A Food Writer’s Picks and Pairings for SIFF 2023

Films and food for every palate 🧑‍🍳

A crowd sits inside a SIFF theatre as three people line up onstage

📸: Courtesy SIFF

Thursday, May 11th – Sunday, May 21st

You are what you eat, but you are also what you consume. Expand your media diet with hundreds of film screenings at the 49th annual Seattle International Film Festival. In-person showings will take place at venues across the city from May 11th–21st, with some films available online from May 22nd–28th. Grab your festival pass here!

I previewed a selection of compelling films for every palate. Each used food to tell multitudinous stories. For a full-on gastronomical experience, amp up your classic dinner-and-a-movie night with one of these suggested pairings. 

A still from Alan at Work. a hand scrawls lines of text with an ink pen

📸: Courtesy SIFF | Alan @ Work


Alan @ Work

Sunday, May 14th, 6:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Tuesday, May 16th, 6:00 pm @ Ark Lodge Cinemas
Also streaming online 

Alan Chong Lau is a creative icon. While slicing honeydew and twisting the halved fruit in plastic wrap, he says, “I think if you have to work forty hours a week, it’s almost like a death sentence. Which most of us have to carry out.” Even when you love your job, work is still work at the end of the day—and I felt that, you know?

In this documentary film shot over ten years, we get to know a poet and artist best known for his work at supermarket chain and Seattle institution, Uwajimaya. He carries around a small notebook in his pocket, jotting down micro-poems while his boss isn’t looking. He writes from a place of everyday observation: “Shoplifter. Old woman caught with a bag of baby shrimp…” He hand-paints hundreds of Lunar New Year’s cards for the people in his community. 

At one point the picture repeats, as if you’re watching a faulty VHS home video—a reflection of the monotonous, physical work that allows Lau’s mind to wander. “You forget about the ego. The object is created selflessly.”

Things to consider:
🍘 Pair with oysters from Taylor Shellfish in Queen Anne or anything off the Gin & (Bradley’s locally-made) Tonic menu at Lottie’s Lounge in Columbia City.
🍘 Go with your coworker who can’t wait to quit their day job.
🍘 Director Doug Ing is scheduled to attend.

The characters from Egghead and Twinkie stand side by side

📸: Courtesy SIFF | Egghead & Twinkie


Egghead & Twinkie

Friday, May 19th • 6:00 pm @ AMC Pacific Place
Saturday, May 20th • 3:00 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Also streaming online

What do you do when your best friend kisses you? In this coming-of-age film made by and for Gen Z, Twinkie (Sabrina Jie-A-Fa) finally comes out to Egghead (Louis Tomeo). They navigate their shifting relationship on a cross-country road trip that marks their last summer together before college. Director Sarah Kambe Holland wrote a rough draft of the script at 19, and a viral TikTok video helped crowdfund over $20k for production. 

Twinkie seems amused by the discomfort of her adoptive white parents when she defiantly claims her identity as “yellow on the outside, white on the inside.” I have a theory that Egghead gave himself a self-deprecating nickname in solidarity. I can appreciate that he never mentions why—because allyship doesn’t require announcement. 

Aside from racially-charged references to the namesake snack food, this film is on my list because of how often food is used as a plot device for exploring friendship. A few of my favorite moments: Egghead assembles a legendary “snacket” for sneaky movie snacks—complete with baby wipes for the Cheetos dust! The duo makes a pit stop at a Chinese restaurant, where they try Taro-flavored bubble tea for the first time. Twinkie stops at a gas station and buys snacks for a long-haul drive with their last six dollars: two 5-Hour Energy drinks, a pack of Orbit gum, and a two-pack of Twinkies. Honorable mentions go to the most epic dine-and-dash scheme I’ve ever seen.

Things to consider:
🧋 Pair with sweet taro buns at Din Tai Fung in downtown or fresh taro milk tea at Rabbit Rabbit Tea in Queen Anne.
🧋 Go with your ride-or-die best friend.
🧋 Director/writer/producer/editor Sarah Kambe Holland, producer Danielle Fountaine, and editor Kristi League are scheduled to attend.

A screencap from the movie Stella. Two hands are cupped around a ball of pizza dough on a floured counter as they knead.

