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!
February 14th is known to many -- whether they are coupled or single, in love or without it -- as a day for amorous celebration, through intimate experiences and the exchange of roses, chocolates, and kisses. But beyond the major consumer holiday of Valentine's Day lies a global activist movement of a similar name, called V-Day. Violence against women and girls can take many forms, and V-Day draws special attention to rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery through a worldwide network of regionally-supported performances, documentaries, plays, rallies, and a variety of other events.
To call attention to this cause in our own way, we have decided to use the delicate work of Romanian and United Kingdom photographer Dana Popa as a foundational point. After learning of the horrible realities of the sex trafficking trade, Popa set about to unveil the stories of its former victims, all of whom were around seventeen years of age and in various stages of recovery when Popa met them. The result of Popa's genuine quest was a piercing series called not Natasha, “Natasha" being the generic name given to Eastern European sex slaves. Many series about sensitive topics shock one into sympathy. Not so with not Natasha; its images are often profound in the most mundane of ways, focusing not only on the women themselves but on the things that they leave behind -- while, in Popa's own words, capturing "a glimpse of their souls". It is beyond the photos themselves where the heart-breaking tales often lie, in the form of deception and betrayal from former lovers, neighbors, and friends, and of societies that allow women to be sacrificed to patterns of abuse and pain. In the full Q&A interview to follow, Popa recounts incredible stories -- some of which are difficult to believe -- while motivating us with powerful imagery. For more details on how you can be involved in V-Day events, please visit their website, or see more of Popa's work on her website.
(17 IMAGES TOTAL)
"This work is dedicated to Dalia and all the girls who allowed me to have a glimpse of their souls and dig up a hidden, painful past. I hope I did it in the most delicate way."

 

What circumstances led you to the not Natasha project? What triggered my work was purely finding out what sex trafficking really means. At the time, there was not much visual coverage of the illegal trade. Sex trafficking is the most profitable illegal business since the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union; it's a form of violence against women from my society. Little do people realise what this illegal trade is and how big and profitable it has become. So I decided to try and get a closer look at sex trafficking and record what it means for the women to survive sexual slavery. I chose to have a glimpse of their souls -- which at the time seemed very difficult to do, but that is what I was most interested in. After having heard their stories, I wanted to look at their traces -- at what women who had disappeared for years and who are believed to be trafficked and sexually enslaved leave behind. This became essential angle and part of the narrative. After being involved with this project I realised that its beginnings might have been triggered by my interest and knowledge of the woman's position in societies like the one I was born in. I acknowledge this story as a way of standing up against the societies that know what happens to their women and hide it without even doing anything about it.

 

Lansè Kòd (The Rope Throwers) 1996
Every year, Carnaval comes and goes across the entire world, tantalizing everyone with its fanciful costuming and celebratory antics. But beyond the tourist circuit of Carnival lies another Carnival, in locales with a connection closer to the festival's origins. Haiti is one of many countries that celebrates Carnival at their own pace, and over the course of many years, photographer Leah Gordon was able to capture the beauty of those festivities in Jacmel, a coastal town in the south. Kanaval is a black and white photographic series, true -- but it is, more importantly, a series on awareness, about culture, and inclusive of mythology. After this series was taken, Haiti suffered its devastating earthquake and Jacmel was completely decimated. Gordon's photographs, along with her heart-felt introduction to the series and the many oral mythologies passed down to her from carnival participants, can be viewed in the full post. Together, they forever capture a wonderful space in time and call attention to Haiti's creative and spiritual existence. We begin with a tale from Madanm Lasiren, which is just the first of many.
Madanm Lasirèn (Madame Mermaid) 2003

