SIFF 2019: Pre-Festival Press Screenings and Digital Screeners

 

Non-Fiction (France 2018, 108 min)

Press Screening: Wed 5/1

The latest film from Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria, Personal Shopper) centers around the future of publishing and the struggles to adapt to new technology, as told through the eyes of a publisher (Guillaume Canet), a novelist who barely clothes his nonfiction with fiction (Vincent Macaigne), their lovers (Christa Théret, Juliette Binoche), and their loves (Juliette Binoche, Nora Hamzawi). Decent, but would’ve been better if the movie had been more concerned with its characters than having each be a mouthpiece for an idea. The exception is Binoche, who is excellent. Festival screenings: Thu 5/30 8:00pm Kirkland Performance Center, Tue 6/4 7:00pm Pacific Place

Maiden (United Kingdom 2018, 93 min)

Press Screening, Thurs 5/2

Tracy Edwards was the first captain to lead an all-woman crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race (now called The Ocean Race), which is a yachting race held every three years. This documentary chronicles the race and her life leading up to it — one that included the death of her father at an early age and an abusive stepfather. Just like The Great Alone, you don’t need to know anything about this sport to love this film, and like my 2015 pic for best documentary, it’s a must-see. Festival screenings: Fri 5/17 7:00pm Majestic Bay, Sun 5/19 2:30pm SIFF Cinema Uptown

We Are the Radical Monarchs (USA 2019, 96 min)

Digital Screener, Tues 5/7

This also played as a 10am press screening the previous day, but who wants to wake up that early? You should see it during the festival, though, as this documentary about the Oakland-based Brownies troop for girls of color is a solid film, covering three years in the life of the organization and its efforts to launch other chapters while staying afloat itself. There’s a weird editing montage in the middle that made me think the film was about to be over, and the negative Fox News coverage is inserted and then not really dealt with (unless one takes the entire film as a rebuttal to their arguments, which it is), but those are my only criticisms. Festival screenings: Sun 5/19 1:00pm Ark Lodge Cinemas, Sat 6/1 11:00am SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Sun 6/2 1:30pm Pacific Place

Yomeddine (Egypt/USA/Austria 2018, 97 min)

Press screening, Wed 5/8

You know how sometimes you go see a movie because it sounds good, and then it ends up being that good? That’s Yomeddine, a movie about a man who survived leprosy, but still carries its physical scars. After a life-changing event, Beshay decides to hunt down the family who gave him up. Great writing with lots of interesting side-characters — so interesting, I wish we spent more time with them. But the road calls, and we must journey on. Raday Gamal is excellent as Beshay, and he gets good support from the entire case, including his companion, an orphan named Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz). Festival screenings: Fri 5/17 8:30pm SIFF Cinema Uptown, Mon 5/20 4:30pm Pacific Place

Sword of Trust (USA 2019, 89 min)

Press-only screening, Wed 5/8

The Opening Night film is light on plot and big on banter. It revolves around a situation (it’s too basic to call it a plot): two women (Jillian Bell , Michaela Watkins) inherit a Civil War sword and try to sell it to a pawnbroker (Marc Maron), claiming it proves the South won the war. When he and his employee (Jon Bass) discover a conspiracy theory YouTube channel that will buy it for hundreds of thousands of dollars, shenanigans ensue. Lynn Shelton keeps the film light, even in more serious moments. A fun way to start the festival. Festival screenings: Thu 5/16 7:00pm Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

3 Faces (Iran 2018, 100 min)

Press screening, Tues 5/14

The latest from Jafar Panahi finds the Iranian director playing himself (and actress Behnaz Jafari playing herself) as they travel to a remote town to discover if a video sent to Jafari (via Panahi) is a fake or actually shows the suicide of an aspiring actress (Marziyeh Rezaei, playing — you guessed it — Marziyeh Rezaei). The pleasure of seeing this film is twofold: 1.) It shows Panahi at the top of his game as a director. There are no wasted shots or superfluous details, and the cinematography (and acting…and editing…) is gorgeous. 2.) This is the fourth film written and directed by him since the Iranian authorities handed him a 20-year ban from making movies. If you need further proof that you need to see it, remember what I said about 10am press screenings? I woke up for this one, and didn’t regret it. Festival screeningsSat 5/18 6:00pm Lincoln Square, Sun 5/19 6:30pm SIFF Cinema Uptown

The Farewell (USA/China 2019, 98 min)

Press-only screening, Tues 5/14

Lulu Wang’s second feature starts out with the words “Based on a True Lie.” In China, families can choose to keep medical results secret from family members who are dying. In this tale, Billi (Awkwafina) finds out that her Nai Nai (Shuzen Zhao) is dying of cancer. As an excuse for the entire family to travel to China and see her one last time, they stage a wedding for her cousin HaoHao (Han Chen) and Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara), his girlfriend of 3 months. The music is often too emotive for the scenes it describes (particularly when lyrics are included), some of the family members are introduced and never appear again, and Awkwafina is not given much to do besides look sad. Still, the chemistry between the family members is believable, Shuzen Zhao is excellent, and I enjoyed the 98 minutes I got to spend with these people. Playing as the Closing Night film. Festival screenings:  Sun 6/9 6:00pm SIFF Cinema Egyptian