SIFF captivates Seattle

One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is its status as a cultural center. A huge contributing factor to this is the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). It is the largest film festival in the United States and is highly revered as a heavyweight of the film festival community across the globe.

This year, the festival kicked off its opening gala with “In the Loop”, a film from the UK. Based on the BBC series “The Thick of it,” this political commentary takes a look at the differences between the American and British halls of power, through a comic lens, of course. James Gandolfini, star of “The Sopranos”, joins an all-star cast of British comics whose talents help take the edge off an otherwise terrifying political thriller. The film takes the viewer behind closed doors and forces them to witness the actions of bumbling bureaucrats in the world of international diplomacy. The gala was held at The Paramount Theatre on May 19, and some cast members attended.

Countries as far away as Croatia, Bulgaria and Estonia will be showing films from their most prestigious filmmakers. In the past few years, documentaries have been a rising trend at SIFF. At the ’06 festival, one third of the films were documentaries. Among them was the hilarious “Al Franken: God Spoke.”

Another rising trend has been the buddy movie. This year there are 9 films in this category, one of which is a two-part epic from France, titled “Mesrine.” Running a total of 242 minutes, it’ll be a good excuse to walk out with your buddy and exclaim “dude, that was epic!”

Another highlight of the buddy film subgroup will be “I Sell the Dead,” featuring Dominic Monaghan of “Lord of the Rings.” The film hears the story of grave-robber Arthur Blake, played by Monaghan, who is scheduled for execution. Blake talks to Father Duffy, a gallows chronicler, and tells tales of grave digging and escapades involving him and his partner, who has been executed the previous morning. Retrospective vignettes fill us in on Blake’s eccentric past as a part of this absurd and lucrative trade.

SIFF also serves as a filmmaking forum, a place where filmmakers can inspire the next generation and receive praise for their work. This year is no different. On Wednesday, May 27, director Spike Lee will be receiving a Golden Space Needle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Direction, in recognition of his lengthy career. Lee has visually analyzed and portrayed race relations in America with films like “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “25th hour” and “Inside Man”. The event will feature an in-depth Q&A session, a screening of his new film “Passing Strange,” and hopefully Lee will be wearing his trademark wood-grain framed glasses. The event will be at the Egyptian Theater on Broadway.