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Friday, May 25, 2007

SIFF 2007 Fri-Sat Highlights

posted by on May 25 at 15:17 PM

The Stranger’s suggestions for each slot in the festival for the next two days:


4:30 pm, Harvard Exit: To continue your Son of Rambow ’80s nostalgia high, see This Is England, a semiautobiographical tale of growing up punk in the ’80s.

7 pm, Harvard Exit: Carrie Brownstein (hot hot hot) and Beth Ditto (hot hot hot) are instructors at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in PDX—the subject of a new documentary. Girls Rock!, featuring badass 8-year-olds like Palace…


… will drag you into the post-riot grrrl age. (There’s also a show at Chop Suey tomorrow at the kid-friendly time of 1:30 pm with some of the camp alumnae.) Director Arne Johnson and producer Shane King will be in attendance to answer your questions after the show. Or, you can skip the Q&A and bust ass to…

9:15 pm, Northwest Film Forum: Life in Loops, an innovative “remix” of an existing documentary from the late ’90s about the working and underclasses in global cities, is one of the best experimental films in the fest.


11 am: If you like mountains and overcoming adversity, check out Team Everest: A Himalayan Journey at the Egyptian. The director and producer will be in attendance. If you’re a movie nerd, you might prefer Murch, about the editor/sound designer of American Graffiti and The Godfather, at the Harvard Exit. The directors will be in attendance.

Early afternoon: It’s a tossup between the archival presentation of Gunga Din at the Egyptian, 2 pm and the massively expensive Egyptian epic The Yacoubian Building (based on this book, which is now available in an English translation) at Pacific Place, 1 pm.

Late afternoon: Check out the surprisingly good The Singer (3:30 pm at the Neptune), starring an uncharacteristically subdued Gerard Depardieu. Or the solid Monster Camp (4:30 pm at the Egyptian), about a Seattle community of live-action D&D warriors. Or the too-long but beautiful Malaysian entry After This Our Exile (4:15 pm at Pacific Place).

The first evening show has no losers—you can see the new Judd Apatow a little early, an ode to Paris, young love in Brazil, ancient action in China. But the all-around winner is probably Gypsy Caravan, SIFF Cinema, 6:30 pm. Director Jasmine Dellal will be in attendance.

In the late evening, check out Monkey Warfare (9:45 pm at the Egyptian), a paranoid pot romance-cum-urban guerrilla comedy from Canada. Director Reginald Harkema will be in attendance. We also liked Vanaja. Director Rajnesh Domalpalli will be in attendance.

And you should probably skip the late night. Unless you’re a huge fan of excrement.

RSS icon Comments


Monkey Warfare and Monster Camp are on my list too.

But why aren't you mentioning Paprika (only shows this weekend)?

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 25, 2007 5:15 PM

Girls Rock is kick-ass. Highly recommended.

Posted by Mark | May 26, 2007 12:06 AM

I previewed Paprika for SIFF Notes. I enjoyed it well enough, and imagine that anime fans—particularly fans of Satoshi Kon—will dig it, but I haven't given it a second thought since I saw it. Not everyone turns to animation for resonance, though, so your mileage may vary. Then again, I love animation and I love Japanese cinema, but anime has never really been my thing. (Granted, I loved Spirited Away, but I've got a soft spot for Hayao Miyazaki.) Persepolis sounds more like my kind of animated film:

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | May 26, 2007 12:55 AM

Seriously, if you can't afford tickets, SIFF needs volunteer and you'll get to see films free for working. talk about the ultimate "volunteer" job. they make it too easy to pick up shifts (and cancel them if necessary) using their Shiftboard site at You can "teams") that you want (like special events, ushers, ticket takers, etc) and pick up any shifts you want, easier than sending email. I signed up and noticed (after some digging) that even Bumbershoot, KBCS and KEXP are also using Shiftboard to do basically the same thing (answering pledge drive phone calls?) and now I'm thinking of doing folk life duty this weekend outside rather than staying indoors in a dark room. geeeeeezzz what is this world coming to? (cool anyway, thanks SIFF, your awesome!)

Posted by David | May 26, 2007 1:56 AM

@1: Well, Paprika opens theatrically June 8, and I generally like to spend SIFF seeing things I wouldn't otherwise have a chance to see. Plus what Kathy said. I am smitten from a distance with Persepolis, and I've only seen a couple of stills.

Posted by annie | May 26, 2007 4:46 PM

life in loops was the most loathesome, misanthropic movie i've seen in a very long time. no way in hell is it "one of the best experimental films in the fest." electronic music and looped visuals can't cover the fact that the film is an excercise in global slumming.

Posted by trevor | May 27, 2007 1:10 AM

@6: Whew. I knew there'd be some controversy over this one; the original was equally touchy. So your point is that aestheticizing suffering automatically dismisses or belittles it? If the film took a bleak tone and made you cry, would the same images have been acceptable?

