The 45th annual Seattle International Film Festival is about to spring upon us, taking over cinemas around the city — and beyond — with some 410 films representing 86 countries. Running from May 16 to June 9, it’s best approached like a multicountry overseas vacation: with preplanning, and lots of it. Here are some tips for your SIFF trip.
What movies to choose?
On siff.net/festival — look under “Film and Event Guide” — you’ll find films organized by program, by mood (e.g. Make Me Laugh!, Thrill Me!, Creative Streak, WTF), by country of origin, by genre, and 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. You can also peruse the printed SIFF guides, available at Starbucks and other venues all over town (including all festival venues), but note that most information about guests is online only.
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 some of the films with post-SIFF distribution planned for 2019, with tentative dates:
(This list will be updated as more information becomes available.)
“The Art of Self-Defense” (June TBD)
“Blinded by the Light” (Aug. 14)
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” (Aug. 23)
“Clemency” (summer TBD)
“David Crosby: Remember My Name” (summer TBD)
“The Dead Don’t Die” (June 14)
“The Death of Dick Long” (TBD)
“The Fall of the American Empire” (June TBD)
“The Farewell” (July 12)
“Halston” (summer TBD)
“Honeyland” (summer TBD)
“In Fabric” (TBD)
“Late Night” (June 7)
“Maiden” (July 19)
“The Nightingale” (August TBD)
“Non-Fiction” (June 14)
“Official Secrets” (August TBD)
“One Child Nation” (Aug. 9)
“Sword of Trust” (July 26)
“Troop Zero” (2019 TBD)
“Wild Rose” (summer TBD)
“Yesterday” (June 28)
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, or use the SIFF ticket app. 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, Egyptian and Film Center. As of May 18, 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 is a good deal: six tickets for $72 ($60 for SIFF members), compared to individual ticket prices of $15 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, Shoreline Community College or SIFF Film Center, 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 weirdly tasty little chicken-waffle sandwiches at Pacific Place) and many have a wealth of restaurants just steps from the door. Outside food and drink is officially not allowed in the theaters, but SIFFgoers have been known to get away with it; be discreet, considerate and tidy. (I have myself frequently and quietly smuggled burgers into the Uptown from Dick’s — it’s just across the street — to pleasant effect.)
What about bus routes and parking?
Lots of info at siff.net/festival/festival-venues — including detail on bus/light rail routes. If you must drive, take note of one of SIFF’s bargains: 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?
There will be crowds, particularly at the better-known films; not a lot you can do about that. Maybe you’ll meet somebody nice in line. 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 fooling around. Expect to be swallowed by the fires of hell if you blab. Only once, in my many years of covering the festival, has anyone connected with SIFF ever revealed to me the name of a Secret Festival film. I haven’t seen that person around for a while and am trying not to draw alarming conclusions.)
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. Go and tell me all about it! Just kidding. Really.