Ruiz' Mysteries of Lisbon, a marathon viewing event to run one time only
Ruiz' Mysteries of Lisbon, a marathon viewing event to run one time only

The 37th Seattle International Film Festival, the largest and most highly attended event of its kind in the United States, will run 25 days from May 19 through June 12. A total of 441 films—257 features and 184 shorts, from a SIFF-record 74 countries—have been programmed. These include 96 feature and short premieres. In addition to Seattle showcases, venues in Renton, Everett and Kirkland will be in play.

"This year's Festival will feature one of the largest and most diverse programs that we have ever put together in our 37-year history, highlighting the best in cinema from around the world," said SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence.

The Opening Night Gala on Thursday, May 19, features a McCaw Hall screening of The First Grader (UK/Kenya), directed by Justin Chadwick. This recounts the true-life story of an 84-year-old Kenyan villager—both a participant in and a victim of the 1953 Mau Mau rebellion—who sets out more than half a century later to get the education he never had.
      The Centerpiece Gala will be Saturday, June 4, at the Egyptian Theatre. Service Entrance (France), a comedy directed by Philippe Le Gauy, stars Rohmer stalwart Fabrice Luchini as a Parisian stockbroker having to cope with the arrival of "an exuberant Spanish maid" in the servants' quarters upstairs.
      Sunday, June 12, is Closing Night, featuring a Gala screening of the epic documentary Life in a Day (UK), directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by the brothers Scott—Ridley and Tony. The film creates a mosaic from footage submitted by thousands of contributors the world over to catalog the events of a single day. Gotta be at the Cinerama.

SIFF 2011 has put together a tribute to versatile actor Ewan McGregor, recipient of this year's Golden Space Needle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting. Among the McGregor films to be shown are his new movie Beginners and the newer-yet (i.e., it's a premiere) Perfect Sense. If you have 250 simoleons to drop, please note: "A special tribute dinner for Mr. McGregor and 75 guests will take place ... May 22 at Prava Studios and will be prepared by James Beard Award–winning chef Thierry Rautureau of Rover's and Luc Restaurants in Seattle." The $250 includes reserved seating to the tribute event earlier that evening.
      Warren Miller, a 60some-year veteran of producing action sports films, is getting SIFF's Golden Space Needle for Lifetime Achievement on Wednesday, June 8, at Benaroya Hall.
      Then, just when he thought he was out, etc. etc., Al Pacino will be pulled back in for a one-evening song of himself on Saturday, June 11, "to discuss his passion for acting and directing, up close and personal, at the Paramount Theatre." This special event has been arranged in conjunction with the Seattle Theatre Group.

Feature Premieres
      World Premieres: A Lot Like You (USA), August (USA), Do You See Colors When You Close Your Eyes? (USA), Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians (USA), Lys (Germany), Sushi: The Global Catch (USA), The Darkest Matter (USA)
      North America Premieres: Above Us Only Sky (Germany), Absent (Argentina), Almanya (Germany), Angel of Evil (Italy), Backyard (Iceland), Bicycle, Spoon, Apple (Spain), Blinding (Canada), Bruce Lee, My Brother (Hong Kong), Every Song is About Me (Spain), Flying Fish (Sri Lanka), Heading West (Netherlands), Johan Primero (Netherlands), Killing Bono (UK), King of Devil's Island (Norway), The Mountain (Norway), Nobody (Greece), Our Home (Brazil), Qarantina (Iraq), Red Eagle (Thailand), Revenge: A Love Story (Hong Kong), Rosario (Philippines), Sevdah for Karim (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Spud (South Africa), Third Star (UK), A Thousand Fools (Spain), Yellow Sea (South Korea)
      U.S. Premieres: The Cashier Who Liked Gambling (Italy), Ex (Hong Kong), Fathers & Sons (Canada), Finisterrae (Spain), Funkytown (Canada, Quebec), The Intruder (Thailand), Late Autumn (South Korea), Norwegian Wood (Japan), Oliver Sherman (Canada), Por El Camino (Brazil), Princess (Finland), Rene Goes To Hollywood (Georgia), Red Eyes (Chile), Silent Sonata (Slovenia), Snow White (France), A Thousand Times Stronger (Sweden), Trigger (Canada), The Whisperer in Darkness (USA), We Are the Night (Germany)

New to this year's SIFF (and an acknowledged borrowing from the Sydney, Australia, fest) is the notion of developing "ten Pathways to help moviegoers find the film and experience that suites their moods. Instead of using traditional categories, SIFF Pathways easily connect the audience with films by organizing them into areas that help answer the question 'What sort of film do I feel like seeing tonight?'" ... No, sorry, I can't even paraphrase these. You'll find out in good time.

