The 29 Best Movies To See at SIFF This Week: June 4-10

Sadie, Girls Always Happy, My Name is Myeisha, and More Critics' Picks
June 4, 2018
Check out Girls Always Happy this weekend, a warm, occasionally silly debut feature from writer/director Yang Mingming, who will be in attendance at the screenings.

The Seattle International Film Festival is in its final week, and it's going out with a bang. Below, we've rounded up the movies for the week that our critics think are worth watching, like Peter Medak's The Changeling, Paola Randi's Little Tito and the Aliens, and Gus Krieger's My Name is Myeisha. Follow the links below for showtimes, trailers, and ticket links, and check out our SIFF Guide for the full schedule, including a wacky collection of videos in Found Footage Festival: Cherished Gems, a special Tribute to Ethan Hawke, and the closing night gala presentation of Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot.

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The Bottomless Bag
Rashomon, in which multiple people describe the same violent crime, has become the archetypal simile for people trying to describe the problems of subjective perception in establishing truth. This Russian film adapts the same short story that inspired Kurosawa’s classic, “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, but to a very different end. The variations in the retelling of the murder story become the keys to discerning the different characters’ selves and souls. The relativity of truth and the elasticity of time (especially in pre-Soviet Russia) are understood. It’s everything else that tells the real story. I have no idea if or how this connects to the nature of “the Russians” as we conspicuously fail to understand them today, but I do know the black-and-white cinematography is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and relentlessly allusive (Chekhov, Ophuls, Tarkovsky, and Kurosawa are in the mix), which makes the world feel both bigger and smaller, which is one of cinema’s best tricks. (SEAN NELSON)
AMC Pacific Place

The Empty Hands
This martial-arts drama is told with heart and humor. It is about an entitled slacker who has a strained relationship with her karate coach dad. She blames him for her mom leaving, and she also has lingering resentment about being forced to learn karate as a child (she quit before getting her black belt). She is also mad about growing up in an apartment he made into a dojo, which, after his passing, she plans to convert into multiple living spaces and rake in the cash as a slumlord. Except her dad wills her only 49 percent of it—the other 51 percent is left to an ex-student who seems intent on keeping the dojo open. Their inevitable clash ends in a proposition that forces her to evaluate what’s really important: He’ll give her his share if she can make it through (not necessarily win) a legitimate martial-arts competition. (LEILANI POLK)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

No Bed of Roses
Set in contemporary Bangladesh, this is the story of a man, and a marriage, and a family. Irrfan Khan is wonderful (as always!) as Javed, a well-known film director whose unhappiness and restlessness and weakness tear his family apart when he chooses to be with his daughter’s classmate over his life with his wife and family. His daughter Saberi especially is set adrift as she grapples with her father’s choices and her love for him and her loyalty to her mother. Even though it is based on a real-life scandal, the film is thoughtful and shows the real pain of being human and the consequences of hurting those we love. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

The Return
A pair of Danish-Korean adoptees returns to Seoul in an attempt to find their birth parents. The process hasn’t exactly improved while they’ve been away. Malene Choi Jensen’s empathetic directorial debut successfully resides on the tricky line between documentary and fiction—the filmmaker and the majority of the cast are themselves adoptees—with an eye for the fine details. (The scenes delving into the byzantine method of contacting hospitals for records are authentically maddening.) Both insightful and impressively open-ended, with a superbly awkward/cathartic/awkward centerpiece set around an unfamiliar dinner table. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became president of Liberia in 2006, and thereby the first woman president of Africa, the future looked very promising for the little West African country. Many really thought that she would break with the long and ugly past, end corruption, and make transparent the government’s management of the country’s resources. But that did not happen. Multinational corporations continued to extract wood and minerals with little or no concern about the environment or the law. When the sharp activist Silas Siakor exposed this rampant corruption with a team he trained in the tactics of recording and gathering evidence, Sirleaf’s international reputation took a hit. She began threatening Siakor like a gangster. There was no difference between her and Africa’s notorious Big Men. If you watch this doc, be sure to also watch The African Storm. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

