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Seattle International Film Festival returns

The Seattle International Film Festival is back! it’s smaller than ever, and virtual, but who cares? It’s back!

The global pandemic completely shut down last May’s 25-day film festival. But in the intervening 11 months, SIFF figured out how to throw a full-on festival entirely online. This virtual festival will still offer plenty of world premieres and movies from all over the world (69 different countries), and will include many of those traditional post-screening Q&As with the director and actors.

But instead of the usual couple hundred full-length films, this year’s festival will feature about half that many. And the 25-day extravaganza will be trimmed down to 11 days, closer to the standard length of most other film festivals. It’s also happening a month earlier (April 8-18.) Go to siff.net/festival for the particulars on how to buy tickets and watch festival films in your own home, or whichever home you prefer to watch movies in.

As I do every year for the SIFF, I’ve carefully combed through this year’s wide-ranging lineup to come up with my 10 Best Hunches for this 47th edition. (One big caveat: I have not had a chance to see any of these films yet, so take my “recommendations” with many grains of salt.)

1. The Pink Cloud

Talk about prescient. This Brazilian film posits a mysterious pink cloud suddenly enveloping the world and forcing everyone to stay inside and in place. Intriguingly, the movie explores what it might be like to be quarantined with someone you barely know for a long, long time, perhaps a lifetime. (The movie seems prophetic enough that its trailer actually starts with a disclaimer — that it was written in 2017 and filmed before the global pandemic.)

2. Wyrm

School is hard enough. Now, imagine a school in which shy young teens have to wear electronic collars until they engage in their first kiss. More comic than dystopian, this film looks excruciatingly relatable. SIFF compares “Wyrm” to the works of Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) and Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Dollhouse,” “Palindromes”). If that’s even half-true, this may be the find of the festival.

3. There Is No Evil

Despite its oppressive regime, Iran has produced some of the best movies of the last decade. This Berlin Film Festival winner looks like another one. Made in secret and banned in Iran, this film focuses on four different stories involving Iran’s excessive use of capital punishment. For making this movie, director Mohammed Rasoulof was sentenced to a year in prison and banned from filmmaking for two years.

4. Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation

Two gay icons of 20th century American literature, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, were apparently lifelong friends and sometimes bitter rivals. In addition to incorporating archival interviews, this documentary also uses the voices of Jim Parsons as Capote and Zachary Quinto as Williams to bring to life the two writers’ personal letters and diary entries, as well as portions of their published works.

5. Summer of 85

I still vividly remember sitting in The Egyptian Theatre watching Francois Ozon’s brilliantly nerve-wracking debut film “See the Sea” during SIFF 1998. What a calling card that was. Twenty films later, Ozon has become a giant of French cinema. A SIFF programmer describes “Summer of 85” as quintessential Ozon: “sexy with sinister overtones.” Parfait.

6. Writing With Fire

Democracy is under severe strain in India right now, which makes this documentary about India’s only all-women news outlet all the more pertinent. Founded in 2002 in northern India by Dalit women who were once considered “untouchables,” Khabar Lahariya (“News Wave”) has survived against all odds, constantly butting up against the patriarchy as it struggles to cover touchy subjects like unprosecuted rapes and the rise of Hindu nationalism.

7. East Of The Mountains

Call me a homer, but how can I resist a movie based on a book by a local author (David Guterson), directed by a local filmmaker (SJ Chiro), and starring longtime local actor Tom Skerritt? It’s even set in Eastern Washington. You can’t get much more local than that. The movie appears to be something of a meditation on the meaning of life, with Skerritt’s terminally ill character planning on taking absolute control over the end of his life. SIFF also happens to be honoring Skerritt with its Outstanding Achievement in Cinema Award this year.

8. Little Girl

There may not be a more contentious issue than transgender rights at the moment, but this documentary about an 8-year-old transgender French girl looks to be entirely disarming by focusing on what it’s like to be little Sasha.

9. Love Type D

A British comedy based on an astounding genetic discovery involving personal relationships. It turns out each of us has a genetic marker designating whether we are dumpers or dumpees. When our heroine Frankie discovers she’s an eternal dumpee, she takes matters into her own hands. I love a good deconstruction of the rom-com.

10. Tove

The Moomins are ethereal creatures who live magically mundane lives in a land called Moominvalley. In a series of children’s books and comic strips, Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jannson single-handedly created this world of wonder that’s charmed audiences worldwide for over half a century. Jannson’s life was not as pleasant or benign as her endearing creations. This bio-pic provides the emotional dramatics behind her less-than-fairy-tale life. A must-see for all Moomin fans like me.

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