SIFF 2014: Press Launch and Week One of Press Screenings

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Wednesday, April 30

Today I went to my first ever press launch.  I came directly from getting a small cavity filled, so there was still some sensitivity when snacking on the Continental Breakfast.  And, although I reached for an orange juice, one of my fellow staff members traded it for a Mimosa.  “It’s your birthday,” he said, though that had been last week.  I have to say, the Mimosa was the better choice.

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Once we had our fill of food, we  moved down the hall to Uptown 2, where the official press launch began.

03. Press Launch, 4-30

It began with Carl Spence, Artistic Director at SIFF, who mentioned that the Closing Night film this year will be The One I Love, starring Mark Duplass.  He also mentioned that the Centerpiece Gala will be Boyhood (Richard Linklater), which I already knew, but then we got to see a trailer for it, and I’m even more excited to see it than I was before, if that’s possible.  Slacker had its World Premiere at SIFF, and while Boyhood isn’t a World Premiere or even a North American Premiere, it’s appropriate that it’s making its Seattle premiere here.  And in case you want the breakdown of films at SIFF 2014:

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(Note: in my press packet it says the festival is comprised of 435 films, but the press release I received corresponds with the numbers here, so I’m going with 440 films.)

Then Mary Bacarella, Managing Director at SIFF, took the microphone to thank the staff and sponsors, as well as the caterers, Il Fornaio.

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The tribute guests were once again mentioned (Laura Dern, Chiwetel Ojiofor), with an addition: A Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented this year to Quincy Jones.  As part of the celebrations, SIFF will be showing Pawnbroker, which featured Jones’s first film score.  Carl went on to say that one of the midnight films this year will be the king of all midnight films: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which premiered at the first festival).  Other films celebrating SIFF’s 40th include The Stunt Man (which had a record-breaking 52-week run at the Guild 45th after playing at the 8th Seattle International Film Festival) and Dan Ireland’s The Whole Wide World.  Films with parties attached include Dior and I, I Origins (from Mike Cahill, director of Another Earth), and They Came Together (a romcom spoof from David Wain, the director of Wet Hot American Summer).  Also, the moods are back in the catalog to help people decide what films to see.

The rest of the presentation included Beth Barrett talking about Northwest Connections films, Archival films, Docs, and Shorts; Dustin Kaspar talking about the Forums, African films, and Futurewave films; and Clinton McClung talking about Face the Music and Midnight Adrenaline films.  After each section, a trailer from one of the films featured was played.

We then had a break, where we each got a copy of the free guide for the festival.

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André Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All Is By My Side (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Jimi: All Is By My Side played after the break.  André Benjamin channels Hendrix’s looks and mannerisms for the film, if not quite his onstage presence, but the movie has two serious flaws: a lack of emotion and little use for developing secondary characters.  Some nice touches (like the visual representations of drug trips), great costuming, and Hendrix’s cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” are the bright spots.  It’s interesting, but the EMP exhibit is better.

 

Thursday, May 1

Today was the first day of press screenings.  Press screenings are open to the press and anyone who has a full series pass or higher.  Traditionally, press screenings start on the last Monday of April and play Monday through Thursday until the end of festival.  This year, festival organizers decided to start screenings on May 1 (a Thursday).  In addition, there were press screenings scheduled on May 2.  While there have been press-only screenings on Fridays before, to have general press screenings on a Friday is unusual.

Last year, I remember a lot of scrambling and busy-ness on the first press screening day.  This year, not so much.  Of the three films shown (Mood Indigo, DamNation, Dear White People), DamNation received the most critical praise from the people who watched it.  It deals with dam removal, including the Elwha Dams on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

 

Friday, May 2

Our rare Friday press screenings began with #Chicagogirl-The Social Network Takes on a Dictator and continued with The Skeleton Twins before concluding with The Congress, which I am very much looking forward to seeing.  Since I got to leave early, I don’t know how The Congress was received, but I do know a few people were disappointed with the ending of The Skeleton Twins.

 

Next week: Week Two of Press Screenings!

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