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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SIFF Sighting: THE GIRL WITH NINE WIGS (drama; Germany)

Sophie (Lisa Tomaschewsky) was only 21 when she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer.

With a supportive family and a team of wonderful doctors she faced a desperate fight for her life, but refused to let circumstances get her down.

When chemotherapy treatments claimed her hair, she went shopping for wigs and chose nine different styles. Soon she was naming and assigning personalities to them, then becoming an array of people she had always wanted to be.

Everyone got to know her various personalities and interacted with them accordingly. Basically, she'd invented a new coping mechanism to combat her fears and grief, and it was working.

This film tells her true story in an authentic, beautiful way, with Tomaschewsky shining in the lead role. It should be required viewing for anyone battling cancer, or anyone who loves someone who is battling cancer.

Actually, it should be required viewing for anyone who is battling anything because it will bring you crashing back down to reality in an instant: it's not what you're facing, it's how you deal with it that will determine the outcome.

THE GIRL WITH NINE WIGS will screen at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on June 5 & 7, and both Lisa Tomaschewsky and Sophie herself will be in attendance. For tickets, click here.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SIFF Sighting: JUMP (drama; Ireland)

Ever since Trainspotting hit theaters in 1996, directors have been trying to emulate it.

It will come as no surprise when this film, Jump, earns comparisons to the trailblazer since all of the hallmarks are there: crime; bloody fights; damsels in distress (who don't want help); fast music; dance clubs and depression.

Set in Northern Ireland on New Year's Eve, Greta (Nichola Burley) can't seem to successfully jump off of a Derry bridge because Pearse (Martin McCann), fresh from a fight, feels like being a hero. Soon they're bickering just like Jack and Rose from Titanic and he's determined to save her from herself.

Of course, there's a twist: Greta's dad (a mad crime boss) is after Pearse due to an earlier mess he got himself into, but of course, they don't know that as they're slowly (but really rapidly) falling in love.

Really, there's nothing wrong with the film except for all of the things I mentioned above. It has a decent story, fine actors and a frenetic pace to keep viewers interested, but it's nothing we haven't seen before.

JUMP will screen at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on June 1, 2 and 5. For tickets, click here.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

SIFF Sighting: THE LAST OCEAN (documentary; New Zealand)

Each year that I cover the Seattle International Film Festival, there is always one environmental documentary that gives me pause for the future of mankind. This year, that film is The Last Ocean.

This work serves as a plea to preserve the Ross Sea—a.k.a. the last perfect ocean ecosystem in existence.

The land around this arctic paradise is protected, but the water is not; and without the clean water providing life for the hundreds of fish and mammals that make their life there, significant climate change will result.

The approach of the film is not preachy or propaganda-like, it's calm and productive just like the area it's hoping so desperately to save. If the world stops the commercial fishing currently happening there and declare the sea a Marine Protected Area (MPA), all of the bad things that are happening can be reversed.

Some may wonder why this specific part of the water is so important to preserve? Well, unlike every other major body of water on earth, this portion has not been compromised by pollution or external forces, which makes it a living laboratory for scientists worldwide to study how perfect ecosystems should function. The Ross Sea is also the most productive area in the Southern Ocean—it is home to an abundance of populations of wildlife, some of which are native to the area and can only be found there.

The argument against protecting this ocean comes, of course, from the fishing communities that insist they take every precaution to do so responsibly. In some cases, they are telling the truth, but the limits on such fishing cannot be completely contained and the nature of the climate there make it an incredibly dangerous place to fish. Furthermore, their aggressive removal of Chilean sea bass is threatening to throw the ecosystem completely off balance.

Even if you're not an ocean activist, you should see this film if not to enjoy the stunning images of underwater life that may only continue to exist for a short amount of time.

THE LAST OCEAN will screen at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on June 7 & 8. For tickets, click here.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

SIFF Sighting: SAND FISHERS (documentary; Mali)

When a changing atmosphere and commerce collide, and demand outweighs supply, new ways of making ends meet must be found.

