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:

  1. Liza, the Fox-Fairy
  2. The Dark Horse
  3. Circle
  4. Racing Extinction
  5. The Primary Instinct
  6. Guidance

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.

  • Bizarre
  • 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