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Are you ready for SIFF? | 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival hits Seattle, Eastside this month

The Seattle International Film Festival runs from May 18 through June 11, with films showing in Bellevue and Kirkland. - Courtesy Graphic
The Seattle International Film Festival runs from May 18 through June 11, with films showing in Bellevue and Kirkland.
— image credit: Courtesy Graphic

It’s that time of year for film lovers of the Seattle area and Eastside to unite.

The 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is coming to theaters near you beginning May 18 through June 11. More than 400 films from 80 countries will be featured during the course of the festival’s 25 days.

The final lineup for the 2017 SIFF will be announced on May 4, with films showing in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square Cinemas from May 19 through June 1 and at the Kirkland Performance Center June 1-4. For more information, tickets and showtimes, visit www.siff.net.

Festival-goers can look forward to the opening night showing of the romantic dramadey, “The Big Sick” on May 18 at Seattle’s McCaw Hall. Produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Michael Showalter, the film stars Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and is based on Nanjiani’s real-life courtship of his wife. Nanjiani’s character falls in love with a non-Pakistani grad student, though as their relationship progresses, the couple find themselves dealing with cultural differences.

“We’re really thrilled that he’s opening the festival with this cross-cultural love story,” said SIFF interim artistic director Beth Barrett. “It’s very touching knowing that [the film] is his story. He’s starring in it and you’re watching him on screen as he’s reliving these times, some of which are tough, tough times. It’s really impressive.”

With a mission of creating experiences that bring people together through film, Barrett said SIFF aims to provide a healthy representation of diverse storytelling throughout the 400 films shown at the festival. Returning for the fifth year will be the festival’s African Pictures program, which features 10 films from the north and subcontinent parts of Africa, including a Nigerian “Nollywood” romantic comedy.

Also returning for its third year will be the festival’s Culinary Cinema program, which features films centered on domestic and international cuisine.

“One of the big goals we have for the festival is to represent as many different communities, genres, countries, languages, topics and filmmaking styles that we can,” Barrett said. “SIFF is known around the world as one of the best audience film festivals, where filmmakers actually are really able to interact with audiences and have really meaningful discussions during our Q and A [forums].”

Barrett said in the current political climate, festival organizers have been seeing a lot of films dealing with the refugee crisis and questions of immigration. She added that when it comes to the filmmaker Q and A discussions, the festival is expecting to be doing more Skype forums with filmmakers who may not feel welcome in the United States.

“One of the things we’ve been looking at as a festival is what it means for us to be an international film festival in a time and climate [when] borders are shifting. Sometimes they’re not firm and sometimes they’re very, very firm,” she said. “And so we’re really looking at what that means for us bringing in international film and international filmmakers.”

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