To attend Opening Night is to see everything from cocktail gowns to actual gowns to t-shirts to jeans in a crowd composed of volunteers and staff, high-spending passholders, those who can afford the $75 price tag for the film ($65 for members), and those willing to shell out the $275 for reserved seats, valet parking, and fundraising cred.
And now, a picture of a crow flying from one of the tents.
Inside, I walked up the central staircase to a place where SIFF program guides were being handed out for free. Obviously, I was on the wrong floor, so I went up a level and saw this below me.
Even cooler was the view looking back from where I’d come.
Once the program started, there were the usual speeches and thanking of sponsors, volunteers, and staff. Then, the giving out of the Mayor’s Award for Achievement in Film…by Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan. Just as the mayor wasn’t there to hand out the award, neither was winner Tracy Rector there to receive it. Instead, her son Solomon accepted the award on her behalf and gave the best speech of the night, which started with him saying how hard his mother works (she’s directed and produced over 400 short films, something that the Deputy Mayor pointed out in her introduction).
In addition to the intros and the Mayor’s Award, we were treated to several sponsor commercials, none so poignant as the one from Aegis Living. As usual, we saw the official SIFF trailer (produced by Wong Doody, and which I’d seen at the press launch), and then a montage including scenes from films in this year’s festival. Oh yeah, and there was also a movie. There’s currently a review embargo on The Bookshop, but capsule reviews are okay, and all I have to say about the film can be written in one paragraph.
First, the good. The acting is solid (Bill Nighy steals every scene he’s in), the cinematography is pretty (especially the colors), and the camerawork is unobtrusive. Unfortunately, the story itself seems abridged, with only the skeleton of a plot and a few hints of character motivation remaining. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not a particularly good one, either. And the voice-over narration seems unnecessary.
Then it was on to the gala. But first, one last look at the tent the crow sat on, this time from inside McCaw Hall.
In past years, the Opening Night Gala took place in the Pacific Northwest Ballet building. Last year and this year, however, it took place in the more intimate Fischer Pavilion.
At the gala, I achieved a lifelong dream of finally getting ice cream, lines be damned (mine was called Netflix & Chill). Sadly, I missed the sliders, but made up for it with potato dumplings (and later, beef dumplings). I also thought the gala ended at 11, which caused much confusion when it kept going. I then thought it must end at 11:30, but no, that was merely the time for last call (speaking of which, I didn’t get carded this year for booze. Must be the beard). It actually ended at midnight.
This is a picture of how close I got to the VIP area.
The Space Needle scaffolding was being removed that evening, but it was still there when I took this picture. Oh well. At the end of the night, I found out that DJ Don Driftmier (his company is called “Music Man,” which might be his professional DJ name, or it might be DJ Don, or DJ D, or just Don), whom SIFF hires every year for the Opening Night Gala, has been doing it for the past ten years. He’s great, but the music is loud, and I forgot to bring my earplugs this year. Luckily, I found a quiet spot near the front of the dance floor after I’d already danced a few songs in the louder section in between the speakers, so my hearing is still intact.