This year, the Seattle International Film Festival went virtual! From April 8th – April 18th, I checked out 17 total films, and 3 short films. It was a pretty fascinating selection of unique (and often challenging) films. Anything not afforded full coverage is included here, as well as a personal top 5 favorites from the festival.
Possibly one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen, and yet it somehow makes you form an emotional connection with the wholesome lead character, Diego. It’s about a secret folder filing championship, played hilariously serious at certain points. I’m not sure everything I laughed at was meant to be funny, but some of the dialogue really made me chuckle. “I feel alive when I’m filing, I feel like I can do anything!” Whatever the intent, All Sorts is entertaining, meditative, and bizarre, all traits of strong indie filmmaking.
Bursts of gore, phenomenal acting from Niamh Algar, and light commentary on censorship and media-inspired violence easily make Censor a must-see. Watching Nasty back-to-back, I loved seeing what Bailey-Bond carried over thematically from the eerie short. Constant references to amazing films of the horror heyday pepper Censor with authenticity and a meta subtext.
The Dry summed up in one word: dry. It takes a half-baked murder mystery and fails to do anything original with it. We’ve seen all of this before, and we’ve seen it better. The actors are all great, but I just couldn’t get myself invested in any of the characters. Alternating timelines rarely function in a satisfying way. There’s a distance to the story that doesn’t do it any favors. I would’ve been fine if the meandering slow-burn had an explosive payoff—I don’t think it ever reaches that point. It’s engrossing enough for a time waster, just don’t expect narrative fireworks.
GET THE HELL OUT
Get the Hell Out has to be one of the zaniest zombie movies ever made. Once it gets going, the film is so fast-paced and keeps moving every second. The chaotic editing and frenetic energy never lets up. It all feels so specifically Asian, so over the the top, and so engaging. I haven’t seen this much blood since Kill Bill, played dramatically to comical effect. I can safely say Get the Hell Out is the only time you’ll see a sing-along after severing a zombie’s artery with nail clippers.
POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA
Though I previously caught Potato Dreams of America as part of this year’s SXSW lineup, I was thrilled that a Q&A was included for Seattle. Writer/director Wes Hurley is just as endearing and charming as I suspected, and it helped give further insight on his fantastically true-to-life gay comedy. It’s a gay comedy that wears a heart of gold on its sleeve. Though it frequently dips its toes in heavy subject matter, the endearing themes of love and acceptance will bring joy to anyone who watches it, gay or straight.
STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET
Street Gang is a rather straightforward documentary—its completely comprehensive to the first part of the Sesame Street legacy. The origins in trying to reach inner city kids, and help prepare young children for school was something I had never thought of before watching. It touches on surprising things like Monsterpiece Theater, the inception of “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” and the shockingly tender way the show decided to deal with the death of an essential cast member. Vintage footage is great, but can overstay its welcome. It didn’t keep me glued to the screen as much as I’d been hoping.
Together Together puts charming chemistry between leads Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison) on full display. The Sundance 2021 film, picked up by Bleecker Street for North American distribution, tells the story of two strangers brought together for one specific purpose: to make a baby! The film is full of cute and awkward moments where Matt makes assumptions about the pregnancy and has to be put in check. It’s light and fluffy, but well-done fluff.
In Nasty, you can see the seeds planted for Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature debut, Censor. Set in the 80’s, this acts as a love letter to nasty splatter flicks of the decade, and full of throwback visual cues. Definitely my favorite of the three short films I watched at SIFF.
THE OTHER MORGAN
Funny but forgettable, though I have to admit The Other Morgan served as a semi-sweet palate cleanser between films. The two performances at the center are adorable—sibling rivalry is always entertaining, yet here is a little flat.
Only one word screams back at me when I think about this: “feck!” Packaged with hilarious Irish dark comedy Deadly Cuts, Shergar could not have set the stage more perfectly if it tried. The Dublin-set hijinks, gorgeous animation, and strong accents put a smile on my face in the first 10 seconds.
Five Favorite Films From SIFF 2021
Overall, I felt like the Seattle International Film Festival was a great sampling of various genres, with many clear stand-outs. The virtual app was easy to use, and let you create a watchlist of content for easy access. The biggest thing this festival had over similar ones like SXSW is that the majority of the films had Q&A’s that made it fun and exciting, and promoted further discussion. The film slate was curated beautifully, and left me craving more. I had several films on my list that I just didn’t get to, due to personal time constraints, like Sweat, The Pink Cloud, My Missing Valentine, and Riders of Justice. Thanks for following my coverage of the festival, and see you again next year!