This is the case for a community of Bozo fisherman in Mali, who instead of spending days on the water for fish, now devote their time to compact sand and gravel. They deliver it to construction sites in town the way they once delivered fish to market.

Climate change is to blame for the shift, and resources being slim as they are make this a surprisingly dangerous, competitive industry.  There is money to be made from the sand and gravel, but the capitalist landscape is fierce.

The story of men who work in this field is told here in an often slow documentary, made harder to swallow with typos in the subtitles and unnecessarily long shots of scenery.

Though they profile a variety of sand fishers and their families, the audience isn't given much of a chance to get to know them or develop any attachment to them.

Perhaps an intro that shared more of their life before sand fishing emerged would have helped so we could see the contrast in their responsibilities and hardships. Or just more balance between the "daily life" shots and the actual adventures they faced.

SAND FISHERS screened at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cinebanter #121 - THE GREAT GATSBY

The mp3 of this show is here.

In this episode, Michael and Tassoula are relieved by the quality of THE GREAT GATSBY. In the Last Five®, Michael revisits a film that caused one of the biggest Cinebanter fights in history, while Tassoula found some documentary gems. They also announce the topic of Cinebanter #122, which will come as no surprise to their regular listeners. The breakdown is as follows:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 Review of THE GREAT GATSBY
• Break
• 25:00 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 25:41 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:02:26 Credits and Outtakes


Want to contribute to the show and help with production costs and server fees? Click on the "Make a Donation" button to the left of this blog.

Special thanks to Brad Daane and Mark Cummins, and Vincent Do for providing the original music in this episode.

Tassoula has reviews, musings and movie-related product links at Tassoula's Movie Review Blog.

Reviews and/or notes of movies Michael sees can be found at his MichaelVox website.

Feedback is always welcome - you may leave comments here or e-mail the hosts at

We hope you enjoy the show!

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SIFF Sighting: TITO ON ICE (documentary; Germany)

A bizarre road trip of a film, Tito on Ice, chronicles the journey of Max Andersson and Lars Sjunnesson as they travel across former Yugoslavia to promote their new comic book: Bosnian Flat Dog. 

The difference between this and any other typical travel is that they make the trip with a mummified Tito Marshall along for the ride.

Presenting this story, the filmmakers not only use footage of their experiences touring buildings hit by snipers, souvenir stores that sell grenade shells, etc.—they also combine the narrative with artistic representations of the tale made from paper, garbage and other materials. This produces a unique animation that somehow feels right at home in the midst of everything else going on.

This documentary won't be for everyone, but it will at the very least make its audience wonder where their eyes will end up next.

TITO ON ICE will screen May 26 & 28 at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival. For tickets, click here.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

SIFF Sighthing: TWO MOTHERS (drama; Australia)

Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) are friends who have been close since they were young. Now, they marvel at the two sons they've raised and spend long days on the beach watching them splash around.

Soon, Roz falls for Lil's son and vice versa. Like everything else, they navigate those love affairs together.

It's an emotional film for anyone who has ever had to choose between heart and head—and chose wrong.

TWO MOTHERS screened at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

SIFF Sighting: MIDDLETON (romance; USA)

Audrey (Taissa Farmiga) is dying to study at Middleton; Conrad (Spencer Lofranco) is reluctant to get excited about a school his dad holds so dear.

His Dad George (Andy Garcia, in a very tender performance) is a buttoned-up man in an unsatisfying marriage who falls for Edith (Vera Farmiga), Audrey's mom, when they separate from their children on the college tour.

This film captures the concept of a second "first love," and does so with sweet grace.

MIDDLETON had its world premiere at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

SIFF Sighting: EVERY BLESSED DAY (drama; Italy)

Guido (Luca Marinelli) and Antonia (Thony) are a couple very much in love. He works the night shift as a porter in a hotel; she is stationed at the front desk for a rental car agency. What they want together is simple: a baby.