The Changeling
An underrated haunted-house film set in Seattle (though filmed mostly in Vancouver, even then). George C. Scott plays a famous composer (sure, why not?) whose wife and daughter are killed in a horrible accident. He immerses himself in his work, relocating to Seattle, where he rents what can only be called a preposterously massive mansion for one human to occupy. When the house starts groaning, howling, and pounding on its own pipes, his attention is aroused. A bit of research leads him to uncover the kind of long-suppressed shameful tragedy that underlies all gothic horror and nearly all American wealth. Scott is always a pleasure to behold (especially when pretending to be just a normal guy), as are the rare glimpses of pre-boom Seattle (the pencil building downtown was even more conspicuous and lovely 38 years ago), and director Peter Medak, late of The Ruling Class, would go on to make The Krays, Let Him Have It, and other dark gems. SIFF is presenting a restored print of the film, which ought to seal the deal. (SEAN NELSON)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Hagazussa - A Heathen’s Curse
Slow, cruel, and ghoulishly beautiful, Hagazussa chronicles the deterioration of an outcast woman in 15th-century Austria. Shunned single mother Albrun, haunted by her own mother’s death from plague, lives in a mountain hut and farms goats. One day, she lets down her guard to a seemingly kind villager named Swinda, a mistake with catastrophic results. The story is not as dramatically satisfying as The Witch, a comparison that seems inevitable. But first-time director Lukas Feigelfeld’s concept is as scary as anything in the festival: religious persecution spurring its victims to ever-greater masochistic transgressions. (JOULE ZELMAN)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Number One
Emmanuelle Devos plays Emmanuelle Blachey, a powerful woman in the corporate world who is recruited by a French matriarch to run for CEO of a state-owned energy company. Blachey, and the posse of women supporting her, are at the top of their fields, but that doesn’t matter to the men around them—be it fathers, husbands, or colleagues—who treat women as alternately something to look at, something to conquer, or something to use. A film with enough deceit and intrigue to qualify as a light thriller, its essentially feminist message is not lost in the drama—it’s only made stronger. (KATIE HERZOG)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

The Poet and the Boy
It’s a tale as old as time: He is a sensitive poet with a low sperm count, and she is a horny debtor who wants a child. Plans to start a family break down when he falls for a hot teen boy who works at a nearby doughnut shop. Some beauty gets lost in translation here, but otherwise the film is aesthetically gorgeous without being cloying, the story is brutal without being melodramatic, and the script is surprisingly full of great lowbrow jokes. Best of all, the movie accurately portrays the process of poem-making: lots of scenes of the poet taking long walks and scraping the world for language, very few of him sitting down in a beam of light and taking dictation from the muse. (RICH SMITH)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Naples in Veils
To the fortysomething Seattle housewives holding a glass of wine right now while reading this: This film is for you, and, yes, grab your Hitachi. When Adriana meets Andrea at an occult Neapolitan ceremony at her aunt’s house, it seems like lust at first sight—that is, until Andrea turns up eyeless and dead on Adriana’s autopsy table the next day. In an aggressively sensual mix of murder, sex, and mystery, this film is an enthralling story of violence that masks itself with the exquisite. Nipples—I mean, Naples—may be in veils, but the veils can always be torn off. (SOPHIA STEPHENS)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Here you are, just trying to be a cute singer-songwriter and, you know, work on your music and hang out with your artistic bearded boyfriend, when Hurricane Mom shows up with her drinking problems and gambling troubles and mental-health issues and messes everything up. Your anxiety goes through the roof and triggers all your self-doubt and your body issues and you’re done. This is a story about one of the most important human relationships, that between mother and daughter. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
AMC Pacific Place

The Charmer
This film, which is perfect until its final 15 minutes, is about a youngish Iranian man in Copenhagen who is trying to fuck his way to Danish citizenship. He is good-looking. His eyes are large and intelligent. His body is not too fit and not too flabby—in other words, it’s just right. The women love him, and it seems finding a match should not be a problem. But he doesn’t have much time—he needs a woman to be fucked so blissfully that she cannot say no to being his wife right quick. And the one Danish woman who is fucked in such a way, who will do anything for him, turns out to be married. He does not have enough time for her to get divorced and legally attached to him. She loses him and her mind. Another woman loses her mind during his desperate mission. She is also young and Iranian, and has citizenship. She falls in love with him. It’s a match made in heaven. But he has a secret, which turns out to ruin the end of this otherwise brilliant film. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

