The 2013 Seattle International Film Festival finished up yesterday, June 9, 2013. I saw over 20 films which is my typical amount, but for some reason felt like more of an accomplishment this year than in the past. The theme for me this year was definitely "Documentaries". I saw eight in total and they were all amazing in their own unique ways.
As in years past, my picks for what was great at SIFF do not jibe with my fellow audience members. Did we see the same movies? That Nixon thing for best documentary? The hell? Totally don't get it.
Anyway, here are my reviews of the films I saw in the last week of the festival.
Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth -
Wow. Was there a lot I didn't know about one of my favorite authors. Walker's life has been fascinating. And who knew about her weird daughter totally cutting Walker out of her life recently. Bonus: Alice Walker was there and I got to shake her hand. I had this weird moment when she was holding my hand that my mother was watching; I started to tear up. I hope she didn't notice, or that if she did she just thought that I was some weird super fan and just dismissed me. I'd rather that than have to explain that Alice Walker was weirdly giving off "mom vibes" to me?
Twenty Feet from Stardom -
One of the few documentaries that I saw that will definitely be getting a wide release distribution nationally. Meaning that most of y'all will be able to see it at some point this summer and you definitely should. Spanning the past 50 years, this doc profiles the oft-forgotten/ignored back-up singer, and how backing vocals became really important and sort of defined the sound of pop music in the 60s and 70s. You will feel in turns anger, sorrow, amusement, hope, despair, irony, and elation while watching the struggles and success of these, mostly female, singers.
The Otherside -
Another fantastic documentary; I really lucked out in that department this SIFF. This one focused on the emerging and flourishing Seattle hip-hop music scene. With the success of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis a new spotlight is being thrown on a thriving music culture that many of us have been tuned into for years. Macklemore wasn't at the packed, sold-out screening I attended but all of the guys from Blue Scholars, and Physics were, along with other local acts. I'm not going to lie, while I enjoyed the hell out of the film, most of the annoying Seattle 20-somethings that showed up for it were annoying as fuck. Most had clearly never been to a SIFF film before and didn't understand any of the rules about getting there early (it's not like a regular movie venue), standing in two separate lines (pass holders vs. ticket holders), having physical tickets vs Will Call, parking permits - ALL of these details were confusing, or ignored by these kids who were super obnoxious about everything. But even this couldn't ruin my enjoyment of the evening.
Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer story -
Yet ANOTHER great documentary that I never would have got to see anywhere else but SIFF. Did you guys ever read, or have read to you the children's books "Moon Man", "Adelaide", "The Three Robbers", "Flat Stanley" or any of the Mellops books? Or have you recently read to your own children the award winning "Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear"? These were all written and more importantly illustrated by the crazy and brilliant Tomi Ungerer. At 83 years of age he's still vibrant, crazy, and a genius that I want to have coffee with, and take long walks along the green valleys of his West Cork property in Ireland. His life was crazy. Little did I know about all of the controversy that was stirred up in the early 70s from his work in erotica. I guess my parents were even bigger radicals than I thought by sharing his work with me. Heartbreaking to see Maurice Sendak last interviews in this film. He was one of Tomi's closest friends and considered him a mentor. A truly great biography of a genius.
Prince Avalanche -
Every year SIFF seems to offer up a dud of a film. That one movie in my mix that seems promising and then UTTERLY DISAPPOINTS. This year I made it into the final days of the festival before encountering my dud. And surprisingly it starred Paul Rudd!? Paul Rudd! A man that can do no wrong in my eyes. And to be honest, Rudd was the only decent-ish part of this movie. The plot is...um...yeah, I don't fucking know. Emile Hirsch was baffling as usual; I want to like this guy - I can see he has talent - and yet he always ends up bugging the crap out of me. But seriously Hirsch and Rudd weren't the problem. The convulted story, the pacing (dear God the pacing!), the direction, the ending? it was all such rubbish. I definitely expected better from director/writer David Gordon Green. Seriously, WTF?!
The Girl with Nine Wigs -
I loved loved loved this movie based on a memoir, about a young girl struggling with a rare form of lung cancer. The movie changed the location and nationality of the heroine to Germany (the real young lady was from Amsterdam) but kept the heart and emotional pull that only true events can give a story. It has a happy ending, but I cried anyway. Once again, because it's a festival we were privileged to have the star of the film Lisa Tomoschewsky and the real-life Sophie, author Sophie Van der stop in attendance for a Q&A. It's films like this that I wish everyone could see, yet I doubt will get distribution in the states.
Love Is In the Air -
Another breezy, romantic French comedy. Nothing more to say than that. Very enjoyable. Strange that I ended up seeing two movies during the festival that featured lead Nicolas Bedos; he's I guess supposed to be handsome? His mouth is too weird for me. Seriously, his mouth is HUGE.
Bitch Hug -
My final film of the festival was a touching and charming coming-of-age drama from Sweden about ambitious, recent high school grad Kristin who has dreams of leaving her small Swedish town behind and making it big in New York City as a writer. It was nice to end the festival on this high note.