You know how some years of the Seattle International Film Festival are better than others? In all seriousness, holy crap! This is the best SIFF since The Stranger can remember, and the entire staff watched previews until our eyes bled to find that out. You're going to find a ton to love.

SIFF 2012 starts off with a bang (literally) on opening night with Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister, the first film by a Seattleite (and Stranger Genius) ever to be featured at the giant gala. For closing night, it's Stephen Gyllenhaal's Grassroots, the tale of Grant Cogswell's 2001 run for Seattle City Council. In between, SIFF ransacks the globe for delights, from Spain (the Aptovian black comedy Cousinhood) to Austria (the gritty coming-of-age tale Breathing) to South Africa (the surfing-meets-Shakespeare-under-apartheid crowd-pleaser Otelo Burning) to Iran (the heart-crushing drama about life under Sharia law Goodbye).

Despite SIFF's ace curating of world cinema, the film inspiring the most passion among the Stranger SIFF Squad is another Northwest product: Megan Griffiths's Eden, which tackles the soul-sickening subject of child sex trafficking with an artistry and humanity that is profound. Eden is harrowing and riveting and might be a masterpiece; if you miss it at SIFF, you're an idiot.

Among the splashy special events: The Story of Film: An Odyssey, a cinema historian's 15-hour tribute to the glory of film from the silents through today, and "An Evening with Sissy Spacek," featuring Terrence Malick's 1973 glory Badlands (Spacek's first performance in a leading role), followed by an onstage Q&A with Spacek herself.

What follows is a guide to every single film screening in SIFF 2012, featuring eyewitness reviews of more than 150 films and a baker's dozen jokes in poor taste. For a day-by-day breakdown of film screenings, see our awesome online guide at

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