“Contrary to popular opinion, most homosexuals don’t look any different from anyone else.” Thus begins this hour-long montage of queer news, cinema, and culture over the past 100 years. Beginning with 1919’s Different from the Others and moving through newsreels about underground gay communities, queer liberation, the AIDS crisis, the fight for marriage equality, trans rights, and more, the archival footage spans the evolution of queerness as a perversion—something secret, taboo, criminal—to something as ordinary as Seattle rain. Set to music by John Grant and Hercules & Love Affair, the film isn’t narrated so much as it is sung. Catch it if you like extended music videos—if not, skip it and head to the gay bar instead. (KATIE HERZOG)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

The latest from local filmmaker Megan Griffiths (Lucky Them, Eden) has a perfect Northwest feel. Sadie is 13 and lives with her mother in a dilapidated trailer park. Sadie worships her absent father, while being impossible with her harried mother. She is smart and precocious, trying to come to an understanding of how the world works, but the adults around her have their own problems. The film shows the way adults communicate with kids, never talking to them directly, trying to fool the kid and themselves. This leaves young people with half-ass ideas, and they run with them without really understanding the situation, with mixed results. The film has a great cast: The wonderful Melanie Lynskey plays the mom, with Sophia Mitri Schloss (from last year’s SIFF favorite Lane 1974) as Sadie. Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black), John Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12), and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) ably round things out. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

When her mother, a well-known TV meteorologist, publicly converts to Islam, 17-year-old Summer’s life is thrown into chaos in ways both superficial and profound. This film’s budgetary restrictions soon become invisible thanks to especially strong performances by Zoe Renee and Simone Missick (whom you may recognize from the Luke Cage series), whose mother-daughter dynamic feels rich, complex, and lived-in—their love is a given, but they’re both going through a chrysalis process that makes the other fear that she might not be as necessary as she used to be. The supporting cast is equally strong, making the film’s tumultuous world a pleasure to inhabit. (SEAN NELSON)
AMC Pacific Place

Virus Tropical
Richly detailed black-and-white animation brings Paola Gaviria’s graphic memoir to entertaining, if somewhat solipsistic, life. In 1976, Paola’s self-proclaimed psychic mother, who had her tubes tied, is shocked to find that she’s pregnant. “Must be a tropical virus,” quips her doctor. Santiago Caicedo’s adaptation captures the ups and downs of Paola’s childhood: adventures with Catholicism, sweet and sour times with her sisters, and a transformational move from Ecuador to Colombia where she finds her calling as an artist. It’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl by way of Persepolis set to a Latin American beat. (KATHY FENNESSY)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Little Tito and the Aliens
When 7-year-old Tito arrives on his uncle’s dusty doorstep with his older sister, Anita, the two quickly begin two galactic undertakings: learning to love a man they do not know and figuring out his secret, which has something to do with napping on a battered couch in the Nevada desert to “listen to the universe.” With a pleasant pace and affable charm, the film’s plot points are met with a stunning array of visual textures and richly layered effects that weave a surreal, disembodied, and otherworldly story that takes off into the infinite, and you with it. (SOPHIA STEPHENS)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Living in rural Peru, 14-year-old Segundo helps his father in his workshop making beautiful retablos, painted box altars with dioramas inside. His kind, encouraging father wants to train him as his apprentice so he will become an artisan and not have to do manual labor like the other boys. As he travels outside their community to deliver the artworks, he is exposed to the world of men and its complications: violence, sex, secrets, alcohol. It’s a wonderful look into life in the Andes, where they still speak their indigenous language and observe the old customs, but also a brutal view of how closed-minded traditional communities can be. (Warning: Includes a strong theme of homophobia.) (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
AMC Pacific Place

