Now that the clouds have returned from their summer vacation, it’s back to the movie theaters for the PNW’s sunburned masses. It’s not awards season yet, but GOOD NEWS! It’s fall film festival season! Which is also generally more interesting!
Regardless of your location or specific genre interests, there’s something for any discerning cineaste. But the fun part about film festivals is giving yourself over to the tireless work of any number of programmers, learning something about the world and, perhaps, yourself.
As we get deeper into autumn, we’ll update our info, but here are seven explosions of moviemaking goodness to kick off this list.
Tasveer South Asian Film Festival
📸: Tasveer South Asian Film Festival
For its 17th year, the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival carries the theme “Unapologetically South Asian,” and their lineup backs that up tenfold, showcasing “work that challenges patriarchy and amplifies gender justice.” The festival will include both in-person and virtual viewing options.
For opening night festivities (preshow party at Optimism Brewery, film at SIFF Cinema Egyptian), Tasveer will be showing Four Samosas. Samosas is a beloved new comedy about an Indian American rapper in Artesia, CA’s “Little India” region who, when he finds out his ex-girlfriend is to marry somebody else, puts together a heist on her father’s grocery store. The writer/director Ravi Kapoor (also an acclaimed actor on such shows as Crossing Jordan) will be in attendance for a post-film Q&A.
Among the 102 features and short films (a new festival record!), some non-fiction highlights include the Sundance and Cannes Indian documentary All That Breathes (India), the coming-of-age surfing tale Bangla Surf Girls (Bangladesh), and the heartrending And Still I Sing (Afghanistan), about two sisters whose dreams to win a famous televised singing competition get sidetracked by the Taliban.
In narrative features, there’s Powai (India), a triptych of female-focused stories set in Mumbai, a shot-during-COVID update of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer-winning play ‘Night, Mother (USA), and the world premiere of Punjabi romcom Little English (United Kingdom).
Romanian Film Festival
📸: Northwest Film Forum
After two years of going virtual, the Romanian Film Festival Seattle is back in actual theaters for its ninth festival. The celebration of Romanian and European cinema put on by the American Romanian Cultural Society carries with it the theme of “HomeLands,” and the lineup of films is said to “map out new meanings into a world where people have been displaced by wars, economic crises, political instability, and natural disasters.”
On the virtual half of the festivities, there are two weeks of online screenings for those still uncertain about attending festivals (or if it’s simply not in your budget or schedule). Some of these even include online discussions and filmmaker Q&As. Virtual-only offerings include Hungarian psychological drama Spiral, Ukrainian documentary Ukrainian Sheriffs, and Romanian rehab tale Immaculate.
Meanwhile, in-person screenings and events will take place at Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum. Try out the Romanian/French/Belgian co-pro The Island, an animated, Monty Python-esque, refugee-focused reshaping of Robinson Crusoe. If you’re looking to get a little darker, there’s Alina Grigore’s feature debut Blue Moon, about a young woman struggling to survive a distinctly dysfunctional family. Or if you want something a little in-between, there’s Things Worth Weeping For, a tragicomedy about a woman’s quarter-life crisis that kicks into high gear when she happens upon an old relative’s dead body.
Seattle Queer Film Festival
October 13 – 23
The Seattle Queer Film Festival has gone through a few name changes over its 27 years, but it has never wavered in bringing the masses the best in international queer cinema. Along with its trans-film-focused spring sister festival, Translations, it’s a proud offering of Capitol Hill-based organization Three Dollar Bill Cinema, with managing director Billy Ray Brewton and festival director Kathleen Mullen overseeing an enthusiastic group of employees and volunteers. Much like the past couple years, this year’s SQFF will be done as a hybrid festival, with films both in-person and online.
SQFF’s opening night selection keeps it close to home with the premiere of What the Funk?!, a documentary chronicling Seattle’s BIPOC burlesque fest of the same name during its inaugural 2019 outing.
