14 Films to See @ Seattle International Film Festival 2024

Feeling SIFFTY 🎂

The exterior of SIFF Cinema Downtown, formerly known as Cinerama.

📆 In theaters: Thursday, May 9th – Sunday, May 19th
🖥️ Online: Monday, May 20th – Monday, May 27th

2024 is a big year for the Seattle International Film Festival. It’s turning the big 5-0

For the past half-century, the film festival has brought Seattle audiences boundary-pushing feature-length movies, shorts, and secret screenings from around the world. (Full disclosure: I served on their Ibero-American jury last year.) SIFF’s history is mythical—they premiered Ridley Scott’s Alien back in 1979, served as Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s American launching pad, and supported films from Seattle directors like Lynn Shelton and Megan Griffith. (For more history, read this feature from Gemma Wilson at the Seattle Times.)

Running in-person from May 9th to 19th this year, SIFF is going all out with their 50th birthday celebrations. The party kicks off on Thursday, May 9th, at the Paramount Theatre, where they’ll be screening Thelma, hosting a tribute for the film’s star June Squibb, and hosting a night of food, drinks, and dancing. Throughout the ten days of IRL SIFF, you can catch director Harmony Korine’s freaky, retina-burning AGGRO DR1FT at SIFF Cinema Downtown or check out experimental horror film I Saw the TV Glow and chat with director Jane Schoenbrun after. The fest’s festivities end with a screening of Greg Kwedar’s luminous drama about a group of imprisoned actors putting on a play, Sing Sing, before a closing night fête at MOHAI. 

Get your planner and look carefully over SIFF’s schedule. There’s lots to see. Here’s what we recommend. | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Thelma + SIFF 2024 Opening Night

📆 Thursday, May 9th

📸: Thelma | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Both of SIFF’s post-2020 in-person opening nights have featured pretty raw and dramatic films—first, the documentary on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, and second, the tearjerker romance Past Lives. Last year, SIFF artistic director Beth Barrett promised a comedy for this year’s opening night, and she delivered. Josh Margolin’s Thelma stars June Squibb as the titular nonagenarian on a mission across Los Angeles to hunt down the good-for-nothings who scammed her out of $10,000. Squibb will also be onsite to receive the Golden Space Needle Award for her contributions to cinema. Although she’s a veteran character actor, she had her breakout performance in 2013’s Nebraska—at 83 years of age. Her career goes to show anything is possible! | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Janet Planet

📆 Friday, May 10th + 📆 Saturday, May 11th

📸: Janet Planet | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Some people have a personality and energy so strong it feels gravitational. In Janet Planet, the titular Janet (an acupuncturist hippie living in western Massachusetts played by Julianne Nicholson), with her freckles and pensive green eyes, draws three people into her orbit during the summer of 1991. Boyfriend Wayne (Will Patton), her old friend Regina (Sophie Okonedo), and theater troupe leader Avi (Elias Koteas) all enter her life for a brief time before spinning back into the black unknown of space. As Janet contends with these relationships, she’s also dealing with her imaginative 11-year-old daughter Lacy (Zoe Ziegler), who is about to enter the 6th grade yet remains as clingy as ever. The directorial debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie BakerJanet Planet is a quiet and dreamy character study of a woman and her daughter as their relationship to one another shifts and changes with time. | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

I Saw the TV Glow

📆 Friday, May 10th + 📆 Saturday, May 11th

📸: I Saw the TV Glow | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Director Jane Schoenbrun has a unique ability to capture the weirdness of modern media and the way it seeps into our lives and identities. In I Saw the TV Glow, they follow two queer suburban friends whose relationship hinges on their shared obsession with The Pink Opaque, a horror TV show. When the show gets canceled, it upends their hold on reality. Drawing from B-movie horror and set in the neon-tinged ‘90s and ‘00s, Schoebrun said the film is an allegory for the trans experience. “I refer to it as an ‘egg crack’ movie, which is a term in the trans community for the moment when you, forgive me, ‘see the TV glow,’ or see yourself in a way that you can’t unsee,” they told Rolling Stone. And as if I Saw the TV Glow couldn’t get any cooler, indie impresario Alex G scored the film with original songs as well as tracks from the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Caroline Polachek. Methinks we’ll be talking about this movie for years to come. Schoenbrun will also be in attendance. | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Good One

📆 Friday, May 10th + 📆 Sunday, May 12th

📸: Good One | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

In her debut feature film, director India Donaldson tells the story of Sam (newcomer Lily Collias), a queer 17-year-old who goes hiking in the Catskills in upstate New York with her divorced father, Chris (James Le Gros), and his divorced friend, Matt (Danny McCarthy). As the only teen on the trip after Matt’s son drops out at the last minute, Sam leads the two bumbling middle-aged men through the lush green mountainside with a quiet intensity. Things chug on like normal until one moment heightens the stakes for all involved. Good One premiered at Sundance to much acclaim, with many comparing it to the works of directing great Kelly Reichardt. SIFF Programmer Megan Leonard says the film “could not be more PNW-coded despite not being made in the PNW. Take a hike in feminine discomfort.” | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Stress Positions

