The Seattle Film Festival has been going since May 17, so I'll be arriving a bit late to the party Thursday afternoon. The country's longest festival wraps up this Sunday, and I've been watching festival screeners in Los Angeles to prepare myself. Large and local, this festival offers cinephiles plenty of foreign and documentary films alongside American indies such as opener "Your Sister's Sister" from Lynn Shelton and closer "Grassroots," a true Seattle story about local groundswell politics.
Here's the long lineup of films, including the US premiere of Fernando Meirelles' "360," special presentations of "Brave," "Trishna" and "People Like Us," and Gala screenings of "Robot and Frank," "The Details" and fest circuit hit "Gayby." Categories include Contemporary World Cinema, New Directors, New American Cinema, Documentary Shorts, Catalyst and Futurewave.
I was excited to get my hands on a copy of "Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean" (which already had its world premiere at the fest), but the film is essentially a pretentious soft core gay porno parading around as an authoritative profile of the late icon, his rumored homosexuality, the craft of acting and the business of Hollywood. My spirits were lifted when I got to see Adam Leon's "Gimme the Loot" which played in the FutureWave program. The SXSW Grand Jury prize winner and Cannes sidebar entry is a gritty urban adventure featuring a cast of teen unknowns–the standout is Tashiana Washington as dirty-mouthed Sofia.
Another strong teen performance comes from Perla Haney-Jardine in Jenny Deller's "Future Weather" (exclusive clip below), which cross-hatches the complexities of three generations of women with climate change. Amy Madigan, Lili Taylor and Marin Ireland also star, and deliver great naturalistic performances. "Future Weather" plays June 9 and 10 in the New American Cinema Competition, where it will compete with Destin Cretton's "I Am Not A Hipster," which debuted at Sundance. Much as I want to mock its title, "Hipster" succeeds with leading man Dominic Bogart playing Brook, who is at once a detestable whiner and a lovable asshole amidst the San Diego hipster infested indie-rock scene. Once he literally kicked a cloying would-be-one-night-stand-groupie out of his bed, I was sold. And he's also a legit musician.
Within my stack of Contemporary World Cinemas titles is New Zealand's 2011 Oscar entry "The Orator," a co-production with Samoa (the country's first feature film), which debuted at Sundance. Director Tusi Tamasese's slow and simple human drama is beautifully shot and offers the candid emotion that made NZ's "Whalerider" so moving.
Jeff Kaufman's docu-biography "The Savoy King: Chick Web and the Music That Changed America" has its world premiere June 9, and will be a treat for swing enthusiasts and Ella Fitzgerald fans. I'll miss the closing night gala of Stephen Gyllenhaal's "Grassroots" but audiences will be pleased with a surprisingly fun tale about the 2001 city council campaign built around the Monorail and the public's demand for affordable mass transit. Joel David Moore plays the man running, Grant Cogswell, while Jason Biggs plays his friend-cum-campaign manager, Phil Campbell. The always-great Lauren Ambrose also stars. Samuel Goldwyn Films will release "Grassroots" June 22.
I'll attend the festival's tribute dinner to Sissy Spacek and William Friedkin on Friday night after catching the Q & A with Spacek and screening of her breakout film, Terrence Malick's "Badlands," tonight. While I've seen each of the director's films several times, "The Tree of Life" is the only one I've seen on the big screen. I'm in for a treat. Following the dinner, I'll head over to the screening of Friedkin's "The Exorcist." I've successfully avoided seeing the film until now and figure there's no better time to finally terrify myself than when I'm alone in a somewhat-unfamiliar city. I'll squeeze in as many other films as I can before attending the Space Needle Awards brunch on Sunday, where I'll report on the Best Film, Best Doc, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Short Film, as chosen by both juries and the audience.
My absolute must-see at the festival is "Fish Tank" director Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights." Since it debuted last September in Venice I've been desperate to see it and will finally feast my eyes on the reimagining of Emily Bronte's classic on Saturday afternoon. Oscilloscope plans to release the film in early October.
Trailers for the above mentioned titles below.