Week three of the Seattle International Film Festival includes special events, such as a night of disco. “The Glamour & the Squalor,” “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets,” and “Paper Tigers” are among the films recommended by Seattle Times reviewers.
The Seattle International Film Festival enters its third week, with special events including a Centerpiece Gala (“The End of the Tour,” based on a journalist’s book tour with author David Foster Wallace) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at the Egyptian; a special night of disco (the recut “54” at the Egyptian, followed by “The Studio 54 Experience” at the Neptune, both Friday night, May 29); and a special live-music event at Neumos on Wednesday, June 3, commemorating the world premiere of “The Glamour & the Squalor.”
Below are some week-three recommendations from Seattle Times writers; for more information on any of the events mentioned, see siff.net. And, for tips on how to navigate the festival, go to seattletimes.com/entertainment.
“3½ Minutes, ten bullets” ★★★½
The title of this Sundance Film Festival prizewinner says it all: Michael Dunn, in 2012, shot and killed an African-American teenager, Jordan Davis, in a dispute over music volume. Documentarian Marc Silver deftly utilizes tense courtroom footage from the trial (you’ll be holding your breath), interviews with the victim’s grieving parents, and some appalling recorded phone conversations from Dunn, who’s still insisting “I’m the victim.” Hard to watch, harder to forget — which is as it should be. Ron Davis, Jordan’s father, will attend both screenings. (7 p.m. June 2, Egyptian; 6 p.m. June 3, Kirkland Performance Center) — Moira Macdonald
“Being Evel” ★★★
Seattle International Film Festival
Through June 7 at Egyptian, Uptown, Pacific Place, Harvard Exit, SIFF Film Center, Lincoln Square (through May 31), Kirkland Performance Center (June 1-7). 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, siff.net or at festival venues.
Johnny Knoxville turns out to be an inspired narrator for this lively documentary about the pioneer of what is now called “sports theater.” Knoxville’s own “Jackass” series gives him the street cred to carry it off, while George Hamilton, who once played Evel Knievel in a Hollywood biopic that was supposed to toughen Hamilton’s image, has some choice comments. The film clips of Knievel’s spectacular crashes generate edge-of-your-seat suspense, even if you know the outcome. Director Daniel Junge will attend the screenings. (6:30 p.m. May 28, Egyptian; 2:30 p.m. May 30, Uptown) — John Hartl
“Cartel land” ★★★
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Raw and compelling but necessarily incomplete, this documentary focuses on the current battles between drug cartels and American vigilantes along the Arizona/Mexico border. The Americans, with a little cheerleading from Fox News, see themselves enduring a David-and-Goliath conflict. The cartels leave a trail of atrocities including beheadings and massacres of whole families. They’re opposed by Dr. Jose Mireles, whose attempts to organize a paramilitary group landed him in prison. Some very uncomfortable questions are asked. Director Matthew Heineman is in town to present the screenings. (6:30 p.m. June 1, Uptown; 4 p.m. June 2, Harvard Exit) — J.H.
“Cop Car” ★★★
Kevin Bacon, his features sharp as a knife glinting in the Colorado sunshine, plays a villainous sheriff of few words in this taut, nasty little thriller. Two 10-year-old boys steal the sheriff’s car, because they’re 10-year-old boys (“What if someone sees us?” “We’ll tell ’em we’re cops”); things go, predictably but competently and chillingly, downhill from there. Don’t open that trunk, boys! (11:55 p.m. June 6, Egyptian) — M.M.
“Do I Sound Gay?” ★★½
This enjoyable documentary may be a case of “round up the usual suspects” (David Sedaris, Dan Savage and George Takei are among the talking heads), but this is an intelligent exploration of gender confusion, speech therapy and the perils of coming out of the closet. While there may be too many clips from “Laura” and “The Boys in the Band,” the segment on campy Disney cartoons is fascinating. Director David Thorpe is scheduled to attend the screening. (4:30 p.m. May 29, Egyptian) — J.H.
