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Friday, October 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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What to watch at the Spokane International Film Festival

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 31, 2019, 6:24 p.m.

A still from “Big Bad Fox,” playing Saturday at the Magic Lantern Theater. (Courtesy photo)
A still from “Big Bad Fox,” playing Saturday at the Magic Lantern Theater. (Courtesy photo)

Over the years, the Spokane International Film Festival, or SpIFF, has become known for featuring an eclectic mix of shorts and mid- and full-length features from both around the world and right here in the Pacific Northwest.

This year, the festival’s 21st, is no different, with works featuring subjects as varied as their countries of origin.

I’ll let contributor and volunteer member of SpIFF’s board of directors Dan Webster fill in some of the festival’s history.

“The festival has played at various venues since its 1999 start, when it was called the Spokane Northwest Film Festival,” he wrote in a blog post. “Dreamed up by the Contemporary Arts Alliance, with Bob Glatzer serving as its first artistic director, the festival mainly used the Bing (then still called the State Theater), but spread for a time to AMC River Park Square, held the occasional screening at the Garland, and these days remains at the Bing (for opening night only) and the Magic Lantern.”

The “international” part of the festival’s title, Webster wrote in another post, was added in 2002, a nod to the films from around the world event programmers have selected over the years.

SpIFF will be held Friday-Feb. 8. Here’s a look at a few festival highlights. For the full festival program and tickets, visit

Northwest’s Best

The festival kicks off with a selection of short and mid-length films made in the Pacific Northwest. Shorts include “The Little Things,” a documentary about a woman fighting ALS; “Fruit Therapy,” the judge’s choice winner of the 2018 50 Hour Slam; and “There Goes the Neighborhood,” which features a year of gentrification in one Portland neighborhood over the course of a year. (Friday, 5:30 p.m., Bing Crosby Theater, $12)

‘Big Bad Fox’

In this animated film, from the creators of the Oscar-nominated “Ernest and Celestine,” three separate but interlocking stories explore life in the countryside for a group of animals on a farm. There’s the fox who is raising a family of chicks, a rabbit who acts as the stork and a duck who wants to be Santa Claus. Directors Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert have adapted this silly but sweet film from Renner’s graphic novel “Le grand mechant renard (The Big Bad Fox).” (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $10)

‘The Magnificent Cake’ and ‘Wildebeest’

“The Magnificent Cake,” directed by Marc James Roels and Emma De Swae, is an animated anthology film set in colonial Africa in the late 19th century that introduces audiences to five characters: a troubled king; a middle-aged Pygmy who works in a luxury hotel; a failed businessman on an expedition; a lost porter; and a young army deserter.

“Wildebeest,” an animated film directed by Nicolas Keppens and Matthias Phlips, follows middle-aged couple Linda and Troyer after they get left behind in the wilderness during a safari. (Feb. 2, 5 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $12)

‘Time for Ilhan’

This documentary, directed by Norah Shapiro, follows Somali-born Ilhan Omar as she runs for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016. (Sunday, noon, Magic Lantern Theater, $10)

Animation Showcase

This year, the animation showcase features shorts from Ireland (“Late Afternoon”); Canada (“L’Homme et le Poisson [“The Man and the Fish”], “Freaks of Nature,” “Turbine,” “Animal Behaviour”); Netherlands (“At First Site,” “Emily”); America (“Wild Woman”); and Belgium (“Count Your Curses”). (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $10)

World Shorts

This year’s festival features short films from China (“Shadow”); Germany (“The Mandarin Tree”); Armenia (“The Motherland”); Israel (“Saving Pooh,” “The First Day of April”); Greece (“Fugue”); and the U.K. (“Sometimes, He Paints Bathrooms”). (Monday, 7 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $12)

‘Enormous: The Gorge Story’

You’ve driven by it plenty of times. You’ve likely even seen a show or two there. But how much do you really know about the Gorge Amphitheatre? In “Enormous: The Gorge Story,” director Nic Davis presents the “never before told story” of the venue that’s drawn musicians and music fans from around the world to little ol’ George, Washington. The hour long documentary features Gorge-related memories from the venue’s original owners, promoters and musicians including Dave Matthews, Hozier, Shakey Graves, John Oates and Portugal. The Man. (Monday, 7:30 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $12)


This documentary, directed by Paula Eiselt, follows a group of Hasidic women in the Hasidic enclave of Borough Park, Brooklyn, as they defy expectations to create the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in New York City. (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $12)

‘Jupiter’s Moon’

The festival closes with this Hungarian film, directed by Kornél Mundruczó.

In “Jupiter’s Moon,” a young refugee named Aryan is shot while trying to cross the Hungarian border. While nursing him back to health, a doctor at a refugee camp discovers something extraordinary: Aryan has somehow gained the ability to levitate at will. Seeing his way out of the camp, the doctor offers to smuggle Aryan out of the camp if the boy will use his newfound skill to make the doctor money. (Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m., Magic Lantern Theater, $12)

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