Yesterday the Seattle International Film Festival announced its award winners, both those selected by a jury and those voted on by the audience. I’m sure they’re lovely movies, but as usual, I have little interest in watching most of them. My tastes tend to run in different directions, and with that in mind, here are my favorites of SIFF 2016, in no particular order except that in which they occurred to me. They’re all excellent and you should check out every last one when you have the chance.
The 42nd SIFF was a pretty standard affair. There were movies I was excited to see that lived up to or exceeded expectations, and there were those that most certainly did not. A few movies came out of nowhere and totally knocked me on my ass, and a handful of middling dramas made me shrug and say, “That was fine.” As has been my pattern, I got sick as hell for a couple days, missed a few movies, and for the seventh year in a row, I went to the last screening on the last night. (It’s not even something I try to do, there’s just always a film I want to see in that final slot. his year it was The Greasy Strangler.)
As usual, as much as I love SIFF, it’s an exhausting marathon. So as stoked as I am at the outset, I’m also glad when it wraps up. If for no other reason than that I never have to sit through that #LighttheSIFFUp stinger again.
Madman Sion Sono is back with the totally bonkers Tag, which primarily consists of Japanese school girls getting cut in half, though there are more thoughtful concerns than just gore, horror, and fantasy.
Under the Shadow
As if living in a war-torn city in the wake of a revolution and having to regularly head to the basement to avoid bomb attacks isn’t harrowing enough, Iranian horror Under the Shadow throws in evil spirits to haunt an isolated mother and daughter.
I’m a sucker for skate rats in movies, and it’s even better when the surrounding film is as good as Steven Caple Jr.’s The Land, which follows four young skateboarders from the grim streets of Cleveland who turn to petty crime as a way out, only to run afoul of an unexpectedly chilling drug lord.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Off-kilter, heartwarming, and hilarious, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople tells the story of a last-chance foster kid and his grizzled pseudo-uncle kicking off a national manhunt as they disappear into the New Zealand bush.
The Bacchus Lady
Making its North American debut, South Korea’s The Bacchus Lady tells the story of an aging prostitute who takes in a young runaway. A shifting meditation on aging, a scathing indictment of a system that ignores the elderly, and a contemplation of assisted suicide, this film is many things, but never quite what is expected.
A unique, trippy psychological thriller, Park Hong-min’s Alone made its North American premiere at SIFF. Filmed with a singular approach, and with a daring narrative construction, the tale of a man who witnesses a crime is so much more than just that.
A surreal, unsettling body horror nightmare, Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution is like a parable set in a fever dream. In a seaside village inhabited by young boys and their mothers, the children are subjected to bizarre medical procedures while the women engage in erotically charged rituals on the beach.
David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary, Tickled, about a sport called Competitive Endurance Tickling, may sound like a hoot, and it is, but as the two filmmakers dig into this niche subculture, they discover something much darker and more twisted than they ever imagined.
Documentary collage as autobiography is an intriguing narrative premise, and in Cameraperson, Kirsten Johnson uses footage from the acclaimed films she’s photographed over the years to construct a memoir. Gorgeous and captivating; full of themes of war, motherhood, and oppression; this is a compelling look at the creative process and the people behind the camera.
Swedish writer/director Andreas Ohman’s Eternal Summer is a whirlwind road trip romance that begins as a twee affair and takes a much darker turn. The two leads have magnificent, authentic chemistry, the cinematography is stunning, and if this was in English, it would be the next big indie smash no one can shut up about.