Madanm Lasiren Andre Ferner, 59 years

Lasiren is a spirit that lives under the sea and does mystical work there, she is a Vodou spirit, I dream of Lasiren all the time. That is the reason I do Lasiren for Mardi Gras. I chose Lasiren because my grandmother, father and mother all served the spirits, I love her & honour her. The baby that I carry in my arms is the child of Lasiren who is called Marie Rose. When I walk the streets I sing her song which goes ' I am Lasiren and I cry for Lasiren, when I work mystically in the night bad luck can come my way'. I prepare for Lasiren by putting on a hat, a mask and carrying an umbrella. I put on a necklace and gloves. This necklace is called Mambo Welcome, it is a fetish. Because Lasiren is a fish she has to disguise herself as a woman to be at Mardi Gras. My mask and hat cover her fish's head. And the dress she wears covers her fish's tail. The chain I wear is a sacred chain. Each year I change the disguise and fashion a new baby. In order to get inspiration I go to the place where the big beasts live and they instruct me how to do Mardi Gras. I have been doing this for 18 years. Before that I did another Mardi Gras call Patoko. This was a group of men who were dressed as women, with a nice dresses and high heeled shoes. We did a marriage between men and woman on the street. After that we had a group called the duck who carried brushes in their hands wearing blue trousers, white t-shirts, new sandles and a scarf around our waists. We swept the streets of Jacmel. I have always found a way of doing a Mardi Gras.
Kanaval will be on display for free at PHI Centre in Montreal (407, rue Saint-Pierre), from February 25th to April 27th, 2013. Opening night happens at 7:30pm on February 23rd, and its $175 ticket price (or a $400 VIP ticket) includes Haitian food, giveaways, and performances by Haitian dance groups, Haitian band Doody and Kami, and The Arcade Fire, who have a blog dedicated to their own trip to Haiti. All proceeds will go towards KANPE, a non-profit "born of a desire to play an integral part in the fight to help Haiti break free from a vicious cycle of poverty", through programs in health, education, agriculture, counseling, and other community services. Full event details can be seen at PopMontreal.
(12 IMAGES TOTAL)

 

The Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is upon us again, and we have whittled down their list of 100+ international shorts and full-length films to summarize the most interesting, socially-conscious, and boundary-pushing of the bunch. This year's festival runs from February 7th through the 23rd, beginning with an Opening Night celebration featuring Blancanieves, a silent Spanish reworking of Snow White. Purchase tickets and find out more. Our festival preview begins below with this year's top five picks, followed by the rest in alphabetical order.

Beyond The Hills Directed by Cristian Mungiu (Romania) Based on the novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, which are real-life documents of demonic possession, Beyond The Hills is a bleak and stark religious drama set an Orthodox monastery in Moldovia. Though Alina (Cirstina Flutur) heads to the monastery to convince her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) to leave and return to Germany, Alina finds herself sucked more and more into the environment and its callings. Flutur and Stratan both shared the Best Actress Prize at Cannes Film Festival for these performances.          Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
Hannah Arendt Directed by Margarethe von Trotta (Germany) Based on the life of German philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, Hannah Arendt chronicles her writings for The New Yorker on the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann covered a scenario that was not black and white but veiled in greys, causing great conflict and protest amongst an American public and the publication's editing staff. Hannah Arendt is a drama about journalism, and the social duty of reporting as one sees as truthful, rather than as it is idealized or pressured to be.          Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 5:15 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
Laurence Anyways Directed by Xavier Dolan (Canada) Despite being happy and in love, high school teacher Laurence finally reveals to his girlfriend Fred his long-standing desire to become a woman. Fred agrees to support him on his quest, though once the transformations begin, social complications begin to pressure, ostracize, and place fear into the hearts of the couple. Through it all, Laurence Anyways is a tale of love and the ability to weather storms for it.          Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8 PM (Cinema 21)          Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 7 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)
Leviathan Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel (United States) Leviathan presents experimental filmmaking at its finest or its worst, depending on your opinion of macro-view, immersive documentary art. The New York Film Festival describes Leviathan as "a hallucinatory sensory experience quite unlike any other", and the trailer is seems to assert this with views of commercial fishing, as presented with only abstract sounds and imagery.          Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)
Lore Directed by Cate Shortland (Australia) After World War II and the death of Adolf Hitler, five young children are left to fend for themselves when their Nazi SS parents are captured. In an attempt to reach their grandparents in Hamburg, they traverse 500 miles of changing landscapes, meeting unfortunate families along the way and finding a savior in a young Jewish man whose kindness goes against all of their programmed teachings.          Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)          Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)

 

Scottish illustrators Kyle Noble and Jamie Irvine travel the world individually but remain tethered together through the constant exchange of twisted, fantastical comics. Emerging from their psychedelic landscapes -- some of which hardly resemble landscapes at all -- come floating heads with third eyes, praying mantises with Madonna streaming out of the top of their heads, fungal universes, and possible tractor beams. Noble and Irvine's collaborations are inspired by Exquisite Corpse, a Surrealist invention that serves as a mode of artistic interplay between individuals. Drawings are exchanged back and forth to evolve an image spontaneously and to create an organic, ever-unstable narrative. In the case of Noble and Irvine, this results in works that they describe as "unutterably absurd, sexually graphic and loaded with scientific as well as 'new age' theories" -- a natural output considering their respective influences. Noble cites interest in themes such as "the origins of man, Megalithic monuments, ancient civilizations, shamanism, psychedelia, cultural truth, skepticism, and spiritualism", and Irvine finds equal interest in "the exploration of the subconscious and the relationship with mind, sold, and body." Madness unfolds from there, to be seen in the batch images below. Some of Noble and Irvine's solo works to follow. (9 IMAGES TOTAL)

