Seattle film festivals
By Robert Horton
Reel NW feature Waking the Green Tiger, is a documentary on the subject of the environmental response to a dam-building project on a wild river in Yunnan province in China.
Filmmaker Gary Marcuse has said that his films (including two previous efforts on green subjects made with producer Betsy Carson) are "celebrations of the rise of grass roots movements" regarding the environment. The film locates a new sense of green activism in China, where the march toward progress has often trampled environmental concerns.
Definitely check out Waking the Green Tiger, available online for a limited time, and if that stirs an interest in China's gargantuan dam-building projects, you should also see some of the other films that have touched on this subject. One good one is Up the Yangtze, by Yung Chang (like Marcuse, a Canadian filmmaker), who creates a personal narrative out of the dislocating experience of taking a cruise ship on the Upper Yangtze River while noting the way the dam project is inundating an enormous swath of landscape, history, and the homes of thousands of people.
I also recommend a fictional variation, Jia Zhangke's Still Life, a look at life in a town vanishing under the rising waters of the Three Gorges Dam project. Shy on storytelling but rich with striking images, the movie has a wonderful observational mode that occasionally breaks out into poetry.
Shifting back to the Northwest from China, I was struck this week by emails I've been getting for various film festivals happening in Seattle in coming weeks. Since the subject at Reel NW is the vibrancy of Northwest moviemaking, it's worth saying that without our calendar of smaller film festivals (and yes, the big one, SIFF), the area's filmmaking buzz could hardly be cresting the way it is.
I thought I'd mention a couple coming soon. In the past I have enjoyed the well-curated Seattle Jewish Film Festival, which began in 1995 and always offers an interesting slate of documentaries and fiction films, many of which are challenging and substantial. (Plus, last year I introduced a showing of Israel's first slasher movie, which was not substantial but which was truly crazy.) This year the fest runs March 2-10, mostly at Pacific Place and SIFF Uptown but a few other venues, too.
A press release this week for the Langston Hughes African-American Film Festival announced the impressive news about two guests for this year's 10th anniversary fest (slated for April 13-21). Joe Morton (who starred in the Seattle-made Trouble in Mind) will appear opening night for a revival of The Brother from Another Planet, John Sayles' wonderful 1983 film. And actor-director Robert Townsend headlines closing night, with his new feature The Hive, starring the late Michael Clarke Duncan. More here...
And there's more where that came from. This stuff is the food on which moviemakers feast, and we're lucky to have them.