The 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival, complete with 400 films from 80 countries, begins Thursday, May 18, and continues through June 11. It’s best approached like a planned climb of a massive mountain: with preplanning.

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It’s that time again — the 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival, complete with 400 films from 80 countries, begins Thursday, May 18, and continues through June 11. It’s best approached like the climb of a massive mountain: with preplanning. Here are some navigating tips.

SIFF 2017

(Photo by Nicole Rivelli)
(Photo by Nicole Rivelli)

What movies to choose?

On siff.net, you’ll find films organized by program (i.e. Make Me Laugh, Thrill Me, Creative Streak, WTF); by country of origin; by genre; or by director. See what intrigues you! Also, check to see which films have a guest attending (noted on each film’s individual page), which might mean an interesting Q&A.

As always, a number of SIFF films will be returning to theaters for regular runs post-festival. It can be fun to see these during SIFF, particularly if a guest is coming with the film. But a lot of us might prefer to wait until the crowds are smaller, and spend our SIFF time seeing something that probably isn’t coming back. Here are the films with post-SIFF distribution planned for 2017, with tentative dates:

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“Band Aid” (June 2)

“Beach Rats”

“Beatriz at Dinner”

“The Big Sick” (July 7)

“Brigsby Bear”

“By the Time It Gets Dark”

“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (June 2)

“Crown Heights”

“Dean” (June 16)

“Dolores”

“A Ghost Story” (July 7)

“The Hero”

“I, Daniel Blake”

“The Journey”

“Lady Macbeth” (July 14)

“Landline”

“Lemon”

“The Little Hours”

“Manifesto”

“Menashe”

“My Journey Through French Cinema”

“Patti Cake$”(July 7)

“Step” (August 4)

“Tom of Finland”

“The Trip to Spain”

“The Unknown Girl”

“Whose Streets?” (August)

“Wind River”

“The Work” (fall)

“The Young Karl Marx” (fall)

 

How and where do I buy tickets?

You can buy tickets online at siff.net and print your tickets at home, or call 206-324-9996 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Note that there is a service charge for online and phone orders: $1.25 per single ticket, up to $5 per order. Before the festival opening, tickets can be bought in person during operating hours at the SIFF Cinema Uptown and the Egyptian. As of May 14, all festival venues (Uptown, SIFF Film Center, Egyptian, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Kirkland Performance Center, Majestic Bay, Ark Lodge, Shoreline Community College) will have a box office open daily, one hour before the day’s first screening.

What about ticket packages?

If you’re planning to go to a few films, the Cinematic Six-Pack, long a SIFF tradition, is a good deal: six tickets for $75 ($60 for SIFF members), compared to individual ticket prices of $14 each. Also a saver is the Film Buff 20-Pack, at $240 ($180 SIFF members) for 20 tickets. In both cases, there’s a maximum of two tickets per individual film, and a $3.50 service charge for online/phone purchases of ticket packages. See siff.net for details.

What about all those lines outside the theaters?

Each SIFF screening will have three separate queues: a pass-holder line (for those with passes hanging around their necks; you know who you are), a ticket-holders line (for those with tickets in hand) and a rush line. Standby tickets, for screenings that are sold out, go on sale 10 minutes before showtime, at full price (cash preferred).

No matter which line you’re in, arriving at least 30 minutes early is a good idea, particularly if you’re picky about where you sit. (Seating is not guaranteed, even if you have a ticket or a pass, if you arrive less than 10 minutes before showtime.) If it’s raining and you’re buying a day-of-show ticket, consider seeing a film at Pacific Place, Lincoln Square or Shoreline Community College, where the lines are indoors.

What about food and drink?

Though most SIFF venues serve the usual popcorn/candy/soft-drink fare, some have a few extras (there’s beer and wine at the Uptown and Egyptian, for example) and some, like Pacific Place, have a wealth of restaurants just steps from the door. Outside food and drink is officially not allowed in the theaters, but SIFF-goers have been known to get away with it; be discreet, considerate and tidy.

What about parking and bus routes?

Lots of info at siff.net/festival/box-office/the-fine-print — including what may be SIFF’s least-known bargain: The Uptown offers validated parking at two nearby parking lots; show your ticket stub or pass at the Uptown box office and get a parking pass to put on your dashboard. Passes are good for weekdays after 6 p.m. and after 10 a.m. Saturday/Sunday; a limited number are available, so get there early.

What about crowds?

Yes, SIFF lines can be tiresomely long; not a lot you can do about that. Weekday screenings generally have shorter lines, as do the out-of-Seattle venues — some of which have free parking, too.

What is the Secret Festival?

Long a SIFF trademark, this fest-within-the-fest takes place every Sunday morning during SIFF, at the Egyptian. You must buy a Secret Festival pass ($80/$70 SIFF members) to attend, and you must sign an Oath of Silence, vowing that you will never breathe a word about what you’ve seen. (And no, they are not kidding around. Expect to be swallowed by the fires of hell if you blab.)

Programming at the Secret Festival might be a movie tied up in legal/copyright problems that can’t officially be shown; a movie promised for a prominent premiere elsewhere post-SIFF; a lost classic; a sneak peek. You might see something great; you might be disappointed. Who knows? I certainly don’t. Happy SIFF-ing!