In film festival circles, the name Sundance is golden.
Year after year, the little film fest that Robert Redford founded in Park City, Utah, screens dozens of films to critics, industry types and plain old movie fans. A good reaction there can boost any film’s chances of attracting a wider audience later on.
But according to Kathleen McInnis, chief publicist of the Seattle International Film Festival, the atmosphere of Park City isn’t always the best. Especially in January.
This year’s edition was marked by “40-mile-an-hour winds and six feet of snow in six days,” McInnis said by phone from Seattle on Wednesday.
That kind of weather, at least, is one thing that Seattle’s near-annual film fest should be missing when SIFF begins its 22nd (in 23 years) run on Thursday.
Festival-goers might endure some rain - this is, after all, Seattle - but here are a few things that they’ll also have a chance to experience during the subsequent 25 days:
174 feature films and more than 75 shorts from 40 countries.
An expanded Filmmaker’s Forum on June 6-8 that will include not only seminars for budding filmmakers but for mere fans as well. “We’ll have some director-slash-writers, we’ll have some talk about 16mm film stock,” McInnis said. “Technical nuts and bolts and critical-creative nuts and bolts.”
Opening night premiere: SIFF co-founder Dan Ireland directed a film titled “The Whole Wide World,” which kicks off this year’s festival. (Last year’s kickoff movie was “Braveheart.”) Set in Texas of the mid-1930s, the film tells the story of the relationship between pulp-fiction writer Robert E. Howard (“Conan the Barbarian”) and author Novalyne Price. It stars Vincent D’Onofrio and Renee Zellweger.
Stars: The long list of recognizable names includes filmmakers John Sayles (and his new film “Lone Star”) and John Turteltaub, actresses Kyra Sedgwick and Lili Taylor, actors D.B. Sweeney and James Woods, musician/ composer Stewart Copeland and more.
Documentary films: The festival that has highlighted such true-life studies as “Brother’s Keeper,” “Jupiter’s Wife” and “Crumb” continues that trend with a number of documentaries, among them the new film by “Brother’s Keeper” co-directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, “Paradise Lost, the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.”
“Very intense,” McInnis said, “very intense.”
Friendly atmosphere: Unlike some higher-profile festivals, SIFF emphasizes bringing filmmakers together with festival-goers on a regular basis.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, for example, anyone interested in screenwriting will be able to visit the Alibi Room in the Pike Street Market and, free of charge, listen to noted screenwriters such as J.F. Lawton (“Pretty Woman”) and Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”) talk about their craft.
“We’re going to have a really nice, informal, cozy kind of room downstairs that we’re calling the salon where you can come sit, chat, drink coffee, have something to eat, read scripts and listen to screenwriters talk about what they do,” McInnis said.
Even screenwriter wannabe D.B. Sweeney is scheduled to show up with his “script in progress” that carries the intriguing title “Flesh Eaters From Jersey.”
But while Seattle residents will have a chance to enjoy some aspect of the festival every night of its 25-day run, most Spokane movie fans will have to pick and choose mostly from the weekend offerings.
And, according to McInnis, this year’s festival boasts two weekends that are “incredibly hot weekends that people wouldn’t want to miss.”
Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27)
“There are a larger number that weekend of foreign films, films that people might never get a chance to see again,” McInnis said.
Highlights include: “My Knees Were Jumping” (3:30 p.m. Sunday, The Egyptian theater), a documentary about the transport of children out of Germany to escape the danger of World War II; “L’Amore Molesto” (6:30 p.m. Sunday, Harvard Exit downstairs); “Sudden Manhattan” (12:30 p.m. Monday, the Egyptian), a film written and produced by actress Adrienne Shelley; “Killer, a Journal of Murder” (6:30 p.m. Monday, Harvard Exit downstairs), starring James Woods.
Final weekend (June 7-9)
Highlights include: “Intimate Relations” (7:15 p.m. Friday, the Egyptian), a British film starring Rupert Graves as a boarder who gets involved in a sexual triangle with his landlady (Julie Walters) and her daughter; “Phenomenon” (9:30 p.m. Friday, the Egyptian), starring John Travolta as a man who mysteriously develops supernatural powers; “Trigger Effect” (6:30 p.m. Saturday, the Egyptian), starring Kyle Maclachlan and Elisabeth Shue; “Underworld” (6:30 p.m. Saturday, Harvard Exit downstairs), starring Denis Leary and Joe Mantegna; “Trainspotting” (9:15 p.m. Saturday, the Egyptian).
“Trainspotting,” which played to packed houses in Britain, is a Scottish film about heroin users that is getting good advance notices.
“That’s the big ticket,” McInnis said. “Everybody’s going to want to have that one. People have just gone crazy.”
Finally, the 22nd SIFF features an expanded menu of children’s and/or family films, several highly rated British imports (such as “Trainspotting”) and some 37 premieres (11 world, 26 U.S.).
Overall, it’s a mix that any true cinemaphile should love.
“I think this is going to be a return to the roots, so to speak, of offering true film festival films that, chances are, you’re not going to see again,” McInnis said. “It’s definitely worth the trip. If anyone wants to come over, they’re not going to be disappointed no matter when they come.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GET YOUR TICKETS The 22nd Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday and runs through June 9. Tickets can be purchased in advance for individual screenings, and special deals are offered for multiple purchases. Full festival passes are also available. Credit-card purchases can be made in advance by calling (206) 325-6150 (a $1 service charge will be assessed per order). The box office is at the Broadway Performance Hall, at the corner of Broadway and Pines. Tickets to the Gala Opening Night screening Thursday are $40. For further information, call (206) 325-6828, or check out the SIFF web site at http://www.seattlefilm.com.