); of gangsters (Last I Heard), horders (Clutter) and sinister Southerners (Worm). Unsurprisingly, New York City received the lion’s share of locales represented, but it turned out that SIFF 2013’s most interesting new American films offered compelling vistas ofroads less traveled and regions less-seen, such as the Pacific Northwest (C.O.G.) or rural Arkansas (Worm), not to mention dance studios and small apartments in San Francisco in the mid-80s (Test) or a selection of refuse-cluttered backstreets and recording studios in contemporary Los Angeles (9 Full Moons). As mainstream Hollywood fare becomesonly moredigitally enhanced and un-interested in the specificities of place, it’s refreshing to see how U.S. independent cinema continues to offer audiences a feeling of having been transported, of what it means to truly be somewhere. (José Antonio Teodoro)
Seattle International Film Festival: www.siff.net