Seattle International Film Festival Opening Weekend

I see that Laremy covered some of this in his edifying and informative Rules of SIFF piece, but I must disagree with his very first rule: "You don't talk about SIFF movies, at least in terms of reviewery critical-style talk." I think the best thing we could do for the Film.com community is highlight the good films.

Anyway, as you've already heard, the Seattle International Film Festival got underway on Thursday with a packed screening of the Sundance hit Son of Rambow, an enthusiastic look back to the British 1980s. In it, a boy who isn't allowed to watch TV or movies because of his religious upbringing falls in with a rich, bad seed and, after watching a pirated copy of the classic Sylvester Stallone movie Rambo: First Blood, they decide to remake it on a home video camera. An ode to the power of imagination and storytelling, the movie is slick on the surface but feels very personal underneath.

I've heard Son of Rambow won't be released until 2008, probably to coincide with the release of Stallone's new Rambo sequel. Screenwriter/director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith attended, and my sources tell me that they thought the screening was going to take place in the 400 seat SIFF Cinema, and after the movie played so well for nearly 3,000 people upstairs in the McCaw Opera Hall, they were positively giddy.

PARTIES AND FILMMAKERS

The first of four "Weekend Gala" parties and screenings was for the movie A Battle of Wits. I loved the first half of the movie better than the second, back when it was about strategy more than corruption and intrigue, but I enjoyed the party all the way through. I hung out with David Sington, director of the crowd-pleasing astronaut documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, and we talked about the fact that Great Britain is responsible for a lot of the documentaries playing on PBS, Discovery Channel and History Channel.

Cullen Hoback was in town with Monster Camp, his hilarious and compassionate look at live action role playing gamers in and around Seattle, and he told me his next documentary is going to be about people who think they are vampires. Esther Robinson, whose A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory is awesome, came to town and we talked about how difficult it is to capture subjective memories in the more objective format of film, and the fact that a mutual friend of ours used to babysit her when she was growing up. I also talked with Rajnesh Domalpalli about how his film Vanaja came out of his Columbia Film School thesis project, and Stephanie Johnes recounted the amazing journey of her documentary Doubletime.

There were also local filmmakers out and about in abundance, not the least of which was John Jeffcoat, whose crowd-pleasing feature Outsourced has been a hit with audiences around the world but has yet to find a distributor who knows how to capitalize on that. I've also seen Daniel Gildark at parties and events, and his movie Cthulhu will have its World Premiere later in the festival.

MORE GOOD FILMS

The Aerial is a goofy little Argentinean film about an alternate reality in the City Without a Voice where people speak in word balloons and the plot is about the evil Mr. TV's plot to monopolize the one voice that has emerged.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox is a fascinating doc that's even more interesting than the "Moral ABCs" that can be found on every label of his liquid peppermint soap.

Girls Rock! is a movie that truly rocks. A documentary about a 5-day rock and roll camp for girls, it's inspiring to see how music can transform shy girls or those with low self-esteem into powerful, self-actualized rock stars. They also hosted a rock show fundraiser for the camp, which I hear was fantastic.

The documentary King of Kong is an epic story of good and evil and the quest for a man to beat a potentially corrupt judging community and a hot sauce magnate to claim his rightful place at the top of the Donkey Kong high score list. Director Seth Gordon told a packed crowd at the Egyptian that not only will the film be remade by Hollywood, but he's going to be allowed to direct the adaptation, which is something that almost never happens.

Paprika is more crazy anime (sorry if that's redundant) ostensibly about a device that can merge dreams with reality, and though I loved the crazy parade of crazy cartoon characters, the lack of a linear story made me sort of sleepy which, come to think of it, is strangely appropriate.

Monster Camp follows players of a live-action role-playing game, and does an amazing job explaining the rules and showing the nerds who play it with sympathy and humor.

Murch is essentially a master class from Walter Murch, one of the best film editors in the world, though sometimes it seems like the filmmakers weren't always listening to him with their own editing choices.

Paris Je T'Aime is a collection of 18 different short films from 18 different acclaimed directors, and like most short film collections it his hit-and-miss, but ultimately entertaining.

Red Road is about a British surveillance officer who spies a shady man from her past, and most people I've talked to have really like this film, though it struck me as more of a character sketch than a story.

With Rescue Dawn Werner Herzog makes a Hollywood film on his own terms -- pushing his actors to the extreme in a jungle far, far away from four star hotels -— and comes up with a film that finds optimism in tortuous situations.

Severence was described as The Office meets Deliverance, and that is completely accurate. It's a funny and bloody story of a group of defense contractors being stalked and killed on a corporate retreat.

Waiter is an episodic Dutch meta-comedy about a miserable waiter confronting the screenwriter controlling his fate, and is full of deadpan bits of pure gold.

A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory investigates filmmaker Esther Robinson's discovery that her uncle was not just a member of Andy Warhol's Factory and a terrific filmmaker, but was Warhol's lover for a time.

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Andy Spletzer is addicted to film, and will continue to go to as many movies as his conscious brain will let him.