 

Obscured male and female forms face off in these alternating works from Patty Carroll, obscuring the female form draped with patterns, and Matthew Stone, abstracting the male form with contortion. Regardless of its content, a sense of royalty and fluttering grace is pervasive in Stone's Optimism As Cultural Rebellion, which flows like angel robes in religiously significant Renaissance-era classics. Draped Women, Carroll's series of draped, anonymous women, is more self-contained -- exploring spaces shared not with partners, but singular individuals and their relationships to domesticity. Domesticity is displayed like a prison, in contrast to the balance between freedom and constriction in Stone's pieces, with ornate though purely suffocating aesthetics. Nonetheless, Carroll's vision bears some similarity to Stone's, as she reveals in the following statement: "This series has references to draped statues from the Renaissance, nuns in habits, women wearing the burka, the Virgin Mary, priests robes, and ancient Greek and Roman dress, among others. Hopefully, I am bringing humor to pathos."
(10 IMAGES TOTAL)

Matthew Stone

UK photographer Matthew Stone is self-described on his website as an artist and a shaman, who utilizes numerous artistic disciplines to recreate the role of an artist in the 21st century.

Patty Carroll

Patty Carroll is a Chicago-based photographer and teacher with an interest in documenting human interests and pecularities.

 

The 2012 Seattle International Film Festival begins on May 17th, 2012! In the next few days, we will be providing film previews for our top SIFF picks of the year. Times and dates are subject to change, so please visit siff.net before heading to theatres, or see HERE for all film preview coverage, including film selections from other regions of the world.

 


4 DAYS IN MAY
Germany/Russia/Ukraine Directed by Achim von Borries
Set in 1945 and based off a true story, 4 Days Of May follows the days before the official end of World War II. The Germans have already lost, but as soldiers and civilians both learn how to deal with the change, drama and unconventional decision-making ensue. May 31st @ 4:00pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown June 7th @ 9:00pm, Harvard Exit June 9th @ 4:30pm, Egyptian Theatre

 

Lyonnais' music video for "A Sign From On High / Modern Calvary" may be the most spectacular piece of promotional art I've seen so far this year. Filmed in multiple locations around the globe by Land & Sea, the scenery reaches as far as the Sahara, London, and Atlanta to recall fashionable regalia and exquisite travel without any of their economic and social implications. Complementary angles and forms intersect and juxtapose to create a world of simultaneous decay and majesty -- one which Lyonnais hope is just distant enough to evade recognition. The video for "A Sign From On High / Modern Calvary" is an expansive piece of work, embodying all of the sprawling and meandering of Lyonnais' sounds with wandering figures and some of nature's finest landscapes. The adventure into this music video begins with a small sampling of stills, as chosen by by the band, followed by the video and a smattering of Q&A selections.
Lyonnais - A Sign From On High / Modern Calvary 2:15 (The advent of humanity) Lyonnais - A Sign From On High / Modern Calvary 4:22 (The feminine) Lyonnais - A Sign From On High / Modern Calvary 6:03 (The desert dumping into an equally expansive and endless sea)
"To me, it was important to separate the visual to somewhere a little less familiar and more exotic in order to convey the right feeling. There is a certain overwhelming feeling that I get when I think of the Sahara or the Gobi, a place where nothing changes. It could be 2,000 years ago or 2,000 years from now and you wouldn't know the difference. It humbles you." - Lyonnais

 

The 2012 Seattle International Film Festival begins on May 17th, 2012! In the next few days, we will be providing film previews for our top SIFF picks of the year. Times and dates are subject to change, so please visit siff.net before heading to theatres, or see HERE for all film preview coverage, including film selections from other regions of the world.

 

BREATHING
Austria Directed by Karl Markovics
A jailed teenager finds a renewed sense of purpose after parole officer gives him a new job and new responsibilities. A film lauded for its day-to-day quality and appropriately posited scenes and shots, Breathing is less mind-blowing than it is simply a solid tale of what happens when life exerts pressure on an individual. May 20th @ 8:00pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown May 23rd @ 3:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown

 

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. Times and dates are subject to change, so please visit siff.net before heading to theatres, or see the Docsfest for all documentary films presented.

 


AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY United States Directed by Alison Klayman
A feature-length documentary about Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, an influential and ground-breaking liberal artist considered a "God of Love" or the "Beijing Andy Warhol." He controversially goes as far as giving the middle finger to the Motherland and telling it, "Fuck you." May 18th @ 6:30pm, AMC Pacific Place 11 May 19th @ 4:00pm, AMC Pacific Place 11