42nd Seattle International Film Festival
USA, May 19 - June 12 2016
Founded in 1976, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is the largest film festival in the United States.
During the 25 days of the 42nd edition, which began May 19 and closed June 12, 421 films represented 85 countries, with 54 world premieres, 56 North American premieres, 27 U.S. premieres, and 850 screenings and events. 124 films were from first and second time directors, 116 films were directed by women, four times the US average) and 157 films without US distribution. It’s an enormous affair but feels intimate and pleasant.
SIFF opened with Woody Allen’s Café Society, which also opened at Cannes this year, and closed with The Dressmaker by Jocelyn Moorehouse starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth.
The new Woody Allen vehicle was one of seven festival titles released by Amazon Studios, a hometown link as Amazon is headquartered in Seattle.
SIFF launched the China Stars Showcase of five Chinese features to foster “cross cultural exchange”. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences supported SIFF’s African Pictures slate.
This year’s edition of the festival expanded the competition sections to include a Main Official Competition Section as well as an Ibero-American Competition. Another newcomer this year was SIFFx, a “festival within the festival,” which focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and 360° Cinema.
SIFF’s regular programs were back in full force including the Secret Festival. Those who attend the Secret Festival are required to sign a legally binding non-disclosure document, also known as “the oath of silence.”
Captain Fantastic by US-American writer/director Matt Ross and Girl Asleep written by Matthew Whittet and directed by Rosemary Myers, two of the biggest awards this year. It stars Viggo Mortensen as a dad single-handedly raising his six children in the woods.
It won the Golden Space Needle Audience Award for Best Film and was part of a tribute to Mortensen, who was present to accept SIFF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting.
The Official Competition Grand Jury Prize went to the Australian coming of age drama Girl Asleep, a film that was described as “a little bit violent, and thoroughly ludicrous”.
Other winners included Gleason, directed by Clay Tweel, taking the Audience Award for Best Documentary, Javier Ruiz Caldera, who won the Audience Award for Best Director; Rolf Lassgård, who won the Audience Award for Best Actor and Vicky Hernandez, who won the Audience Award for Best Actress.
The remaining Grand Jury awards went to You’ll Never Be Alone (Nunca vas a estar solo), which received the Ibero-American prize; Sand Storm, which received the New Directors prize; Death by a Thousand Cuts, for the Documentary prize and Middle Man by Ned Crowley, for the New American Cinema prize. The Lena Sharpe award for Persistence of Vision went to The IF Project, directed by Kathlyn Horan.
The winners were announced during a ceremony and breakfast held at the Space Needle on June 12. SIFF increased the cash awards this year to total than $32,000.
It was the first edition since the death of Dan Ireland, SIFF’s co-founder and longtime co-director and later a director and producer in Hollywood, who was dearly missed. (Marietta Steinhart, edited by Anne Brodie)
Seattle International Film Festival: www.siff.net