Other feature film highlights include Shariff Nasr’sfeature debut El Houb, the middle school charmer Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls, the riot grrrl mockumentary Vulveeta, and the heart-wrenching Brazilian family drama Mars One.
48 Hour Horror Film Project
📸: 48 Hour Horror Film Project
There’s no listed lineup for the 48 Hour Horror Film Project because, well, none of these films exist yet. Come October, though, local teams will be tasked with writing, filming, and editing a full scary short in, you guessed it, 48 hours. That’s certainly enough time to make something that’ll scare an audience member, make them squirm in their seat, or give them an existential crisis. There’s something irresistible about crafting a story with your strange friends in such a short deadline, relying on instinct, intensity, and lots of caffeine.
I first stumbled upon the fest years ago when my friends and I bounded into the Ark Lodge to catch a screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, only to hear deafening screams. Were we late? Not at all. That year’s set of 48-hour spooky shorts had run long, but no worries: We watched several dozen people lose their minds over the final few films of the night, then cheered loudly as possible during the awards ceremony. Rolling from that energy into Tobe Hooper’s grimy cannibal slasher is one of my favorite Seattle moviegoing experiences.
Seattle Latino Film Festival
📸: SLFF’s opening night film, Gaspar
With the onset of National Hispanic Heritage Month, you can celebrate with some finely curated cinema courtesy of the Seattle Latino Film Festival, founded in 2009 by Poet Jorge Enrique González Pacheco.
SLFF prides itself on its passion, encouraging people to sample flavors “uncommon to this side of the world, alleviating the ignorance of who we were.” Such flavors include Justin Lander’s Guatemalan thriller Cadejo Blanco, the Dominican Republic-Argentina mother-daughter drama Carajita, and On the Divide, a provocative documentary about the last abortion clinic along the U.S./Mexico border.
And no worries for those who live outside of “centralized” Seattle: SLFF has eight separate venues around the Seattle Metro area. The most programming happens at The Beacon Cinema in Columbia City, but other spots include Shoreline Community College Theater and Edmonds Community College’s Black Box Theatre to the north and the Bellevue Art Museum to the east.
Tacoma Film Festival
📸: Ricky D’Ambrose’s The Cathedral
MovieMaker Magazine called it one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World,” and it’s hard to argue. Operating out of the exceptionally well-programmed Grand Cinema since 2006, the Tacoma Film Festival’s curation focuses on new, progressive, independent filmmaking.
This neat balance between odd curios (Ricky D’Ambrose’s The Cathedral, the barking mad Langoliers remix The Timekeepers of Eternity) and broader crowdpleasers (Reading Rainbow doc Butterfly in the Sky) is perfect for both adventurous Tacoma arthouse fiends and out-of-towners looking for an art-filled weekend. And if you’re jonesing to celebrate local cinema, check out Zia Mohajerjasbi’s award-winning, closing night film Know Your Place, a drama about Eritrean American teens experiencing a rapidly gentrifying PNW.
Local Sightings Film Festival
📸: Northwest Film Forum | Derek Edamura
Now in its 25th year, the Local Sightings Film Festival is the only major festival entirely dedicated to Northwest regional offerings, continuing the Northwest Film Forum’s year-round, community-oriented mix of challenging features, experimental shorts, artist talks, script readings, and hands-on education.
Some standouts include Skagit, an avant-garde psychological horror/drama based around local mythology and a cabinful of Seattle twentysomethings losing touch with sanity, the 40-minute Daymien Nainoa Bunao drama He Hawai’i Au (paired with two short films by Hawaiian filmmaker Kanani Koster), and shorts program “Diaspora Diaries” (stories about borders, identity, and new homes), co-presented by the Seattle Asian American Film Festival. Get weird with a shadow puppetry workshop series taught by local puppeteers Cassandra Bray and Zane Exactly.
Festival film selections are offered both in-person and virtually. The puppet workshop, I assure you, should be done in person.