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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Diversity through cinema: Spokane International Film Festival bridges its global perspective with local charm

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 27, 2020

By Paul Sell The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane International Film Festival has become one of the most culturally diverse experiences in the Inland Northwest. Now entering its 22nd year, SpIFF has always prided itself on offering a wide range of films from all over the world, especially films that offer fresh and unexplored perspectives that celebrate the diverse range of cinema.

Ranging from documentaries and shorts to animations and features that have been created in the last year without receiving a wide release, SpIFF gives these creative filmmakers a platform to show their art and engage with an intrigued audience.

“The SpIFF mission constantly evolves so that Spokane can see what the world is watching,” EWU film professor Pete Porter said. “International cinema has made tremendous strides in reaching audiences since SpIFF began in 1999 … but SpIFF still gives us an opportunity to come together to celebrate cinema with the community.”

Here is a schedule of 2020 SpIFF highlights:


This year’s SpIFF begins today with a social hour at the Garland Theater (924 W. Garland Ave.) at 6 p.m. followed by SpIFF honoring local filmmakers with the Best of the Northwest shorts, a compilation of 11 short films as diverse as Spokane itself, including shorts with crossword puzzles, Halloween parties and teapots.

After a brief intermission, the party will be followed by a screening of “Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain,” a documentary about traumatic brain injuries, how they’re treated and those who have to live with them every day, including military personnel, athletes and others.

“Quiet Explosions” also features interviews with Spokane resident and Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien discussing his personal experiences with football and concussions. Rypien is a frequent visitor of SpIFF and will be present during the screening. Tickets are $15 and include admission into the preceding social hour.


Saturday features screenings at the Magic Lantern (25 W. Main Ave.), including shorts from the U.S. and around the world. Events start as early as 11:30 a.m., with “Bamboo and Barbed Wire,” a feature documentary chronicling how the U.S. justice system has treated immigrants. This includes the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II and the recent Muslim travel ban. Tickets are $10.

Saturday also has screenings of “Book Week” at 5 p.m., an Australian comedy about a grumpy English professor trying (and failing) to publish his manuscript and getting more competition from one of his students. Tickets are $12.

The day’s festivities end with “Balloon” at 7:30 p.m., a true story from the 1970s about a pair of German families desperately cobbling together resources to flee East Germany to the West in their homemade hot-air balloon all under the ever-watchful eye of the government. Tickets are $12.


Sunday features as many options as Saturday at the Magic Lantern, including encores of worldwide shorts and new animated shorts. The first screening is of “Bias” at noon, a documentary about the nature of implicit and unconscious bias that’s developed and how that impacts the world at large. Tickets are $10.

If there’s one film worth taking the kids, it’s “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” at 3:30 p.m., a French-animated film about the life of a little Labrador and the lives she impacts during her journeys. Tickets are $10.


The festival continues throughout the week with screenings each night, including Monday’s range of LGBTQIA+ Shorts at the Magic Lantern at 6 p.m., ending with “Changing the Game,” a documentary detailing transgender athletes across the country as they fight for the right to be treated fairly and equally among competitors. Tickets for “Changing the Game” are $12.


Tuesday’s showing heads out to the Movie and Dinner theater (10893 W. Northern Quest Drive, Airway Heights) at 6:15 p.m. with “Burgers, Fries & Family Ties,” a documentary chronicling the 60-year history of Burgerville, a landmark family-owned restaurant in Polson, Montana, and how it has been passed down through generations. Tickets are $10.


There’s a night of shorts on Wednesday looking at homelessness in the Pacific Northwest at 7:30 p.m. After that, Thursday’s feature documentary at the Magic Lantern is “China Love” at 7:30 p.m. detailing the long and affectionate tradition of pre-wedding photography and how it has ingrained itself in China as being just as important as the wedding and marriage. Tickets are $12.

March 6

SpIFF culminates on March 6 with the Magic Lantern’s screening of “Super Frenchie” at 7:30 p.m. directed by Spokane filmmaker and EWU film professor Chase Ogden. It details the life of Matthias Giraud, a professional skier and BASE jumper as he combines his passions for the greatest sense of adventure. Tickets are $12.

Imagine the documentary “Free Solo” except with skiing and jumping instead of rock climbing. After “Super Frenchie,” join the SpIFF closing party at the Osprey inside the Ruby River Hotel, where the Jury’s Awards for this year’s best films will be announced. Admission is free with any ticket purchased during 2020 SpIFF.

Whether you’ve been to SpIFF every year, or this is your first time, this year’s lineup promises to offer an expanded taste of the world that celebrates local and international filmmakers. It gives local cinephiles a chance to meet with like-minded individuals and discuss the films that make movies so fascinating.

“SpIFF gives everyone an opportunity to gather around our modern-day campfire to hear the stories that we tell about ourselves as human beings and how we relate to the world,” Porter said. “The theme of 2020 vision is not only how we see others, but how we see ourselves. My hope is that these movies enable us to see the best in each other and in ourselves.”

Festival passes are sold out. Go to for a full schedule of films, to purchase tickets to individual films and more.

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