The 42nd annual Seattle International Film Festival, complete with more than 400 films, takes place May 19-June 12. Here’s some help.

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It’s that time again — Seattle’s yearly three-and-a-half week immersion in film. The 42nd annual Seattle International Film Festival, complete with more than 400 films, is as always a daunting prospect. Here are some tips on navigating it.

What movies should I choose?

Spend some time on; you’ll find the films there categorized by mood (i.e. Make Me Laugh, Thrill Me, Creative Streak), by program, by country of origin, by genre, or by director. See what intrigues you! Also, check to see which films might have a guest attending, which usually means an interesting Q&A. (Guest information is on each film’s individual page.)

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Festival preview

Seattle International Film Festival

May 19-June 12 at Egyptian, Uptown, Pacific Place, Harvard Exit, SIFF Film Center, Majestic Bay (May 20-26), Shoreline Community College (May 27- June 4), Lincoln Square (May 20-June 2), Ark Lodge (June 3-9), Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center (May 26-June 1), Kirkland Performance Center (June 2-12). Individual tickets are $11 weekday matinees ($9 SIFF members), $13 evening/weekend shows ($11 SIFF members); various ticket packages available. Box office: 206-324-9996, or at festival venues.

As always, a number of SIFF films will be returning to theaters for regular runs post-festival. I’m not necessarily saying that you should skip these during SIFF — you might miss out on an interesting guest presenting the film, or on that first-to-see-it factor. But knowing which films you’ll get another chance to see can help with decision-making. Here are the films with post-SIFF distribution planned for 2016, to my knowledge, with tentative dates when available; I’ll update this list online if I learn of more.

“13 Minutes”

“Ants on a Shrimp”

“Author: The JT LeRoy Story” (fall)

“The Blackcoat’s Daughter”

“Café Society” (July)

“Captain Fantastic” (July 15)

“Carnage Park”

“Complete Unknown”



“Don’t Think Twice” (Aug. 5)

“Equals” (July 15)


“The Free World”

“Gleason” (Aug. 5)

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (July 8)

“Indignation” (July 29)

“The Land”

“Life, Animated” (July 8)

“Love and Friendship” (May 27)

“Morris from America” (fall)

“The Music of Strangers” (June 24)

“Our Kind of Traitor” (July 1)

“Our Little Sister” (July)

“Southside With You” (Aug. 2)

“Weiner” (June 3)


How and where do I buy tickets?

You can buy tickets anytime online at and print out your tickets at home, or call 206-324-9996 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through 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 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown (open daily, 30 minutes before the first screening of the day), the SIFF Film Center (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily), or the Egyptian (daily, 30 minutes before the day’s first screening). As of May 14, all festival venues (Uptown, SIFF Film Center, Egyptian, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center, 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 $66 ($60 for SIFF members), compared to individual ticket prices of $13 each. Also a big saver is the Film Buff 20-Pack, at $200 ($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 for details.

What about all those lines?

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. If it’s raining and you’re buying a day-of-show ticket, consider seeing a film at Pacific Place or Shoreline Community College, where the lines are indoors.

What about food and drink?

Though most SIFF venues serve the usual popcorn/candy/soft drinks 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. Note, though, that Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center offers no concessions at all within the venue. 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?

Go to and click on “Festival Venues.” Lots of information there, 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 limited to 60 a day and are good for weekdays after 6 p.m. and all day Saturday/Sunday.

What about crowds?

Wondering about the crowds? Yes, SIFF lines can be 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 about parties?

SIFF has parties, and lots of them, filled with food, drink, music and post-film chat. Every Saturday night during the fest brings a screening + party — as does opening night, closing night, centerpiece, Kirkland/Renton openings and more. Ticket prices for parties vary; see for details.


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 ($60/$55 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. A publicist once told me about a Secret Festival film several years after the fact and I fully expected her to be immediately swallowed by the fires of hell.)

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!