(ATLB, or 'Alternative to Loud Boats,' is - or was, I guess - the alt-culture response to the annual summer madness around Seafair in Seattle. I was not able to Google up any decent resources on the events in the .5 seconds I devoted to research.)
I emailed Clint Berquist, the comment's author, asking him for a piece on STIFF. I hope I still get one! His plans look pretty interesting, combining film and performance at a variety of venues including the ever-delicious Central Cinema.
He wrote back, sounding interested. I cc'd David at this juncture hoping that he'd be interested in the exchange and oh, possibly, hoping that he might not take Clint's comment personally. Although, come to think of it, blogfights are great traffic-builders. Everybody loves TEH DRAMMA.
Evidently I didn't cut David off at the pass, as he emailed a passionate response to Clint, who then weighed in in the comments with an essay that both David and I concur deserves its' own post.
Without further ado, I'll turn the floor over to Clint Berquist!
There have been a handful of occasions where I found a brilliant film at a festival that I thought an audience in Seattle might really want to get behind only to be turned down by the filmmaker after inviting them because they don't want to risk making the international fest mad. I was glancing through the siff online schedule today to see what ever happened to one of those films and after reading it, one word jumped into my head that pretty much summed up my feelings about the lineup. I typed that comment on the siffblog and went about my day. A couple hours later, I got an email from Mike telling me that my comment was rejected and inviting me to contribute something substantive. Then, several hours later I received another email from David Jeffers informing me that my post was rejected (again). David also made sure to type a page and a half to let me know of his love for Silent Era Cinema and berating me for including him in my waste of time.
Of course, I applaud the fact that the international fest is so rich in resources that not only does it have a person dedicated to approving comments on its blog, it has another person dedicated to approving the initial approver's decision. It should go without saying that I feel compelled to contribute something positive before I find myself wasting the time of the approver of the approver's approver.
This month's Seattle Magazine features a story about the international festival in which Carl Spence says, "There has been some antagonism from local filmmakers who say we should show their films because they were made here. But we're not meant to be a training ground for local directors. We want to show films that belong here on merit alone." There is no doubt in my mind that Carl has felt dissed by local filmmakers, but the real reason is because of a smug attitude exemplified by deciding the movies that "belong" this year are films that have been around for 80 years and can already be viewed by any resourceful person on the planet instead of using his clout to help champion the cause of an incredible LOCAL filmmaker who lost his freakin hand battling cancer. In the same article Carl also said, "We have bent over backward to help local filmmakers". Really? How? By giving a few people whose movies don't belong a few complimentary passes so that the filmmakers from outside Seattle who DO BELONG have an audience for the films that nobody really wants to come watch?
There is no way I could go line by line and negatively comment on every programming decision. I have seen some wonderful movies at siff and it would be a complete lie to say that siff always misses the mark. I honestly know that for every few bad decisions made there will be a redemptive film or two, and most people in the area are very excited about this program. A lot of people are also very excited about the fact that siff now programs the one reel fest as part of Bumbershoot. Its tough to say that siff isn't qualified (the success of the siff machine is evidenced by the fact that it can afford a team of approvers to monitor its blog). But, what some see as a great thing, I can only see as a homogenization of indie film. Film CAN be a medium to educate people and in one of the most educated cities in the United States there is obviously a market for teaching people a lesson when they watch a film. But, what if there are people out there who believe that films should be entertaining? Where are these people supposed to go as everything gets gobbled up by the same exact agenda? What happens to a city when it only has one very loud voice to listen to?
As I said, I have watched a lot of good movies at the international fest (I actually was a volunteer at one point). I know that a lot of people will watch some great films this year too. But, the international fest is also one of the only places I have ever had to leave a movie due to lameness in my entire life (and I have done it on more than one occasion). As movie-goers are out in droves enjoying the lineup, I hope they can keep a single word in mind and if at any time they start to find themselves letting out a big old YAWN, I hope that the international fest lets them out for recess.
Director, Seattle's True Independent Film Festival
UPDATE: I should clarify here that SIFFBlog is not affiliated with the Seattle International Film Festival in any way. SIFFBlog is a creaky old Mac connected to the internet with chewing gum, baling wire, and beeswax candle drippins intermingled with bits of my burnt hair and fingernail clippings collected on a moonless midsummer midnight a century ago in rural Louisiana. That, and the writings of the contributors.