The Seattle International Film Festival wrapped up its 25 days of sharing 450 movies from across the world on June 7th. As a first time SIFF attendee, I gathered all the movies I viewed during this time for a quick roundup. My absolute favorites are:
- Liza, the Fox-Fairy
- The Dark Horse
- Racing Extinction
- The Primary Instinct
7 Chinese Brothers | Bob Byington | Grade: B-
Undriven and stuck, Larry finds himself going from one unfortunate event to event to another.
- An unorthodox take that showcasing the quiet and erosive side alcoholism
- Schwartzman adds to his acting arsenal with this role
- Genuine – sometimes, good things do not happen to people who do not deserve them
Circle | Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione | Grade: A-
Fifty strangers are confined to one room with the ability to kill one another by voting.
- Boils down to one question: Who deserves to die?
- Despite the situation, there’s a balance between humorous and heavy moments
- Able to maintain the sense of shock throughout the film
The Dark Horse | James Napier Robertson | Grade: A
Genesis Potini, a New Zealand speed-chess champion teaches a group of students the ways of the board while battling through his mental barriers.
- Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, and Wayne Hapi are unforgettable
- Complex relationships and no sense of judgement from the youth
- Breathes positivity into mental illness
A Few Cubic Meters of Love | Jamshid Mahmoudi | Grade: C
Coming from different worlds, an Iranian worker and the daughter of a strict Afghan man fall in love.
- Relies heavily on prior knowledge in Iranian and Afghan culture
- Ill-paced with an ending that escalates and then disintegrates
- Disconnect during translation
Front Cover | Ray Yeung | Grade: C
Two Chinese cultures, modern and traditional, clash with the fashion and movie industry as a backdrop.
- Played it safe with a gay man in the fashion industry
- No sense of taking place in New York
- Originally written 20 years ago, story is still prevalent
Guidance | Pat Mills | Grade: A-
A washed up ’80s child star lands a promising role by posing as a high school guidance counselor.
- Breaks down societal expectations: promiscuity, racial injustice, and sexual identity
- A few moments of prop inconsistency
- Outwardly coarse and a rambunctious trip
Haemoo | Shim Sung-Bo | Grade: B
With insufficient fishing hauls, a captain accepts a transport assignment with a more precious cargo: humans.
- Highlights today’s indifference to the growing number of deaths on fishing barges due to human trafficking
- Events unceasingly built upon one another with a never ending sense of angst
- Captain is haunting and disturbing
Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet | Bill Plympton, Gaëtan Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz, Joann Sfar, Michal Socha, Mohammed Saeed Harib, Nina Paley, Paul Brizzi, Roger Allers, Tomm Moore | Grade: C
A girl befriends a convict, man who shared his free-thinking ways with the community.
- Casting was off and lacked authenticity
- A culmination of all artistic aesthetics and dimensions in one film
- Appropriately awakens Gibran’s poetry
Liza, the Fox-Fairy | Károly Ujj-Mészáros | Grade: A
Men meet their untimely death after falling in love with a woman, a cursed fox-fairy.
- A convergence of opposites that come together in a most unexpected way
- Musical score is timed well and exclusive to the story
- Secondary characters are varied, intriguing, and do not compete with one another
Manglehorn | David Gordon Green | Grade: B-
An old man’s distant nature costs him more than he is willing to admit.
- Even with a lackluster script, Al Pacino’s performance does not disappoint
- Grown into a cranky curmudgeon, tales of greatness and magnetism hint at a much different past
- Tangents are awkward and mundane
The Primary Instinct | David Chen | Grade: B
Inspired by The Tobolowsky Files podcast, director, David Chen showcases character actor, Stephen Tobolowsky’s storytelling in a new format.
- Created intimacy between the audience member and Tobolowsky
- Phenomenal storytelling by Tobolowsky that ignites the urge to try and do anything
- Evokes a range of emotions
Racing Extinction | Louie Psihoyos | Grade: A-
A documentary exploring the markets capitalizing on the capture, distribution, and selling of endangered species
- Unbearable suspense and sickening realization the film is more than a movie, but illustrates the real world
- Emphasizes how everyone puts pressure on the trigger
- A symphony of the cacophonous and harmonious
Saved From the Flames: A Trip to the Moon and Other Trips Through Time and Space | Serge Bromberg | Grade: NA
A collection of previously lost films from the early 20th century.
- Superb selections showcasing cinematic treasures
- Director and archivist, Serge Bromberg, is spirited and a gift to the film community
- Proof in the value of archiving and visual representations of history
Time Out of Mind | Oren Moverman | Grade: D
Separated by alcoholism, a homeless man attempts to reconnect with his daughter while coming to terms with his homeless state.
- Bland performance by Richard Gere
- No development character-wise
- Provides insight into the limited resources provided to homeless assistance programs
The Tournament | Elodie Namer | Grade: C-
A French chess champion’s throne is threatened by a much younger and brighter adversary.
- Another film showcasing the lavish lifestyle of chess players
- Attempts to address inequality between men and women and the macho image, although never tackles the issues directly
- Impressive in regards to the fact that all cast members were required to learn chess prior to filming
The Village | Levan Tutberidze | Grade: D+
A woman struggles with the traditional practices of a village among the clouds.
- Beautiful Georgian landscapes
- Not enough conflict between the conservative elders and the woman to gain the sense of her misunderstanding
- Disconnect in the relation between the woman and two male residents
When Marnie Was There | Hiromasa Yonebayashi | Grade: B+
Vacationing in a town to escape asthmatic issues, a once solitary and reserved girl forms an unbreakable friendship.
- Similarly to The Secret World of Arrietty, Yonebayashi instills a sense of wonder
- A focus on the population of foster care children
- Touching story on connectedness to family
Where I am King | Carlos Siguion-Reyna | Grade: B
Blindsided by bankruptcy, a grandfather brings his grandchildren to his old neighborhood to teach them value unrecognized by the privileged.
- Brings to the forefront the LGBT community that is otherwise brushed aside or ignored
- Disparity between the sprawling metro and shantytowns, both within the borders of Manila
- One too many bylines
The Wolfpack | Crystal Moselle | Grade: B
For years, six brothers live cut-off from society with movies as their only exposure to the outside world.
- Leaves many questions unanswered: Where did they receive income for food? What happened when the mother wanted to visit? What are they doing now?
- A disturbing real-life story of the Angulo brothers who actually live through movies