Special Presentations & Parties
The Importance of Being Earnest (UK) is one of those digitally teleported stage performances—in this case, of the sublime Oscar Wilde farce, featuring director Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. Raul Ruiz' Mysteries of Lisbon (Portugal) is reportedly a spellbinding four-and-a-half-hour experience in which every (often very populous and complex) scene is realized in a single, long take. Norwegian Wood is the latest from Vietnam's Tran Anh Hung (though the production is Japanese), who created the exquisite Scent of Green Papaya. Tornado Alley (dir. Sean Casey, USA) is a real-life, and really timely, Twister. Fifth and last of the special presentations is The White Meadows (Iran), whose director, Mohammad Rasoulof, was imprisoned for a time by the Ahmadinejad regime.
      Two additional films will be presented with after-parties: The Future, by SIFF 2003 opener Miranda July (New American Cinema Party, May 21, Pacific Place Cinemas); and The Gay-la party, with a screening of August (dir. Eldar Rapaport, USA) on Thursday, June 9, at the Egyptian.
      Also, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Jay Roach, USA), which closed SIFF 1999, will be offered as a free outdoor evening screening at Juanita Beach Park on Saturday, May 28.

Competitions & Awards
      New Directors Competition will be among ten first or second features by their directors and unacquired for U.S. distribution at the time of their selection: Absent (dir. Marco Berger, Argentina); Almanya (Yasemin Samdereli, Germany); Artificial Paradises (Yulene Olaizola, Mexico); Belle Epine (Rebecca Zlotowski, France); Cairo 678 (Mohamed Diab, Egypt); Every Song Is About Me (Jonas Trueba, Spain); Flying Fish (Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, Sri Lanka); Gandu (Kaushik Mukherjee, India); The Most Important Thing in Life Is Not Being Dead (Olivier Pictel, Pablo Martin Torrado, Mark Recuenco; Switzerland); Por El Camino (Charly Braun, Brazil)
      Documentary Competition will feature ten films that are unscripted and uncut: An African Election (dir. Jarreth Merz, Ghana); Bicycle, Spoon, Apple (Carles Bosch, Spain); The Green Wave (Ali Samadi Ahadi, Germany); Hot Coffee (Susan Saladoff, USA); Marathon Boy (Gemma Atwal, India); PressPausePlay (David Dworsky, Victor Köhler, Sweden); Red Eyes (Juan Pablo Sallato, Ismael Larrain, Juan Ignacio Sabatini; Chile); Rothstein's First Assignment (Richard Knox Robinson, USA); Sushi: The Global Catch (Mark Hall, USA); To Be Heard (Amy Sultan, Roland Legiardi-Laura, Deborah Shaffer, Edwin Martinez; USA)
      SIFF Shorts Competition will yield winners in the Narrative, Animation, and Documentary categories.
      WaveMaker Award for Excellence in Youth Filmmaking will be presented to one filmmaker, 18 years old or younger, whose talents celebrate the creative possibilities of film. All FutureWave films shown at the Festival are eligible for the award.
      FIPRESCI Jury Award—selected by the members of the International Federation of Film Critics—will be presented to one of ten films in the New American Cinema section: August (dir. Eldar Rapaport, USA), Black, White and Blues (Mario Van Peebles, USA), Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (Madeleine Olnek, USA), Gun Hill Road (Rashaad Ernesto Green, USA), Jess + Moss (Clay Jeter, USA), Letters From the Big Man (Christopher Munch, USA), Love (William Eubank, USA), Natural Selection (Robbie Pickering, USA), On the Ice (Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, USA), Roadie (Michael Cuesta, USA)
      Golden Space Needle Awards are determined by those ballots you're asked to turn in at the end of almost every festival movie. They come in five flavors—Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Short Film—and will be handed out on Sunday, June 12, at the real Space Needle.

"SIFF venues in Renton, Everett and Kirkland will each have their own Opening Night festivities as well." Renton Opening Night is Friday, May 20, and will feature Black, White and Blues. Everett Opening Night is Thursday, May 26: Young Goethe in Love. Kirkland Opening Night is Thursday, June 2: David Pinillos' Bon Appétit.
      Seattle showplaces: Admiral Theatre, Benaroya Hall, Cinerama, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Majestic Bay Theatres, McCaw Hall, Neptune Theatre, Pacific Place Cinemas, Pacific Science Center IMAX, Paramount Theatre, SIFF Cinema, SIFF Film Center, SIFF Lounge at boom noodle, The Triple Door
      Everett: Everett Performing Arts Center; Kirkland: Kirkland Performance Center, Juanita Beach Park; Renton: Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center

Further information is scarce as hen's teeth just now, but on May 5 much more will be forthcoming at