📸: Courtesy SIFF



Saturday, May 13th, 3:45 pm @ Ark Lodge Cinemas
Sunday, May 14th, 5:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Also streaming online

Michelin stars have become the industry standard for the highest accolade a restaurant or chef can earn. IMO, some of the best food in the world is under the radar, so it’s compelling to see this highly-secretive organization begin to break from traditional fine dining to recognizing street food carts. That being said, they have yet to award a pizzeria with stars. 

To understand how comical this is, this documentary zooms in on the birthplace of the world’s most bastardized food: Naples, Italy. In 2017, Neapolitan pizza-making was awarded a spot on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage. There, Chef Ciro Oliva of Concettina ai Tre Santi is doing the most, to hopefully become the first pizzaiolo to star. He sources from a grower in San Marzano, where the harvest is hung in bright red bunches to form “the Sistine Chapel of cherry tomatoes”. My mouth literally puckered when he took a bite of fresh mozzarella, still warm off the production line. His wine program has been recognized for challenging the pizza-beer pairing stereotype. Fresh basil plants are at the center of his pizzeria tables. 

In contrast, interviews with (American) fine dining chefs who have been awarded stars are so blasé. One chef explains that the best pizza he ever ate was in Japan—and surely that place is worthy of the honor. Food is at the heart of tourism. It begs the question: what is worth going to? And why does a tire company get to decide?

Things to consider:
🍕 Pair with a Neapolitan pizza from Tutta Bella in Columbia City or Via Tribunali in Queen Anne.
🍕 Go with your wanderlust-deprived sweetie.
🍕Director/producer Tyler Doehring and several crew members are scheduled to attend.

Two characters from the movie, Until Branches Bend lean against a giant peach statue and look out over the water.

📸: Courtesy SIFF | Until Branches Bend


Until Branches Bend

Saturday, May 13th • 8:00 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Monday, May 15th • 12:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Also streaming online

Set in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, this psychological drama follows Robin (Grace Glowicki), a grader at a peach cannery who thinks she has found an invasive insect burrowed inside a piece of fruit. Sharing this discovery makes her a social pariah: her small agricultural town is still recovering from a prior, devastating infestation. 

I wondered if Montague was meant to be portrayed as a food desert. Robin’s tires eventually get slashed at the grocery store. I watched it back: there are only two moments where anyone eats during the film. Both take place between Robin and her younger sister, Laney (Alexandra Roberts). They are the only people to be shown eating peaches, and the scene where they buy soft-serve and deep-fried pickles out of a giant peach snack shack quietly reveals an unwanted pregnancy. 

The subtleties of this shot-on-16mm film are riveting. Through that rosy, monochrome sheen, I almost didn’t notice the silver kara worn by Jay (Paul Kular), or the Khanda hanging from his rearview mirror—a nod to Sikh farming communities across the PNW. Intimate, immersive camera angles from car back seats and behind doors ajar put you inside the story as it unravels.

Things to consider:
🍑 Pair with fried chicken or green tomato sandwiches at Sisters & Brothers in Interbay.
🍑 Go with your annoying younger sibling.
🍑 Director Sophie Jarvis and Editor Kane Stewart are scheduled to attend.

Hot Tip ‼️

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14th! I’m a big fan of experiences > gifts. Unlock a new core memory with dinner and SIFF tix to a film with moms at the forefront.
Angry Annie
Friday, May 12th • 3:15 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Monday, May 15th • 8:00 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Dancing Queen
Tuesday, May 16th • 6:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Wednesday, May 17th • 3:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Wednesday, May 17th • 6:00 pm @ Shoreline CC
Thursday, May 18th • 6:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Thursday, May 18th • 6:00pm @ SIFF Film Center
Friday, May 19th • 1:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Also streaming online
Sunday, May 14th • 8:00 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Monday, May 15th • 3:00 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown
Other People’s Children
Saturday, May 13th • 7:00 pm @ Shoreline CC
Thursday, May 18th • 3:30 pm @ SIFF Cinema Uptown


Meghna Jaradi

Meghna leads with her curiosity when writing about travel, food, and beverages. She previously wrote about cookbooks at Kitchen Arts & Letters, and has managed events and communications at Book Larder, Peddler Brewing Company, and Cascade Bicycle Club. She is newly pescatarian and a Seattle native. Follow along at @wanderingthali.

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