Jewel in the Emerald City

in 42nd Seattle International Film Festival

by Anne Brodie

Flying into Seattle is a spectacular experience. The Pacific Ocean looms large and the sounds and inlets, dotted with endless islands, are the deep green of towering firs. Places of mystery, beauty and depth obscuring for a time, the lives of the people there. But you know they’re there and have stories to tell.

The view telegraphs the festival this international meeting of artistic forces that shed light on the mysteries of the human condition with sound, vision, words and art. The films stir emotion, galvanize action, create beauty and tell stories. They bring together passionate film lovers in a dedicated village.

The Seattle International Film Festival has been doing that for forty two years. It was founded in 1976 by Darryl Macdonald and the late Dan Ireland and has becomeone of the oldest and best attended audience festivals in the US.

SIFF continued its trademark tradition this year of showcasing foreign, independent and documentary fare with a carefully curated slate of more than 400 films.

It’s clear that there is a huge appetite for off-mainstream films in Seattle judging by the numbers of attendees, from around the globe as well as locals, passionate cinéphile chatter across the festival centre and city and the exuberance of film-mad volunteers.

Artistic Director Carl Spence and his savvy group of programmers created fourteen programme slates including Northwest Connections featuring films set or made in the area and in that majestic landscape.

SIFF is inclusive, diverse, unpretentious and fun and aims to attract all ages as is seen in its choice of programmes – African Pictures,  Alternate Cinema, Archival Films, Asian Crossroads, Catalyst, China Stars, Culinary Cinema, Emoción Pura: Cinema From Spain, Face the Music, Films4Families, Futurewave, Latin American Cinema and WTF: Wild, Titilating, Fantastic.

Competitive programmes included New Directors,Ibero-American, Documentary and Shorts, FutureWave, Films4Families, SIFF’s inaugural Official Competitionand the New American Cinema.

The Golden Space Needle Award’s audience award, which reflects Seattle’s most distinctive man-made landmark, went to Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic starring Viggo Mortensen. The award was a happy culmination of SIFF’s tribute to the delighted Danish actor.

Seattle is one of the most creative and forward-thinking cities in the US.  Artists, thinkers and innovators in fields ranging from tech to food to design, music and film gravitate there. It’s resulted in an unusually thriving local arts and cultural scene.

And it makes perfect sense that the fifth art has enjoyed a loving homein SIFFfor more than four decades.

Note: Audience’s favourites from SIFF 2016 will be re-screened for the public from June 17 – 23rd.

Anne Brodie