Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) 2014 is here, which means another few weeks of impressively-curated film-going madness for everyone in the Puget Sound Region. Below, we’ve once again given you our top selections for the year, grouped by world region.
Stay tuned in the weeks to come, as we offer updates throughout the festival’s progression, with general thumbs up and thumbs down summaries of the films we will painfully and enjoyably slog and float through, as well as one-off full-length reviews. Happy SIFFing!
SIFF 2014 Top Film Picks
Up-and-coming African cities have their own unique urban experiences, and in this collection of six short films, viewers get a taste of real-life in the rapidly growing African cities. A quick summary copied from the SIFF website:
– Nairobi: Fantasy, science fiction, and infatuation fuse as an obsessed neighbor invents strange scenarios for wooing the girl of his dreams.
– Cairo: Angry young musician Adham discovers that the city is an arena in which the strong survive and the weak are left by the wayside.
– Lagos: A mysterious nightly ritual occurs in which ten men, put into a line-up, are mysteriously whittled down to seven and given considerable cash, but at what price?
– Dakar: A housewife in her fifties discovers her true self when she must accept her husband’s second wife into her home.
– Abidjan: Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat comes face-to-face with demons, ghosts, doubt-and his own death.
– Johannesburg: Though his neighborhood and friends are long gone, an old man has one last link to the here and now-a weekly visit from a beautiful stranger.
June 3rd, 2014 – 6:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 4th, 2014 – 3:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
B For Boy – Chika Anandu (Nigeria)
A powerful tale that shows how gender can completely rule over lives. Amaka is a middle-class Nigerian woman who has given birth to a daughter, though she lives underneath a cultural tradition where the husband is expected to take a second wife if no son is born. Amaka, nearing 40-years-old, has a son die in-utero and attempts to hide the event from her husband. – PETER WOODBURN
June 2nd, 2014 – 8:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 6th, 2014 – 1:15pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
A look at Egyptian wedding festival music, which combines traditional music, rap, racey themes, and political ideas into a blend reflective of Egyptian youth culture.
May 24th, 2014 – 5:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 25th, 2014 – 2:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Four Corners (South Africa)
13-year-old Ricardo is a chess prodigy that can only avoid the local gang factions in his South African slum for so long. As Ricardo gets sucked into the 26s, his father, a member of the rival 28s, is released from prison. Upon release, he tries to shed his past and begin a relationship with the son he has never met. – PETER WOODBURN
May 29th, 2014 – 9:30pm – Harvard Exit
May 31st, 2014 – 3:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Asian & Pacific Islander Films
A deconstruction of Nick Cave’s world of creation, starring Nick Cave himself, talking about himself, in a blend of fact, fiction, and fantasy. An experiment in musicdocumentary filmmaking.
May 16th, 2014 – 10:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 21st, 2014 – 9:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Babadook (Australia) * TOP PICK *
Amelia is struggling to raise her difficult son Samuel and deal with the death of her husband at the same time. When Samuel discovers an odd book called “Mister Babadook”, both mother and son begin a spiral into insanity, convinced that some sort of demon is haunting the family. A brilliant directorial debut by Jennifer Kent.
June 6th – 11:55pm – Egyptian Theatre
June 7th, 2014 – 9:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (Taiwan) * TOP PICK *
Everything looks better from above, and this aerial overview shows off what director Chi Po-lin calls the “beauty and sorrow” of Taiwan, in a balance between the island’s natural beauty and industrial devastation.
May 21st, 2014 – 7:00pm – AMC Pacfiic Place 11
May 23rd, 2014 – 4:30pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
Black Coal, Thin Ice (China)
SIFF favorite Diao Yinan is back with another noir crime thriller. Zhang Zili investigate the gruesome murder of a coal plant worker, and a shootout that results forces Zhang to uncermoniously retire. A few years later, Zhang stumbles upon more dead factory workers that might link to the original crime.
June 3rd, 2014 – 9:30pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
June 7th, 2014 – 9:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 8th, 2014 – 1:30pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
East European Films
Sandro is a 40-year-old teacher who still lives with his parent. Under pressure from his mother and his friend Iva, Sandro finally finds someone he is in love with — one of the parents of his students — but unfortunately, she has a short-tempered husband who is about to be released from prison.
