SIFF ’08: The fourth and final week

My second week of SIFF 2008
by masakaman

My 4th and final week at SIFF 2008 wasn’t really a whole week but rather 3 days — still, there were many films left to see. On Sunday night I finished the last screening at the Egyptian Theater, and that ended my SIFF 2008 experience. All of those days and nights of amazing films (and not so amazing films) and trying to see if I could stay awake. My favorite 3 films are Time to Die, The Secret of the Grain, and Ploy. And it was so nice to have Uptown Cinema & Cinerama (only 3 days?) back again! The weather was a little cold and wetter than normal but equally nice and that’s just how spring is in Seattle. Overall, I enjoyed every minute of it. Now it’s time for me to get back to my usual life without films. Naturally, I hope to attend at SIFF 2009 next May.

Last Sunday, The 34th Seattle International Film Festival concluded 25 days of films amounting to 191 narrative features, 57 documentary features, and 170 short films from 69 countries, including 43 World Premieres (16 features, 27 shorts), 38 North American Premieres (19 features, 19 shorts), and 19 US Premieres (10 features, 9 shorts). During the festival, more than 70,000 ballots were cast for the SIFF 2008 Awards by SIFF audiences to determine the winner in six categories: Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Short Film. Also presented were six juried SIFF 2008 Competition Awards: New American Cinema Award, New Directors Showcase Award, Best Documentary Award, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Short, and Best Animated Short.

The SIFF 2008 New American Cinema Competition Winner: Em, directed by Tony Barbieri (USA). Here’s the official jury statement: “In Em, writer-director Tony Barbieri tackles the timely and original subject of love and mental illness, with the help of his two excellent leads, Stef Willen and Nathan Wetherington. It’s a sweet, sad, scary movie that feels completely contemporary.”

Many people suffer without knowing that it may be due to a chemical unbalance in brain they have. I’m sure many films have been made with this subject in past. Em brought me back to the 1986 French film Betty Blue. The film had a great soundtrack that I liked very much, but I had little knowledge about mental illness back then. Since then, I’ve come to know people including some of my friends with this illness. And I learned that sometimes it’s tricky to understand what mental illness is. Often the mentally ill can look normal in every way that you can see even when things are going really wrong. Also, I can see the potential for overdiagnosis with mental illness, and the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t mind giving more pills to keep everyone happy. But real pain does exist. It’s hard enough to keep things straight sometimes and life gets so out of control that you find yourself standing at the edge you don’t want to fall over. Was it just luck not to to fall?

The SIFF 2008 Golden Space Needle Audience Award Winner is Cherry Blossoms – Hanami, directed by Doris Dörrie (Germany). In it, A man takes a journey to Japan to understand his late wife and himself. While his son is too busy working in Tokyo Metropolitan, the widower meets a young street Butoh Dancer and becomes friendly with her. It is an awkwardly charming yet strangely blissful (and even a little sad) film.

Frozen River, directed by Courtney Hunt (USA) respectably took 2nd. In it, a deserted working class wife Ray (Melissa Leo) left with two sons meets up with a Mohawk Indian widow named Lila (Misty Upham). Although both hate each other, they need money fast and become partners smuggling illegal immigrants across the border. Each trip only leads to the next last trip.

These are the remaining top ten audience favorites (in order):

Fugitive Pieces, directed by Jeremy Podeswa (Canada)
Captain Abu Raed, directed by Amin Matalqa (Jordan)
The Drummer, directed by Kenneth Bi (Hong Kong)
Summer Heat, directed by Monique van de Ven (the Netherlands)
Letting Go of God, directed by Julia Sweeney (USA)
Late Bloomers, directed by Bettina Oberli (Switzerland)
Bliss, directed by Abdullah Oguz (Turkey)
Michou d’Auber, directed by Thomas Gilou (France)

View the complete list of Audience and Jury Award Winners here.

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  1. PJ
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 10:13 pm | Permalink


    Enjoyed your SIFF reviews! My favorites were Sita Sings the Blues, The Edge of Heaven and Let the Right One In. I am also having serious SIFF withdrawals!

  2. masa
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Permalink


    I secretly did enjoy Let the Right One In, and Sita Sings the Blues was awesome!
    I’ve only seen 4 animation films at SIFF 2008 but Sita is the best one. I also liked Nocturna a lot. We are SIFF junkies!

  3. ken
    Posted May 28, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I thought that Em was ruined by Stef Willen’s wooden and self conscious performance. No talent.

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