📆 Saturday, May 11th + 📆 Sunday, May 12th

📸: Stress Positions | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

The summer of 2020 can feel like a lifetime ago, with its isolation and deep anxieties about the future. No piece of media has captured the unease and absurdity of that early pandemic era quite like Stress Positions, director and actor Theda Hammel‘s ridiculously chaotic comedy featuring the most repelling and funny queer characters I’ve ever seen onscreen. Terry (played by John Early from Search Party) is following a strict quarantine in his Brooklyn brownstone. He’s also going through a devastating breakup while simultaneously caring for his nephew Bahlul (Qaher Harhash), a Moroccan model with a broken leg. Terry’s friends are all trying to get a look at his hot nephew, so Terry keeps him hidden. But Terry’s bored bestie Karla (Hammel) soon inserts herself, mainly as an excuse to escape her suffocating marriage. Karla brings debauchery to this tranquil but stressful home. The characters clash over gender, COVID-19, the War on Terror, sex, and love while tripping and falling over themselves. (Early tries to move a giant disco ball down a flight of stairs in one scene, which is both harrowing and hilarious.) Stick around as director Theda Hammel will be in attendance. | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Porcelain War

📆 Sunday, May 12th + 📆 Monday, May 13th + 💻 Streaming

📸: Porcelain War | SIFF 2024

A porcelain owl sits inside of a blown-out wall in a still from the film Porcelain War, screening at SIFF 2024.

When the Russo-Ukrainian War broke out in 2014, three close friends and local artists living near the Ukraine border instantly pivoted from civilians to resistance fighters and documentarians. The astonishing frontline footage they captured now shows the bravery and resilience of the everyday citizens caught in the crossfires. While Porcelain War doesn’t shy away from the heartbreak and terror of war, it’s the love, friendship, and natural beauty of their homeland that captures the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people. Unsurprisingly, this astonishing wartime documentary won the 2024 Sundance Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize. The film’s artistic exploration, colorful animations, and one very cute dog sets it apart from other Russo-Ukrainian War documentaries like 20 Days in Mariupol (SIFF 2023). As filmmakers/artists/soldiers, Slava, Anya, and Andrey illustrate the fragility of their inexplicable situation, and it’s the use of art as resistance that gives them hope for the future. | 🖊️ SANDRA WOOLF

So Unreal

📆 Sunday, May 12th + 📆 Monday, May 13th

📸: So Unreal | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Artificial intelligence has been a hot topic in Hollywood. Last year, unions representing over 160,000 screenwriters and actors went on strike to demand provisions protecting their works and likenesses from AI. It’s an excellent time to meditate on the intersection of art and technology, and so enter So UnrealAmanda Kramer‘s new documentary exploring cyberspace in cinema. Narrated by Debbie Harry (of both Blondie and Videodrome fame), the doc looks at science fiction films like The MatrixTerminator 2: Judgement DayTronHackers, and Electric Dreams to connect our once-imagined fears about technology with our present day, real-life concerns. BFI called it a “film analysis portal akin to Morpheus’s red pill.” We’ll see you on the other side. | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Red Rooms

📆 Tuesday, May 14th + 📆 Wednesday, May 15th

📸: Red Rooms | SIFF 2024

In this unnerving psychological thriller from Pascal Plante (Fake Tattoos, SIFF 2017), a Montreal-based model becomes obsessed with a high-profile serial killer trial. As the terrible details of the case infect her every waking moment, she finds herself on a road toward destruction.

Want a film that punches you in the gut and then dares you to try and look away? Consider Red Rooms, an unnerving psychological thriller and courtroom drama that will likely leave you reeling. The SIFF 2024 film dives into the dark web’s underbelly and the digital age’s fascination with true crime. It follows model and amateur sleuth Kelly-Anne (played by Juliette Gariépy) and her obsession with a gruesome murder trial of three young girls. As Kelly-Anne goes down the rabbit hole of serial killer fandom, the lines of her reality start to blur. Juliette Gariépy’s performance as the poker-faced, morally ambiguous beauty is outstanding. Red Rooms‘ sleek style, tight camera work, and pulsing score had me levitating by the time its credits rolled.

(Note: The violence is implied and not shown, but the subject matter is disturbing.) | 🖊️ SANDRA WOOLF

Tiger Stripes

📆 Friday, May 17th + 📆 Sunday, May 19th

📸: Tiger Stripes | SIFF 2024

In this surreal Malaysian coming-of-age drama with teeth, rebellious 12-year-old Zaffan has hit puberty early, except her physical and behavioral changes seem to be anything but normal, terrifying her family and her patriarchal Muslim school. It seems to be something…monstrous.

Calling all my monster girlies, do I have a film for you! 

