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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

2011 SIFF Kicks Off with Festive Opener

The 2011 Seattle International Film Festival kicked off last night with a festive, energetic Gala celebration. I pondered in my SIFF preview piece the other day why the fest chose The First Grader as their opener this year, and we kind of got an answer to that last night, as the fest announced a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation and to create the Explore Series, which will feature five issue-driven films — and donate $5,000 to each of five organizations that serve causes related to those films.

The opening film, The First Grader, deals with literacy, so the organization chosen for the $5,000 grant affiliated with that film is (… drumroll, please) The Literacy Council. Not sure if the idea to do this partnership came first, or if they chose the opening film first and the idea for the partnership grew out of that, but either way, cool idea. I’m all for regional fests supporting their communities, and partnerships like this are a smart way to do just that.

In other exciting news, the fest also announced a partnership with Starbucks, which is headquartered in Seattle. Starbucks will be showing a selection of SIFF short documentaries for free on their nationwide wifi network throughout the fest. Even better, Seattle Starbucks customers will be able to pick up vouchers that can be exchanged for FREE tickets to select SIFF screenings after 3PM today.

Did I say FREE? Yes, I did. So now you have no excuse if you live here for not going to at least one film during the fest.

The SIFF Opener is one of the few times a year when Seattleites break out their nicer garb and attire themselves in clothing that actually borders on “dressy” — or is “dressy” by Seattle standards. This year the opening screening was at McCaw Hall, which is home of the Seattle Opera and is adjacent to SIFF Cinema, the fest’s year-round screening venue. McCaw has a capacity of over 2,800 (as does another past Opening Night venue, the Paramount Theater), while Benaroya Hall, where last year’s opener was held, seats only 2,500. McCaw Hall was pretty packed last night, but there were some open rows on the upper balconies. By way of contrast, the smaller Centerpiece Gala on June 4th and the Closing Gala June 12th will be held at the Egyptian Theater (capacity 650) and the Cinerama Theater (capacity 808), respectively.

One thing the fest organizers, bless their hearts, have to figure out every year is where to stage the post-screening parties for the gala events. You want the events to feel special and festive, but they also need to be someplace walking distance (or at least, no more than a short drive) from the theater. Last year the Opening Night party was held at Benaroya, a multi-level, labyrinthine space that’s not particularly conducive to flowing large quantities of people.

With the opener back at McCaw this year (the third time, I believe, that the fest has used McCaw for Opening Night) they were able to use the Exhibition Hall across the way from McCaw for the par-tay. The downside of the Exhibition Hall is that, since it’s usually used for exhibits and conventions and such, it’s a rather mundane and industrial kind of space, but creative use of airy fabrics and lighting and the carving out of VIP corners — not to mention abundantly flowing alcohol, appetizers and desserts — lent a festive air to the proceedings. The plus side of the Exhibition Hall space is that it’s big enough that it didn’t feel overly crowded.

The other two Galas have parties as well. The Centerpiece screening is at the Egyptian in Capitol Hill. This theater is a beautiful old restored Masonic Hall, and it’s been a fest venue since 1985. Also, it holds enough bodies for a Gala. The Centerpiece Party will be held at the DAR (that’s Daughters of the American Revolution) Mansion, which is also in Capitol Hill — the OTHER end of Capitol Hill. Right across the street from another SIFF venue, the Harvard Exit, which, while much smaller than the Egyptian and not really big enough to house a Gala (it does, however, have the not-inconsiderable bonus of being haunted, according to local legend …)

The DAR House is beautiful, and if the weather is beautiful so a lot of folks can be outside, it will be okay, but its capacity is only 180. The Egyptian seats 650, but I guess a lot of those folks will just have screening only tickets. At least, I hope so.

The Closing Party will be held at the Pan Pacific Hotel, located a short walk from the Cinerama. It’s a beautiful luxury hotel, and the capacity there looks to be around 350. So guessing that, again, more people go to just the film and skip the closing bash.

Last night was just the kick-off, though. The fest kicked off in earnest today, with screenings starting at 11AM, and, as every year, there’s a lot of films to choose from, so get scheduling. See you around the fest!

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon