Due the unfortunate fact that we are merely human and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is just beginning its three-week film rampage, we've sifted through the Festival's gigantic catalog to come up with the best films of the bunch -- or so we suspect. SIFF is annually guaranteed to have a mixture of some of the best and worst films that one can see -- and these film recommendations come from the minds of three REDEFINE writers with good intentions. Yet at best, these selections are our most educated hypotheses, determined from a mixture of film industry knowledge and intuitions based on trailers. Below, we've grouped our selections for 2013 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!

Dead Oceans' Sun Airway, comprised of Philadelphia's Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill, is are not only indie pop extraordinaires, but are musicians with an understanding of aural-visual relationships. The choices they make in selecting collaborators result in visuals richly sympathetic to their musical output and evoke the same sense of wonder and romance that their music does. The album cover for Sun Airway's 2012 release, Soft Fall, is adorned with a beautiful woman caught beneath a stringed web of falling flowers, porcelain china, and fine silver. It was painstakingly crafted by Japanese art collective NAM. In the bi-lingual Japanese and English interview and feature below, Barthmus and NAM's art director and designer Takayuki Nakazawa offer their perspectives on the creative process, as we further explore the work of both parties.
JAPANESE TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY MORGAN HARKNESS Takayuki Nakazawa (NAM): Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway's music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually. I believe that the music and the cover visuals that go with the creation of an album have an extremely intimate relationship. Music and visuals have the power to overcome country and language to convey a message. Creating something so intimate between the US and Japan was an incredible experience, and most of all it was fun! We would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Jon Barthmus for inviting us to this wonderful project. 私達が今回目指したのはSun Airwayの音楽の世界と完全にマッチし、さらに音の世界をビジュアルによってイメージの視覚的拡大をする事でした。アルバム制作における音楽とカバービジュアルは本来とても密接な関係性をもっているものだと思います。音楽やビジュアルは言語や国境を超えて伝達していく力があり、今回、日本とアメリカの間で密な相互関係をもって制作が行われた事は、私達にとって大変良い経験で、なによりも楽しかった!このような素敵なプロジェクトに私達を誘ってくれたJon Barthmusさんに、この場をお借りして感謝をしたいと思います。

 

Through the years, long-time collaborators and friends Lazerbeak and Minneapolis video artist Matt Scharenbroich have worked together to match their passions with one another's. In this feature below, we look back at their projects together, and Scharenbroich comments on his latest video for "Life Every Voice", which is a rippling animated delight that falls downwards through glitter and varying levels of psychedelic intensity.

 

INTERVIEW WITH MATT SCHARENBROICH CONTINUED BELOW
"The falling in the video could be paralleled with that of Alice falling down into the rabbit hole or the sensation of one's body falling into a dreamy hypnotic state. There is a certain freedom and release associated with this transformational and transcendent state. That release from the boredom and restraints of life can be incredibly uplifting." -- Matt Scharenbroich

 

The 2012 Seattle International Film Festival begins on May 17th, 2012! In the next few days, we will be providing film previes for our top SIFF picks of the year. You can see all of this year's coverage HERE. Times and dates are subject to change, so please visit siff.net before heading to theatres, or see HERE for all SIFF-related coverage.

 


A CUBE OF SUGAR
Iran Directed by Reza Mirkarimi
An extended family gathers for the youngest daughter’s wedding, but not all goes as planned. A glowing pastel canvas and sensual score are dreamy counterpoints to the anxieties and celebrations of three generations. May 22nd @ 6:00pm, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center June 1st @ 6:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown June 6th @ 9:30pm, Harvard Exit

 

