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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

SIFF 2012 Dispatch: It’s a Wrap

It never ceases to amaze me, just how quickly 25 days of film festival awesomeness can fly by. I usually cover SIFF inside and out, but this year having a film in the fest, with industry events on top of press stuff, and going off to Oklahoma City most of last week to support Bunker‘s first screening at the deadCENTER Film Festival, and all the usual end-of-school-year kidstuff, all conspired to keep me from getting to as many screenings as I intended.

I’ve been covering SIFF for a many years now and I have to say, I think this is one of the strongest years programming-wise they’ve had (and I don’t say that just because my daughter Neve was an intern on the programming staff this year, or because they programmed my film). Over and over in conversations I had at parties or standing in line, the recurrent theme was how impressed people were with this year’s overall slate. Sure, there were a few films that some folks weren’t crazy about, but if a fest is making everyone happy, they probably aren’t curating as well as they should, right? For me, the best fests offer a diverse slate of programming and counter-programming, balancing accessible crowd pleasers with films that tackle more challenging subject matter or style. The SIFF programmers, perhaps in part because they have 25 days to work with, always do a solid job, but this year they just really hit the sweet spot.

I went to more parties (both formal and informal) at SIFF this year than I typically do, and I attended some industry events, including a great, interesting panel for short filmmakers on making the most of their fest experience. The parties were a different kind of fun for me this year, with many of the members of the Bunker crew around to catch up with, and I spent way more time in general hanging out with other filmmakers this year. A fest like SIFF is a great place to network and, especially, to get to know other folks working in the industry that you might want to work with in the future. I also made it to a few of the midnights, and those were, as always, a great deal of fun.

I also greatly enjoyed watching David Poland’s “Conversation” with William Friedkin at the tribute in Friedkin’s honor. Friedkin was a hoot – man, did he know how to work a crowd: standing or pacing for most of the time, making self-deprecating remarks about the reels of his work, telling some engaging stories about the making of his films. His retelling of how they planned and shot the famous chase scene in The French Connection, which apparently involved the bribery of a guy in charge of film permits, was worth the price of admission alone.

As for the fest itself, SIFF continues to be one of the best organized, most ambitious fests there is. In addition to the 89,000 films on their program, the fest also ran an impressive slate of panels and workshops (, produced four short films with their Fly Filmmaking competition, and continued to expose the next generation to the world of cinema with educational programs, outreach into schools, the FutureWave Committee (a group of dedicated young people who program the FutureWave slate, and two youth juries, the Films 4 Families Jury (younger kids) and the FutureWave Jury (older youth).

I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of the fest staff this year to address some of the issues that some of the press had last year. This year – at least in my own experience – things ran mostly very smoothly, and when there were bumps they were dealt with quickly and efficiently. It’s not easy managing a fest this huge, and press are a pain in the ass (yes, even you). I wouldn’t want to deal with us, would you? My experience as a filmmaker at SIFF was equally great; the SIFF staff dedicated a great deal of time and energy to making sure the shorts filmmakers who came out for the fest felt well taken care of. Having the shorts screen over Memorial Day weekend as a big ShortsFest — kind of a mini-fest within the fest — is a fantastic idea; Seattle crowds LOVE the shorts packages, and the shorts packages tend to sell out.

I’ve dealt with SIFF from the press side for many years, and while that’s been uneven at times I’d say on the balance it’s been more positive than negative. I’ve dealt with SIFF as a mom with a kid on the Films 4 Families Jury (last year) and as a mom with a kid who’s interning for the fest (this year). My daughter Neve’s internship at SIFF has been incredibly positive. They placed her in the programming staff, so she got to watch fest screeners, and learn how to evaluate them, analyze and discuss them intelligently; she helped with filing when needed as well, but most of her work at the fest was watching and evaluating films, writing director bios, proofreading the site before it went live – real, necessary work that she actually learned from. She’ll be returning to SIFF as an intern next year.

Overall, this was a great, enjoyable year for me at SIFF, a year when I really had the chance to explore the fest from new and interesting angles. Here are links to reviews of all the movies at SIFF this year that I reviewed either here or previously.

Review Roundup

Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas
Liberal Arts
Moonrise Kingdom
The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On
The Revisionaries

And everything else …

The Art of Love

Beasts of the Southern Wild




Fat Kid Rules the World

God Bless America

I Wish

John Dies at the End


Old Dog

Oslo, August 31

Pink Ribbons, Inc
Queen of Versailles

Safety Not Guaranteed

Starry Starry Night

Take This Waltz

Wuthering Heights
Your Sister’s Sister

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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