VIEW TRAILERJune 4th, 2014 – 4:00pm – Harvard Exit
June 8th, 2014 – 5:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Burning Bush (Czech Republic)
Burning Bush is a riveting mini-series being presented in all of its 230 minutes of glory at SIFF. The story focuses on the political and emotional fall out from Jan Palach’s 1969 self-immolation to protest Soviet occupation.
May 27th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
Clownwise – Klauni (Czech Republic)
Clowns age too, and this dark comedy follows a retired clown as collaborates with his two former partners for one last show.
May 16th, 2014 – 6:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 17th, 2014 – 12:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 23rd, 2014 – 1:30pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
North American Films
On what will likely be the most painful, emotional and tear inducing film of the whole festival, Dan Cohen recruited director Michael Rossato-Bennett to investigate the way music is able to rekindle the minds and souls of people afflicted with Alzheimers. Alive Inside was the audience award for documentaries at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. – PETER WOODBURNMay 17th, 2014 – 11:00am – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 19th, 2014 – 7:00pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
The Amazing Catfish (Mexico)
22-year-old Claudia has no one in her life to look after her. So when she goes into the hospital for emergency surgery, she ends up under the wings of her hospital roommate Martha. Martha’s family brings Claudia in, even as Martha is slowly deteriorating from HIV.
May 24th, 2014 – 11:30am – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 27th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Harvard Exit
A visually-brilliant thriller that combines giallo and Hammer horror into an exploration of one’s existence as a devil kin.
May 17th, 2014 – 5:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 18th, 2014 – 2:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Better Angels (USA)
Set in Indiana in 1817, this is a Terrence Malick-produced look at the early years of Abraham Lincoln’s life. A must-see for those who love Malick’s epic style of sweeping cinematic narrative.
June 3rd, 2014 – 7:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
June 5th, 2014 – 4:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Burt’s Buzz (Canada) Documentary
Burt Shavitz, the founder of Burt’s Bees, is one of the more unlikely creators of a nationally branded company. Jody Shapiro goes behind the scenes, and deep into the woods, to shed light on the reclusive owner who has been cast aside as the company’s grown up.
May 26th, 2014 – 10:30am – Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 27th, 2014 – 6:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
DamNation (USA) Documentary
In 2011, the process of removing the virtually non-functioning Elwha Dam began on Washington’s Olympic Penisula. DamNation takes a look at how dams have altered landscapes, wildlife populations and people’s living habits, using the removal of the Elwha as a showcase of how nature recovers when man drives a big gouging wound into it.
May 18th, 2014 @ 4:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
May 19th, 2014 @ 4:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 28th, 2014 @ 7:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
Fight Church (USA)
An action-packed documentary that follows martial arts ministries throughout the United States, which use fight clubs to convert new believers.
May 17th, 2014 – 1:00pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
May 18th, 2014 – 4:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 26th, 2014 – 12:30pm – Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
I Origins (USA) * TOP PICK *
Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is focused on researching the design of the human eye to prove once and for all there is no such thing as intelligent design. A series of events lead him to a relationship with Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). After their relationship abruptly ends, he makes a scientific discovery so improbable it challenges everything he thinks he might believe in.
May 24th, 2014 – 6:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 26th, 2014 – 9:15pm – Egyptian Theatre
Ivory Tower (USA) Documentary
It used to be that a Bachelors degree set you a notch above the rest of the world. Now the Master’s degree is seen as the new Bachelor’s degree, and the cost of higher education in the USA has risen to absurd heights. Andrew Rossi takes a look at the the question on the tips of everyone’s tongues — just how much is a college education actually worth?
June 1st, 2014 – 1:15pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
June 2nd, 2014 – 7:00pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
Razing The Bar (USA)
A retrospective look at Seattle’s The Funhouse venue, documenting its importance to the local music scene through footage and interviews with musicians, employees, and showgoers.
May 20th, 2014 – 9:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 27th, 2014 – 9:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Search for General Tso (USA)
Chinese food in Western countries is extremely different from Chinese food in China, and this exploration into Chinese food culture explains why General Tso’s Chicken as Westerners know it is quite far removed from its historical background.
May 16th, 2014 – 11:00am – AMC Pacific Place 11
May 17th, 201 – 3:45pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
Shake The Shake (USA) Documentary
Shake the Dust takes a look at the worldwide common language that is hip-hop and the scenes that have spawned from it. Stretching from locations like Colombia, Cambodia, Uganda and Yemen, filmmaker Adam Sjoberg takes a look at how breakdancing, b-boys and DJs influence culture and force positive change in places that positivity is hard to come by.