I know Josh Feit was planning to see it too--Mr. Feit, do you have thoughts?

ps: Do you have another contender for best experimental film in the fest? I actually think the field is a little weak this year, though I'm definitely looking forward to Protagonist, which qualifies, I think.

Posted by annie | May 27, 2007 9:56 AM

Trevor and Annie @ 6 & 7,

Some of the gimmicky "music video" moments took away from the movie, but I liked Life in Loops. A lot.

Trevor are you saying the movie fetishized the junkie and the dye worker?

I think the film addressed that potential problem in the very first scene, the radio call-in overture. (Let me just say, I loooooved that scene!)

Yes yes, I know simply acknowledging the "slumming" issue doesn't necessarily inoculate the filmmaker from Trevor's criticism (if I've got it right). But this particular acknowledgment did it for me. Showing us a real version of the same conceit in action—a radio show that gives night freaks and the proletariat class the option of taking the microphone, and seeing their blatant self-conscious desire to speak (comicly, passionately, and brilliantly so...and then arguing amongst themselves ...because their conversations and lives exist without us!)—set the movie right. Right from the start.

The dye-sifter's opening monologue (that he hated his life) and then his defiant "performance," made it clear he was living consciously and outside the film.

Annie, is the sound track available? I loved that too.

Posted by Josh Feit | May 27, 2007 11:11 AM

Controversy-shmontroversy. Life in Loops just plain sucked. Incoherent, poorly edited, and painfully missing the mark of its all too obvious aspirations.

Josh, maybe you were the one person who applauded the film on Friday night. Everybody else in the theater greeted the end of the film with silence and a race to the exits.

On the other hand, The Aerial -- the early show at NWFF on Friday -- was delightful and far more interestingly experimental. It's showing on Monday and would definitely make my "must see" list.

PS. Except for the occasional good moment, the soundtrack also sucked -- and this from someone who chose this film (before seeing the Strangers' endorsement) in large part because the Sofa Surfers were involved.

Posted by piranesia | May 27, 2007 5:55 PM

I'm not saying an artist can't or shouldn't depict suffering. That's a red herring that shifts the discussion away from how this particular artist did.

What I mean by global slumming is traveling to places of intense human suffering for the purpose of exoticizing rather than understanding that suffering. And there was an incredible mean-spiritedness to the way in which this particular filmaker chose to present the people whose lives he staged (document is too neutral a word for it).

The most clear cut example is not the dye sifter, but the New York junkie who he asks, after he's shot up, what his goal in life is and films him as he passes out before answering the question. It was one thing to document a junkie's life. But to ask him what the point of his life is when he's in a totally fucked up state (the implication being that the narrator thinks it has none) is extremely manipulative. No details from his life before he became a junkie that would illuminate how he got to this place. The preface of an electronic music soundtrack looping in some street artist singing "die nigger, die" certainly set the mood. This wasn't a documentary scene, or some ironic take on how the mainstream media revels in people's misery. It was a European's fantasy about the depravity of black America.

For good measure the filmmaker gives out some shirts from a Third World sweatshop to be hawked at bottom dollar on the street for next to nothing, just in case we didn't get how the film was fabricating an ironic juxtaposition between First World decay and Third World hyperexploitation.

Splicing those scenes together with the relentless hacking and throat cutting of fish or chickens in the Third World hardly made any of the people in the movie seem more human. It reduced the whole, potentially complex story to a narrative of pure brutalization.

That, I think, is why, as piranesia notes, there was "a race to the exits" after.

The Russian factory scene had beauty, the taco stand operators seemed surprisingly human, the speed-up/ slow-down crowd scenes were well done. But overall, Life in Loops is unredeemable.

Posted by Trevor | May 27, 2007 8:38 PM

@9: Well, I actually starred The Aerial too, but I think it's too derivative (of all of film history, but more particularly Guy Maddin) to be all that interesting. The text conceit is intriguing, I'll give it that.

@10: Thanks for the elucidation. I just don't know. Everyone else was asked that question about their work during or immediately after that work. Maybe I'm being too simplistic, but if his hustles were all aimed at producing this pleasurable high, it's perfectly intuitive—if not necessarily logical—to pose the question as the goal was being attained.

More generally, cinema is an extremely humanistic medium. You're not just taking visual pleasure from a photograph in a vaccuum. (I'd be curious to hear what you thought of Manufactured Landscapes, by the way.) If you didn't already feel empathy for that extremely charismatic man, I'm not sure knowing about the circumstances that gave rise to his situation would push you in that direction. Can't you give the viewer credit for recognizing that he wasn't born addicted to heroin?

Anyway, I liked the music as a soundtrack and thought the editing was great.

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