May is in full effect, which means that, once again, it’s time for the Seattle International Film Festival. Ever a sprawling, unwieldy behemoth, the 45th chapter of this annual event runs 25 days and encompasses more than 400 films.
It’s... a lot. I love it, I’ve been attending since I was in high school, but damn, there’s a bunch to choose from. With that in mind, I’ve wandered through the expansive program and picked a handful of films to highlight that you may want to check out.
As usual, there are some I’ve left off—many for the sake of simple brevity. I’ve seen a few of these already, and will see more shortly. Others I’ll wind up not seeing at all due to time constraints, scheduling conflicts, the fest plague that inevitably sidelines me for a few days, unwillingness to battle huge crowds at gala events, or last-minute decisions to preserve my own sanity and maybe just not see a movie one night.
I’m sure, as history demonstrates, over the course of three-plus weeks, my priorities will change. In the more than a decade I’ve covered SIFF, I always wind up loving at least one movie that wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning. To be honest, it’s often a film I learn about talking to random people in line, something I’d never heard of but that blew their hair back.
The program this year is, as usual, light of my usual favored genres—horror, sci-fi, and action have never been SIFF’s strong suit, and this year seems especially lacking in those areas. Still, with literal hundreds of titles to choose from, there’s a ton that looks promising, has good buzz from earlier festival runs, and that are worth checking out. If you can’t at least a few intriguing films to peruse, you might not like movies.
Now that I’ve said all I came here to say, here are my must-see picks for SIFF 2019. There are, of course, dozens and dozens more to choose from. What are you excited about? Sound off in the comments below.
A crew of teen-guerillas isolated on a remote mountain top guard a prisoner and protect a milk cow in director Alejandro Landes’ war thriller that watches something like Red Dawn or Lord of the Flies by way of Herzog or Jodorowsky.
Miles Davis: Birth of Cool
I’m always up for a good music doc (also, check out Who Let the Dogs Out at SIFF, yes, it’s about that song). Miles Davis: Birth of Cool uses the man’s own words, rare tracks, and archival footage to tell his story and the story of the country and society that made him.
The Death of Dick Long
Daniel Scheinert, co-director of Swiss Army Man, returns with the saga of two dim-witted buddies who do everything wrong when their friend ends up dead after a night of partying.
Peter Strickland’s Duke of Burgundy is one of my favorite movies of this decade, so you’re damn right I’m stoked for In Fabric. To be honest, I’ve taken pains to avoid too much about this movie. All I know is that it’s a giallo-inspired tale about a cursed dress. Sold.
The Dead Don’t Die
Last time indie auteur Jim Jarmusch took on horror, the result was the vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive. This year he returns to the genre with his take on a zombie movie, with an incredible cast and what appears to be a peculiar sense of humor.
Olivier Assayas and Juliette Binoche, you say? Either one of those components is enough to get me to watch your damn movie, calm down.
I’m on record as not being a huge fan of Jennifer Kent’s debut, The Babadook—yes, I’m the one, I’m that asshole. But most of that falls on the fact that I really hate the kid in that movie, so I’m looking forward to her follow up, which follows a young female Irish convict as she pursues a British officer through the wilderness of 1825 Tasmania on a vengeful quest. Sign me up for that.
Seriously, just the trailer for director Lulu Wang’s The Farewell makes me mist up. Awkwafina stars as woman who travels home to China to say goodbye to her terminally ill grandmother, a dying grandmother who doesn’t know she’s dying, and must decide whether to go along with the family-wide ruse.
A neon-drenched, giallo-esque thriller about a serial killer targeting a gay porn crew? What about that doesn’t pique my interest? It’s also supposed to be great, so there’s that.
The Art of Self-Defense
This black comedy follows Jesse Eisenberg’s Casey, who, after being attacked, joins a karate dojo to confront his fear and winds up confronting much more than that.
Memory—The Origins of Alien
Last time out, documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe deconstructed the most famous shower scene in movie history with 78/52. This time around, he focuses his attention on Ridley Scott’s Alien, the historical and societal forces that shaped it, and the legacy that remains today.