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SIFF 2024 Preview: Four SIFFTY Films You Must See

Posted by May 7th, 2024 No Comments »

Fifty years is a significant milestone, and this Thursday, May 9, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) celebrates its 50th anniversary. In September, I too will turn 50, placing both SIFF and myself in the prime of our runtime.

As usual, the team at SIFF has curated over 100 feature-length films from around the world, to be showcased from May 9 to May 19 at ten venues across the city. If you, like most people, don’t have the time to sit down with your “SIFFTY” (clever, huh?) program to plan a detailed daily schedule, don’t worry, I will make it easy for you. Here are four films you must see at SIFF’s golden jubilee.

  • All Your Faces – May 10 at 1:15 p.m. at AMC Pacific Place and May 16 at 9:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown 
  • Evil Does Not Exist – May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Shoreline Community College and May 11 at 3 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown 
  • Green Border May 15 at 12:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown and May 16 at 8:15 p.m. at Majestic Bay
  • We Strangers May 17 at 8 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown and May 18 4 p.m. AMC Pacific Place

Each of these four films will be shown on two separate days and at two different locations over the course of the festival’s 10-day runtime. This arrangement offers you the opportunity to visit iconic venues like the newly reopened Cinerama, now known as “SIFF Cinema Downtown,” as well as the SIFF Cinema Uptown in the Queen Anne neighborhood. You can also choose to see films on the top floor of the Pacific Place Mall in the heart of downtown Seattle, visit Ballard and the beautiful Majestic Theater, or even venture up north to Shoreline Community College. Now, you might ask, why these four films?

Why these four films? Because this selection offers a perfect introduction to what is a premier international film festival. This lineup includes films from France, Japan, various Eastern European countries, and the US, directed by four ultra-talented directors at different stages of their careers. It’s an ideal plan for those looking to ease into film festival culture.

All Your Faces

Jeanne Herry, a 46-year-old French actress turned filmmaker, appeared in numerous French television series and movies from 1990 to 2007. She made her directorial debut in 2014 with Number One Fan, which earned a nomination for the César Award for Best First Feature Film. She continued her success with In Safe Hands (2018), nominated for Best Film at the César Awards. In her third feature, All Your Faces, Herry serves as both writer and director, leading an ensemble cast including Birane Ba, Leïla Bekhti, Dali Benssalah, Élodie Bouchez, Suliane Brahim, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Gilles Lellouche, Miou-Miou, Denis Podalydès, and Fred Testot. Exarchopoulos won the César Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role.

All Your Faces weaves a complex narrative that challenges the viewer’s perception of time and evokes deep emotions through its exploration of state-sponsored “restorative justice.” The film presents multiple perspectives on crime and punishment, fostering feelings of empathy and forgiveness. In just her third feature, Herry captures drama and suspense on a level comparable to such classics as 12 Angry Men (1957) and Women Talking (2022), showcasing the transformative power of excellent actors delivering compelling dialogue. The film has been acclaimed in France, receiving nine César nominations. Need a bit more information before pencilling All Your Faces into your SIFF 2024 dayrunner? Check out Peter’s spoiler-free preview.

Catch this powerful film at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) this Friday afternoon at AMC Pacific Place or next Thursday evening at the Uptown in the Queen Anne neighborhood.

Evil Does Not Exist

Director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi had a “breakout” film in 2021 with Drive My Car, which received three Oscar nominations, including the first-ever for Best Picture by a Japanese film. The term “breakout” is often misleadingly used by the US press to describe a film that seemingly “came out of nowhere.” For a detailed discussion on this misnomer check out my spoiler-free review of Evil Does Not Exist, which I got the chance to see late last year at the Vancouver International Film Festival in British Columbia.

You can catch Hamaguchi’s follow-up to Drive My Car this Friday night at Shoreline Community College or Saturday afternoon at Uptown, but get your tickets fast as both shows will likely sell out.

Green Border

Agnieszka Holland has directed over 40 feature films, and at the age of 76, she shows no signs of stopping. Her film Green Border is my favorite film of 2023; my viewing at last year’s VIFF was profoundly moving. Here’s my NON-SPOILER review.

Holland’s distinguished career spans several decades. American audiences first recognized her directing talent in 1990 with Europa Europa, which won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. She continued to make significant films, receiving further Academy nominations for Angry Harvest (1985) and In Darkness (2011) in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Her latest film, Green Border, offers an evocative look at the area between Belarus and Poland through the eyes of multiple characters.

Check out Green Border next Wednesday afternoon at SIFF Cinema Downtown or the following day at the Majestic Theater in Ballard.

We Strangers

Anu Valia’s debut feature film, We Strangers, stands out with a lighter tone compared to my three other recommendations, yet it is visually the most striking of the four. The film follows Ray, a personal housekeeper, as we witness two different cultures intermingle, co-exist and eventually clash.

Ray is portrayed by Kirby (“Killing Eve” and “Barry”), a seasoned television actress whose performance is award-worthy. Her ability to convey nuanced emotions through facial expressions and changes in speech patterns as she code-switches is masterful. This drama cleverly leans into comedy rather than outrage, making it one of the most refreshing debut features I’ve seen since Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (2018). We Strangers features visual vignettes between scenes that resemble art house level abstractions, yet these paradoxically strengthen the straightforward narrative. For the best experience, please see this on the big screen at Uptown Cinema next Friday evening or at AMC Pacific Place the following afternoon.

So, back to my original question: Why these four films? Because these four films will give you all you need to dip your toe into what is a premier INTERNATIONAL film festival. Hopefully they will make you want to at least double your viewing habits next year when SIFF turns 51. I will also turn 51, and by then I hope to have viewed most of the filmographies of Herry, Hamaguchi and Holland. But more importantly, I’ll be eagerly awaiting Valia’s second feature.

Editor’s note: Tim Basaraba is’s Senior Film Critic who’s written more than 200 reviews and covered both the Seattle and Vancouver International Film Festivals. Follow him on Letterboxd, Instagram and Twitter/X as he attempts to view at least 15 films during the 2024 Seattle International Film Festival.

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