They make love enthusiastically and often. They test and re-test for positive results. They seek advice from friends and help from doctors. They try fertility treatments. Nothing works.

As all of this is going on, they begin to lose sight of what's magical about their connection and bond. They forget why they even want a child so badly. Their compatibility is simply a casualty of the failure that Antonia can't get past in her depths of depression.

Guido tries everything to comfort her and emphasize that whatever is preventing them from producing offspring doesn't matter as long as they have each other. But it's too sad for her, and that sadness consumes.

Their story is one that will ring true for thousands of couples who have both been successful and unsuccessful trying to start a family of their own. It will also feel familiar to couples who have endured painful breakups as a result of one key thing they can't get past.

In the midst of this scenario, both of the characters are quite likable and sympathy will come easy for their situation.

It unfortunately represents a slice of life that is all too common.

EVERY BLESSED DAY will screen at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on May 20  & 30. For tickets, click here.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SIFF Sighting: OUT OF PRINT (documentary; USA)

What type of format do you read?

This is a question that comes up in the new documentary, narrated by Meryl Streep, which examines the slow death of the printed word. And it's a question that wouldn't have made a lot of sense, even ten years ago.

Bigwigs in the publishing industry weigh in on how the trend of reading has rapidly changed. The way the advent of mp3s encouraged an a la carte listening pattern for music; social media and eReaders have produced a smaller attention span for books. Instead of sitting down in a traditional way and devouring chapters of a lengthy novel, we as a collective society are now reading shorter stanzas of text and bouncing around between multiple items when we do read.

Libraries have also significantly changed—young kids appearing in the film admit they'd rather "just Google" whatever information they're seeking; independent bookstores are closing at alarming rates.

There are also concerns of data rot. DVDs, CDs and hard drives have a finite shelf life (no pun intended); yet paper books can last forever.

All of the points raised here are valid and somewhat numbing when one contemplates what lies ahead for the future of publishing (and literacy), but there is still hope that the pendulum will swing back at some point and bookcases will erupt with title after title of intelligent, thoughtful works.

People who are so/so on books in general may not find this documentary as riveting as I did, but I also have the perspective of someone who has made a living as a writer for over 15 years. It's scary to think the construction of paragraphs and information is losing its value with the dawn of each new day.

What seems to be agreed upon by all the talking heads in this film is that education is the key to the future of reading. If children are taught to develop critical thinking, words and text arranged in meaningful ways will always have a place in our world. And that's a great comfort.

OUT OF PRINT will screen at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on May 20 & 21. For tickets, click here.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SIFF Sighting: MUSSELS IN LOVE (documentary; Netherlands)

Who ever thought a tiny, slimy substance inside a shell, that most of us regard as merely an appetizer, would have such a romantic story to tell?

In this oddly refreshing documentary, many different aspects of the life of mussels are examined.

There are debates about whether mussels harvested in a hatchery are as good as those left to nature at sea; there are love/hate relationships with chefs who have prepared mussels for consumption for decades; there are doctors who have discovered that using mussels' natural glue can help seal wounds following medical procedures. The scientists even show us exactly how mussels mate, with delicate puffy plumes of white emerging as they become aroused.

Many will probably ask, "Why mussels?" for the subject of a film, but the more appropriate question would be, "Why not?"

Works like this just prove that there are livelihoods and traditions dependent on the simple circle of life. Instead of disrupting that, when we see an appealing perspective such as this, we can do nothing more than embrace it.

MUSSELS IN LOVE will screen June 3 and 8 at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.  For tickets, click here.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

SIFF Starts This Week

The 39th annual Seattle International Film Festival begins on Thursday, so be sure to watch our blog for Tassoula's reviews, which will be labeled "SIFF Sightings" in addition to her interviews and updates from the events.

In the June episode of Cinebanter, she'll also share her favorite festival highlights.

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