June 5th, 2014 – 9:45pm – Egyptian Theatre
June 6th, 2014 – 4:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
The Signal (USA)
Nic and Jonah are two MIT students who do a bit of hacking on the side. When their online exploits lead them to Nomad, a rival hacker, the two decide to use a road trip to uncover his whereabouts. A confrontation in the deserts of Nevada leaves Nic in a mysterious bunker tended to doctors in hazmat suits, and a lot more questions he had before the journey took place.
May 27th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 28th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
Northern European Films
1,000 Times Good Night tells the story of Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), a war-photographer who, after getting injured by a bomb, is forced to choose between the love of her family and her safety and the love of her photography. – PETER WOODBURNMay 23rd, 2014 – 7:00PM – Harvard Exit
May 25th, 2014 – 4:15pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared (Sweden)
Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustaffsson) has done everything in life, which is why being cooped up in a retirement home when he turns 100 is extra difficult. Hence, he does as the title of the film suggests and embarks on an unintentional quest involving a briefcase full of money and violent skinheads, in this absurdist comedy. – PETER WOODBURN
May 28th, 2014 – 8:30pm – Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
May 30th, 2014 – 6:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 1st, 2014 – 4:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
Beyond the Brick (Denmark/USA) * DOCUMENTARY *
Few toys are as ingrained in childhood memories as LEGOs. Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson set out to find out the master creations made by both children and adults, as well as the therapeutic and learning opportunities provided by one of the world’s most iconic toys. – PETER WOODBURN
May 28th, 2014 – 8:30pm – Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
May 30th, 2014 – 6:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 1st, 2014 – 4:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
In Order of Disappearance (Norway) * TOP PICK *
Nils drives a snowplow for a living in northern Norway, and everything is good — but his life gets turned upside down when he receives news that his son has died from a drug overdose. Nils does his own investigating and finds out that his son was murdered during a turf war between a local crime syndicate and his Serbian rivals. Armed with a snowplow and the taste for revenge, Nils launches full force into a gang war in this dark comedy. – PETER WOODBURN
May 18th, 2014 – 1:30pm – Egyptian Theatre
May 21st, 2014 – 9:15pm – Egyptian Theatre
May 29th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
The Keeper of Lost Causes (Denmark)
Carl Morck was a chief detective, until a shootout left one partner dead and another paralyzed. He is then assigned to the drudgery of Department Q, a location where cold cases go to permanently die. Despite orders to only look at the old cases, Morck becomes obsessed with the apparent suicide of a female politician that might lead to a larger conspiracy. – PETER WOODBURN
May 22nd, 2014 – 7:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 24th, 2014 – 9:30pm – Egyptian Theatre
May 25th, 2014 – 9:30pm – Egyptian Theatre
We Are The Best (Sweden)
Three pre-teen girls discover the power of camaraderie through music and the punk rock lifestyle. Bobo and Klara, despite having no actual musical skill, form a group to challenge the status quo of unaware parents, high school social cliques and sexist musicians at the local community center. – PETER WOODBURN
May 17th, 2014 – 9:30pm – Harvard Exit
May 21st, 2014 – 4:30pm – AMC Pacific Place
South American Films
Junior is a nine-year-old boy who dreams of glorious, straight hair. Unfortunately, he is born with the unruly, curly kind, and his constant obsession with his hair unleashes his mother’s homophobic prejudices, as she is struggling to stay employed after her husband recently died.
May 18th, 2014 – 9:00pm – Harvard Exit
May 22nd, 2014 – 4:30pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
To Kill a Man (Chile)
The seemingly normal life for Jorge, a father of two, gets complicated when he is mugged by a group of young thugs. After Jorge’s son ends up in the hopital as a result, his wife Marta degrades him endlessly for not standing up to the gang, and Jorge seeks revenge to regain his dignity.
May 29th, 2014 – 7:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 2nd, 2014 – 4:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
West European Films
Based on the real-life events of director Catherine Breillat, Maud (Isabelle Huppert) is a director who suffers a paralyzing stroke. She is determined to prove herself beyond her disability, but in the process falls for a money-hungry con-man.