“The Glamour & the Squalor” ★★★
Former 107.7 The End radio DJ Marco Collins gets the full “Behind the Music” treatment in this bio-doc about his rise and fall as the primary tastemaker during the heyday of early ’90s alternative culture. Director Marq Evans makes the case for Collins’ influence with interviews from Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Shirley Manson (Garbage) and Patty Schemel (Hole.) Though it succumbs to the trend of documentaries using cutesy animation and dramatic recreation to retell certain parts of the story, “Glamour” does a good job of showing how addiction can undo even the brightest of stars. Evans and Collins will attend both screenings, the first of which is followed by a concert at Neumos. (7 p.m. June 3, Egyptian; 4:15 p.m. June 5, Harvard Exit) — Tricia Romano
In honor of composer Giuseppe Verdi’s bicentennial, a vast, avant-garde “Aida” was staged in 2013 at the historic open-air Verona Arena in Italy (which dates back to the first century). This documentary, designed for opera lovers and history buffs, takes us onstage, backstage, and through every nook and cranny; we see what looks like an entire city of people coming together to create art. (My favorite backstage announcement: “We’re ready with the moon.” Indeed.) Producer Agnese Fontana will attend both screenings. (6 p.m. May 31, Uptown; 4:30 p.m. June 1, Harvard Exit) — M.M.
“Most likely to Succeed” ★★½
This education documentary is an intriguing look at High Tech High in San Diego, an experimental public charter school in which standardized tests are tossed out the window (“it’s part of a game we’ve all agreed to play”) in favor of teaching via problem solving, creative work and project-based learning and leadership. The film occasionally comes off like a commercial for the school, but it’s often affecting, particularly in the transformation of a formerly shy ninth-grader, who in the course of the film finds her voice. Director Greg Whiteley, a Bellevue native, will attend both screenings. (7 p.m. June 1, Uptown; 3 p.m. June 2, Uptown). — M.M.
“Mr. Holmes” ★★★
Ian McKellen, his face as gloriously long and complex as a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle plot, is a delight as an aging Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon’s bittersweet film. The Master of Deduction, now elderly and retired to a farm, contemplates mortality, memory loss and, of course, one last case. The movie’s a bit slight, but watch how Sir Ian so beautifully and subtly shows us a whirring mind — and a fading one. Actor Hiroyuki Sanada will attend the first screening (a special presentation; higher ticket rates apply). (7 p.m. May 29, Uptown; 4 p.m. May 31, Pacific Place) — M.M.
“Paper Tigers” ★★★
Lincoln, Walla Walla’s alternative high school, is the subject of this irresistibly hopeful documentary, which tries to establish the roots of bad-schoolroom behavior. As director James Redford follows half a dozen “difficult” kids, we get a sobering glimpse of the sometimes barbaric circumstances that drive them to alcohol, meth, depression and thoughts of suicide. The faculty is determined to prove that trust is the answer; the presence of one caring, reliable adult in a teen’s life can mean everything. World premiere. Redford is scheduled to attend both screenings. (7 p.m. May 28, Uptown; 12:30 p.m. May 30, Uptown) — J.H.
Nina Hoss and director Christian Petzold, who collaborated on the fascinating German drama “Barbara” a few years ago, are reunited for this stylish melodrama, which combines elements of “Cabaret,” “Pygmalion” and “Eyes Without a Face.” The central character is a badly scarred Holocaust survivor who goes through a physical transformation. You may not buy the story twists, but perhaps the script is not meant to be taken literally. (7:15 p.m. May 31, Egyptian) — J.H.
“Short Skin” ★★★
A teenage boy has trouble functioning sexually because his deformed penis becomes quite painful when he attempts intercourse. What sounds like a crass Italian comedy turns out to be something quite sweet and sensitive — a cousin to such 1960s films as “The Family Way” and “Period of Adjustment,” both of which dealt with impotence. Entirely sympathetic to the boy’s desperate urgency, the movie is sometimes clinical but rarely squirm-inducing. Director Duccio Chiarini is scheduled to attend the May 31 and June 1 screenings. (6 p.m. May 25, Lincoln Square; 7 p.m. May 31, Pacific Place; 4 p.m. June 1, Uptown) — J.H.