2002 Seattle International Film Festival – Installment 1

2002 Seattle International Film Festival Installment 1: Prelude to the Seattle International Film Festival

By Rebecca Redshaw

Reprinted from NotesFromHollywood.com

Installment 1: Prelude to the Seattle International Film Festival


The dream of climbing earth’s highest mountain has been accomplished. To conquer space, all you need is a hefty bank account and possibly some N’Sync dance moves. One might think new challenges would be hard to come by. But to make a successful movie, or better yet a good one, seems to be a goal pursued by countless dreamers.

Once a script has been pitched and monies of varying amounts are committed and all the elements of this unique creative collaboration are literally “in the can,” the process of bringing the work to the attention of more than just one’s relatives becomes yet another step in the challenge.

One way to get exposure, and ultimately theatrical distribution, is to enter the entertainment world’s version of the farmer’s market.

Film festivals are everywhere. If you’re a filmmaker, the only restrictions placed on entering a plethora of venues are the varying entrance fees. If you’re a fan of discovering a potential gem of a story or new directing talent, then your restrictions are cost (from $8.00 for a single screening to $750.00 for a Platinum Pass, time (up to three weeks), and travel (anywhere in the world).

The fact is if you want to spend your entire waking hours in a padded seat, in the dark with the ever-present aroma of popcorn in the air it would be entirely possible.

For more than a quarter of a century, the Seattle International Film Festival [SIFF] has offered a venue for filmmakers to screen their work. Starting with only eighteen films in 1976, it has expanded to a twenty-three day event with more that two hundred and fifty films submitted from more than fifty countries.

Some of the films have big name star power. Christina Ricci and Brenda Blethyn star in Pumpkin and Catherine Deneuve is featured in the French/Portuguese production of I’m Going Home. Igby Goes Down is the opening night world premiere and includes Susan Sarandon, Kieran Culkin, and Jeff Goldblum in the cast. This feature is one of the lucky ones entered in the festival with a tentative release date scheduled for August.

Leafing through the program, some memorable film titles seem to jump off the page. Chinatown, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and Days of Heaven are part of a tribute to the ‘70’s film era. The brilliance of cinematographer James Wong Howe, is available to see free of charge at select times during the festival. Such classics as the 1937 version of The Prisoner of Zenda and the film based on William Inge’s classic play, Picnic (1955) reminds the viewer how vision in the hands of genius precedes the masses.

At SIFF from May 23rd through June 16th there are seminars and tributes, forums and shorts but mostly there are movies. One of the best parts of attending a festival is seeing a film without any preconceived notions. No one has given it thumbs up or down, no amount of stars has been assigned and there are no overnight grosses to sway your predilection of praising or panning a movie before you’ve personally seen it from opening frame to the final credit.

Two films that you probably will not see at your local multiplex anytime ever are Britney Baby, One More Time and Black Picket Fences. Available for prescreening by the press, the former is an amateurish attempt at comedy that lacks imagination. Its only redeeming factor is a length of eighty-two minutes. The latter is a well-intentioned documentary about a wannabe rap artist’s struggles in life and made at least this critic want to rent Hoop Dreams (the Audience winner at Sundance a number of years ago), to see how inspiring this genre can be.

Even though these two entries were disappointing at least the festival offers the opportunity to see them! No one wants a few studio executives to limit our cinematic choices to the Pearl Harbors’ and Godzillas’ of the world.

Two down and two hundred and forty-eight films to go? Doubtful. But with optimism and enthusiasm for discovery, the fans of film attending SIFF, including this one, will look forward to dark theatres and new films with the promise of meeting the challenge to entertain.