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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

SIFF 2019: 18 films from around the globe

Above: The Italian film "Piranhas" is currently playing at festivals but is set to open in theaters on Aug. 2. Below: "Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins" doesn't yet have an opening date.

This weekend marks the final two days of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival. I spent six days at the festival last week, and the following is a look at what I experienced (which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio):

Eighteen movies doesn’t sound like a lot.

I mean, it does to some people. I know people who don’t see that many theatrical releases in a year – poor souls.

But it doesn’t sound like a lot to those who haunt film festivals such as the Seattle International Film Festival, which finishes its 45th-annual run this weekend.

People such as Virginia, a diminutive, 70-something woman whom my wife and I met during our recent six-day sojourn at SIFF 2019 – a sojourn in which we sat through, yes, 18 different films.

Virginia, by contrast, had seen more than 100. At least she had when we first encountered her standing in line outside the SIFF Cinema Uptown, which sits in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood and is one of three of what festival organizers refer to as their “classic movie houses.”

At that point, the festival had a week to run, and Virginia had the opportunity to add more than 30 other movies to her watch list. But even at that number, she would have seen less than half of the 400 feature films and documentaries that SIFF will have screened over its 25-day run.

And Virginia was hardly alone. We met several other full-series passholders, our press credentials affording us the same easy access. And all of our new acquaintances could rattle off their favorites, though to a one they seemed more interested in the quantity of films they were seeing than in the quality of any single one in particular.

But I can’t be critical. Long gone are the days in which we might see a movie at, say, The Egyptian Theatre on Capitol Hill, then rush to our car and speed across the city to the University District, where we would hurry to join the line at the Neptune Theatre before the doors closed. More than once we didn’t make it.

No, these days we tend to stay in one place, whether it’s at the Uptown or at AMC’s more mainstream theater complex at Pacific Place, seeing movies back to back to back and sometimes even back one final time.

Anyway, that’s how we saw our 18 movies, which hailed from countries as diverse as Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Taiwan, the UK and the U.S.

The documentaries either tackled personalities – such as the late political columnist Molly Ivins or the late fashion designer Halston – or explored issues – such as men who have been trafficked into unpaid servitude by unprincipled fishing companies, or the young Ghanaians using their Internet wits to dupe unsuspecting sex-minded clients.

The narrative films, too, covered a range of topics, from gay romance to coming-of-age drama, Neapolitan street-kid violence to the perils of aging, family dysfunction to refugees from the Middle East facing off against Danish neo-Nazis.

Some of these films may eventually play in Spokane at the Magic Lantern. Many more may at least end up available for streaming. When they do, you’ll likely be able to see far more than our 18.

But probably not nearly as many as Virginia.