June 5th, 2014 – 9:45pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 8th, 2014 – 4:30pm – Egyptian Theatre
Attila Marcel (France) * TOP PICK *
The eye of the fantastical Sylvain Chomet, who was behind the Triplets of Belleville, lends itself well to creating a live-action piece of work like this dreamy French film about a musical prodigy who slowly unlocks his repressed childhood memories.
May 16th, 2014 – 7:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 18th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 27th, 2014 – 7:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Borgman (Netherlands) * TOP PICK *
A vagrant named Borgman flees and tries to find sanctuary in a wealthy and affluent neighborhood. It is a dark comedy that proves that darker forces are at work, no matter how perfect things may seem on the outside.
May 18th, 2014 – 8:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 20th, 2014 – 9:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Calvary (Ireland) * TOP PICK *
Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) is told he will be murdered in one week’s time during confession. Lavelle’s troubled daughter arrives right around the exact same time as he is forced to figure out which of his parishioners wish him to be dead.
June 7th, 2014 – 7:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 8th, 2014 – 11:00am – Harvard Exit
Cannibal – Caníbal (Spain)
Dark and beautiful, this film by Manuel Martin Cuenca is a slow-burning love story of strange proportions, as it follows a cannibal who has fallen in love with one of his victims.
May 31st, 2014 – 9:30pm – AMC Pacific Place 11
June 1st, 2014 – 7:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Double (United Kingdom) * TOP PICK *
Simon James (Jesse Eisenburg) is just a normal guy that stumbles into his doppelganger on a story based on the novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Richard Ayoade is back in the director’s seat after his absolutely fantastic Submarine, with a style reminiscent of Terry Gilliam, with a nice touch of Wes Anderson. Not a film to be missed.
May 16th, 2014 – 9:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 18th, 2014 – 9:30pm – Lincoln Square Cinemas
Mood Indigo – L’écume des jours (France) TOP PICK
As one might predict, Michel Gondry’s latest film is a colorful surreal adventure that follows a Parisian bachelor who finally falls in love — only to discover that his lover, played by Audrey Tautou, has a strange mdical condition that causes a flower to grow inside her lungs.
May 28th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Harvard Exit
May 31st, 2014 – 11:00am – SIFF Cinema Uptown
Once Upon a Forest – Il Etait une Forêt (France)
In this stunning overview of Peru’s Amazon jungle and the Congolese rainforest in Gabon, director Luc Jacquet, who created March of the Penguins, combines illustrations and live-action footage to create a blended dissection of photosynthesis and animal life.
May 24th, 2014 – 2:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 26th, 2014 – 7:00pm – Egyptian Theatre
June 1st, 2014 – 2:30pm – Kirkland Performance Center
Still Life (Italy)
John May (Eddie Marsan) is a government worker whose job is to notify the next of kin when someone dies alone. In the times that no one is around, May becomes the next of kin and takes pride in his eulogies and musical choices for funerals no one attends. When he is notified that budget cuts will eliminate his position, he takes extra care on his final case, and finds out much about himself in the process.
May 18th, 2014 – 10:30am – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 26th, 2014 – 6:00pm – AMC Pacific Place
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears – L’Etrange Couleur des Larmes de ton Corps (Italy)
The creators of the visually-stunning Amer return with their new stab at Italian horror giallo, in a tale about obsession, desire, and memory.
May 24th, 2014 – 7:30pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 28th, 2014 – 4:00pm – Harvard Exit
West – Westen * TOP PICK * (Germany) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23AeT2rfZn0
Set in the 1970s, Nelly and her son Alexei leave East Germany to start a new life in West Germany. She makes a successful escape, only to find out that her former boyfriend, and father of her child, is working for a spy and is still alive. To complicate matters further, the authorities think that Nelly is still aware and has some information on him.
May 28th, 2014 – 6:00pm – Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
June 7th, 2014 – 6:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
June 8th, 2014 – 11:30am – SIFF Cinema Uptown
White Shadow (Germany)
Alias is a young albino boy who witnesses his father’s murder. His mother sends him to the city to find refuge and stay safe from his father’s murderers. Unfortunately, traditional healers in much of Africa believe in the mystical powers of an albino’s body, and Alias has to hide from them as well.
May 17th, 2014 – 8:00pm – SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 18th, 2014 – 1:00pm – AMC Pacific Place