Tiger Stripes is one part Malaysian body horror, another part coming of rage, with a dash of Mean Girls mixed in. The result is a uniquely stylish cultural take with riot girl energy. The film follows 12-year-old Zaffan as she clashes and slashes with frenemies, uptight parents, and oppressive religious and societal conformity. When all she really wants to do is make silly TikToks with her bestie. (Same.) The film’s young actresses (Zafreen Zairizal and Deena Ezral) are a joy to watch; their relationship is the movie’s heart. The Malaysian folklore also gives the film a fascinating flavor of magical realism. It’s Amanda Nell Eu’s directorial debut, and it’s a powerful female-centered story that was sadly censored in its home country. Sink your teeth into Tiger Stripes at SIFF 2024. | 🖊️ SANDRA WOOLF

The Box Man

📆 Friday, May 17th + 📆 Saturday, May 18th

📸: The Box Man | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

You’ll need to think outside the box when you see famed director Gakuryû Ishii’s new film, The Box Man. Set in modern-day Japan, a very unconventional man wanders the streets of Tokyo, observing and judging society from the safety of a cardboard box. However, the Box Man soon finds his mobile shell coveted by a range of even more bizarre characters in this absurd, voyeuristic tale. Based on the novel by Kobo Abe (The Woman in the Dunes) and deemed “unfilmable” for over thirty years, the resulting psychological fever dream was well worth the wait. A surprisingly horny film that had me laughing one moment then quickly spiraling into an existential crisis the next. The fight sequences, in particular, had me bewildered yet entertained. If you’re a fan of surreal cinema, David Lynch films, and Kafkaesque imagery, then The Box Man will be your vibe. | 🖊️ SANDRA WOOLF


📆 Friday, May 17th

📸: AGGRO DR1FT | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Cinema’s premier edgelord, Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo, Spring Breakers), is back with a movie that’ll burn itself directly into your retinas. AGGRO DR1FT is a riotous feast of the senses, shot entirely in infrared and set in a video game-like Miami Beach filled with looping, non-playable characters. Every Floridian frame is awash in neon pinks, aqua greens, and acid yellows as it follows assassin BO (Jordi Mollà) hunting down a winged crime lord—with rapper Travis Scott starring as Zion, a militia leader. As in most Korine features, vibes are paramount here, and AGGRO DR1FT, with its existential inflection, AI-enhanced skins, and inventive aesthetic, has plenty. While the movie would be a wild watch in any setting, the big brains at SIFF are screening this thing at SIFF Downtown. Soak in the trippy visuals and electronic score by AraabMuzik in the vastness of the downtown theater and pretend you’re in one immersive, hellish video game sequence.  | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

A Conversation + Screening with Jean Smart

📆 Saturday, May 18th

📸: SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Literal legend Jean Smart got her start in regional theater here in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle-born actress would go on to star as Marlene Dietrich in Piaf on Broadway, serve as a main cast member in the beloved TV series Designing Women, and win gobs of awards as a washed-up Vegas comedienne in Max series Hacks. SIFF is hosting Smart to honor her career as she receives The Hollywood Reporter’s Trailblazer Award. She’ll be in conversation with THR contributing editor Stacey Wilson. Stay after their talk to watch a special preview screening of the unreleased seventh episode from Hacks’ upcoming third season. | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Dìdi (弟弟)

📆 Saturday, May 18th + 📆 Sunday, May 19th

📸: Didi | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

An affectionate term for “younger brother” in Mandarin, Sean Wang’s Dìdi (弟弟) is a delightful, summer-soaked film about what it means to grow up. Set in 2008, Chris (Izaac Wang), a thirteen-year-old first-generation Taiwanese-American, is preparing for his first year in high school in the Bay Area. He spends his summer goofing around with his friends and, in the process, learning what they don’t teach you at school, like how to skate, flirt, and love your mom (Joan Chen of Twin Peaks fame plays his). For the movie, Wang cast mostly first-time actors in the teenage roles and even employed his grandmother, Chang Li Hua, as Chris’s nai nai. Dìdi (弟弟) is both a deeply personal and nostalgic portrait of Wang’s own childhood that will speak to anyone who grew up in the era before social media took over everything. Bring back AIM! | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG

Sing Sing

📆 Saturday, May 18th

📸: Sing Sing | SIFF 2024

A still for SIFF 2024

Director Greg Kwedar’s Sing Sing will close out this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. The feature, inspired by real-life events, stars Colman Domingo as Divine G, an inmate serving a sentence at Sing Sing Correctional Facility for a crime he didn’t do. He finds comfort in Sing Sing’s Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) program, where he and his fellow inmates embark on a journey to mount a comedy inspired by Shakespeare when a newcomer, Clarence, joins the group. Domingo and Paul Raci play characters inspired by real people—while the rest of the cast is mainly composed of formerly incarcerated actors playing versions of themselves. 

After this screening, head over to MOHAI for SIFF’s after-party. Heads-up: SIFF says they’re giving a special prize to the person wearing the oldest SIFF swag.  | 🖊️ JAS KEIMIG


Sandra Woolf

Sandra is a writer and film programmer currently haunting the PNW. Fueled by iced coffee and love of all things pink (don’t tell the other goths). She’s most interested in finding the sexy dark corners of Seattle.

An author pic of Jas Keimig. They have blue braids.

Jas Keimig

Jas Keimig is an arts and culture writer in Seattle. Their work has previously appeared in The Stranger, i-D, Netflix, and Feast Portland. They won a game show once and have a thing for stickers.

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