Critic's Picks: 6 Films to See at SIFF

Seattle magazine arts writer and erstwhile SIFF staffer Gavin Borchert weighs in with his top flicks at this year’s 44th annual Seattle International Film Festival
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Mister Rogers (Fred Rogers) and Mr. Mcfeely (David Newell) share a laugh.

The only problem with the Seattle International Film Festival’s fat, glossy catalog is that it makes every film sound mouthwatering; how on earth do you narrow your choices, even if you plan to spend the Festival’s three weeks doing nothing else? Here are the six films I’m most curious to check out—circled boldly in red in my already-tattered-from-overuse copy of SIFF’s free guide—plus one bonus classic I’m burning to revisit: 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Try not to think too hard about the current state of public discourse, and who’s responsible for lowering it, as you watch this doc about the saintly Fred Rogers and his iconic PBS kids’ series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
6 p.m. Sat., May 26 • SIFF Cinema Uptown
1:30 p.m. Sun., May 7 • SIFF Cinema Uptown

Puzzle
Kelly MacDonald can do no wrong, as far as I’m concerned; who else could make such an impact in vehicles as disparate as TrainspottingGosford ParkBoardwalk Empire, and No Country for Old Men? Here she plays a competitive jigsaw-puzzle assembler. (Is that a thing? I guess that’s a thing.)
6:45 p.m. Fri., June 8 • SIFF Cinema Uptown
4:15 p.m. Sat., June 9 • Pacific Place

The Faces of Zandra Rhodes
Not only is she a sparklingly talented set designer, but this doc follows her as she prepares Seattle’s Opera’s 2015 production of The Pearl Fishers. Can’t wait to be a fly on that wall!
6:30 p.m. Thurs., May 24 • SIFF Cinema Uptown
3:30 p.m. Sat., May 26 • SIFF Cinema Uptown

Hal
My first time seeing that blackest of comedies, Harold and Maude, as a tender, innocent college freshman, was a sledgehammer blow. Here’s a doc about its director, Hal Ashby (1929–88), whose batting average was ridiculously high: His 13 theatrical features earned a total of seven Oscars out of 24 nominations.
6 p.m. Fri., June 1 • SIFF Cinema Uptown
12:30 p.m. Sun., June 3 • SIFF Cinema Uptown

Ashby's dry but sharp-fanged 1979 satire Being There, in which Peter Sellers plays a gentle eccentric who stumbles into political power, is also screening at the Festival.
Noon, Sat., June 2 • SIFF Cinema Uptown 

Love, Gilda
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? won’t be SIFF’s only tearjerker doc. Not only is Lisa D’Apolito’s film filled with comedians reminiscing about why Gilda Radner was probably Saturday Night Live’s most beloved cast member ever, it also includes copious excerpts from her diaries, read by, among others, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.
7 p.m. Thurs., May 24 • SIFF Cinema Egyptian
1:30 p.m. Sat., May 26 • Pacific Place

Sadie
Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready scored Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffith’s film about a troubled teen who gets even more troubled when her mother (Melanie Lynskey, one of this year’s celebrity honorees) finds a new romantic interest to replace her soldier father fighting overseas.
2:30 p.m. Sun., May 27 • SIFF Cinema Egyptian
6:45 p.m. Wed., June 6 • SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Learn more about SIFF Artistic Director, Beth Barrett, here.

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