Perhaps more so than the general populace, artists are able to find beauty and inspiration in the chaos of entropy. Gala Bent is a Seattle artist who uses gouache and graphite to explore the gracefully inevitable failure of enforced order. Bent's compositions play with the tension between clearly delineated geometric abstraction and sinuously free form pattern fields. Her visual images are so direct that it's possible to read them on a visceral level while entirely missing the wellspring of references that rest beneath the surface of her meticulously rendered drawings. But it would be doing Bent an enormous injustice to not look deeper.
There is a deceptive simplicity to Bent's drawings, and at first glance, their sense of whimsy overshadows their underbelly of methodical research. Bent thinks very deliberately about her place in the world, and this sense of inquiry carries over in a very literal way to the precision of her compositions. "I like things that I respond to in a physical, aesthetic way," she explains to me. "But as a person, I just really love to dig and dig and dig... I like it when there's a whole series of layers underneath." After a brief miscommunication over directions that leads to a rather informative exploratory bicycle mission of the alleyways around Qwest Field, we meet in the high-ceilinged Pioneer Square studio that Bent shares with her husband, fellow artist Zack Bent. Bent and her husband create in different mediums, but she explains that they work together in that they are one another's biggest critic and advocate, and that their strengths and weaknesses are staggered in complimentary ways. The artist couple has three young sons, so their lives involve a great deal of juggling between creative and family lives. Their paintings and sculptures stand in easy dialogue on separate ends of the room. "We are both concerned with the architectural," she tells me, gesturing towards the stacks of life-sized Lincoln Logs that rest on Zack's side of the studio. Bent's compositions tend to focus on the interplay between angular and organic forms. Her drawings at times resemble tornadoes – densely clustered masses of line and plane that gradually open into light colored washes or entirely empty space. "I very much idealize geometric abstraction," Bent tells me, adding that her appreciation of the geometric has deepened over the years until she has come to see it as almost "a romantic ideal." She sees the "furry" portions of her works as representing the more human, realistic side of life, the "faltering part... where everything cracks or falls apart." Bent describes this idea in greater detail on her blog, writing that she is "fascinated by the idealistic glory of the philosophy of architecture, especially when it is brought into real space and has to sustain itself against the degrading process of time and use. The most fancy buildings still leak and peel. People still have to deposit their raw sewage inside them, and weather delivers continual erosion to their shells." ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW (ABOVE) I Am Focusing All My Attention, 2010; (BELOW) I Am Focusing All My Attention Detail, 2010 - G. Gibson Gallery Paper Architecture: Reflecting Pool (I Smell Like Myself), 2011 - G. Gibson Gallery

Justin Kane Elder has only recently emerged onto the Seattle art scene, but he's already commanding our attention. Trained as a finish carpenter1 and hailing from a family peppered with luthiers2 and tradesman, Elder is comfortable moving fluidly across the often contentious boundary of art and craft. Elder's work demands a carpenter's keen attention to angle and detail, coupled with a painter's sense of fluid composition. Elder creates large-scale spray paint portraits by applying numerous layers of precisely stenciled abstract shapes, and his dynamic overlays create a constantly radiating sense of movement. His current portrait subjects are his friends or pop culture icons, and he manages to create crisp, defined compositions without employing any actual linework.
justin kane elder I headed over to Justin's house for an interview and spent the duration of our conversation kept constant company by Raleigh, his adorably hyperactive Boston Terrier. Elder's house immediately gives the comfortable impression of being inhabited by creative people who are very good at what they do but don't feel a need to overtly broadcast it. Elder's girlfriend is a designer, and between the two of them, the house is full of strange, enticingly colorful objects. Elder's studio is set up in his basement, and his workspace is indicative of his artistic priorities: his table saw is front and center, and his spray cans are arranged on a hand-built table that captures the precision of someone who is used to working in measurements of a 32nd of an inch. A large basement wall serves as scratch paper. "It's my sketchbook!" Elder says, laughing.

It's clear from her paintings that Gala Bent has a keen eye for detail, but a closer look into the writings on her blog reveals an equally impressive and inquisitive mind. Gala provides her audience an intimate and intriguing view into her methods and inspirations,...