Good Manners
A black woman, Clara, becomes a domestic servant to an upper-class pregnant white woman. Their formal relationship turns deeply weird when Clara discovers her boss’s grotesque nocturnal habits. At first satirizing the exploitation of the working class, the Brazilian Good Manners segues elegantly into romance and then supernatural horror—and that’s just in the first hour. At that point, the script abruptly abandons its most fascinating, queerest themes to chase a less unique plot thread. Luckily, Isabél Zuaa as Clara is so subtle and intense that you never want her to leave the screen. (JOULE ZELMAN)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Naila and the Uprising
By focusing on Naila Ayesh, documentarian Julia Bacha captures the Palestinian struggle from a distinctly feminist perspective. Naila grew up in the West Bank under Israeli occupation (lyrical animation stands in for incidents for which Bacha lacked primary source material). When the military demolished her home in 1969, a resistance fighter emerged. In college, she met activist Jamal Zakout, who became her husband. While starting a family, they fought in the First Intifada and suffered harsh reprisals. Even after the authorities deported men by the thousands, she kept going, encouraging female self-reliance in every way. She is a truly inspirational figure. (KATHY FENNESSY)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda
Sober and somber like its subject, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda portrays the keyboardist for Yellow Magic Orchestra (Japan’s Kraftwerk) and renowned film composer’s solitary, workaholic life following his throat-cancer diagnosis and the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami. The latter disaster catalyzed Sakamoto into activism, and one of Coda’s most interesting bits shows him playing a water-damaged piano. “Pianos don’t go out of tune,” he says. “Matter is struggling to return to a natural state. The tsunami piano returned to nature actually sounds good to me now.” Such philosophical insights as well as footage of Sakamoto’s far-flung field-recording trips, his love for Andrei Tarkovsky’s work, and him scoring films for impulsive directors reveal an ingenious musician still questing for new ideas. (DAVE SEGAL)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Girls Always Happy
An adrift screenwriter (director/writer/editor/star Yang Mingming) and her mother share an exceedingly cramped house in Beijing. The sounds of their bickering can be heard from space. This sneakily insightful drama features a terrifically lived-in chemistry between the leads, especially when they’re trying to make nice in order to pave the way for a potential inheritance. Warm, occasionally silly (the director has a wonderfully loose-limbed screen presence), and blessedly saccharine-free throughout, with a final shot that feels like it could and should just keep on going. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

My Name is Myeisha
The real-life story this film (adapted from a play) is based on might be two decades old, but it’s relevant enough to feel ripped from modern headlines: A young black woman goes out with friends, they get a flat tire, she stays in the locked car and falls asleep with a gun in her lap while waiting on a mechanic, and when her friends can’t wake her up, they call the cops for help, which ultimately ends in her death—in 12 shots. The film’s experimental production style, nonlinear storytelling, and direct-to-camera monologues can be dizzying and exhausting, but its way of using spoken word, rap, beatboxing, hiphop dance, and music to paint a vivid and intimate portrait of Myeisha beyond her last 24 hours—shedding light on her dreams, interests, opinions, memories, and overall personality—feels fresh and lively, revealing who she was and, more tragically, who she could have been. (LEILANI POLK)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

I occasionally try to finish puzzles on the ferry to Orcas Island, but I never knew there was a world of competitive puzzling. Marc Turtletaub (producer of Little Miss Sunshine, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Loving) wonderfully directs this sweet journey of a woman who discovers her uncanny knack for puzzles and has an awakening to pursue a more extraordinary life beyond the confines of her ordinary family. Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire, Trainspotting) is pitch-perfect as Agnes, and Bollywood star Irrfan Khan makes a great puzzle partner and protagonist to open Agnes’s mind and heart to explore her dreams and desires. Midlife crisis stories have so rarely focused on a woman character, and Macdonald refreshingly illuminates Agnes’s spirit as she discovers how to live, love, and make her own path for the future. (CARL SPENCE)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

Rush Hour
A documentary about everyone’s least favorite thing: commuting to work. The film follows three individuals in Istanbul, Los Angeles, and Mexico City as they make their mind-numbing way to their respective daily grinds. Each person says they’re commuting long hours, or sometimes putting themselves in dangerous situations, out of necessity and not by choice. They must provide for their loved ones, afford a house in the suburbs, make ends meet. But what are we sacrificing as we spend our lives in between here and there? This is the madness of the Anthropocene. (KAIA CHESSEN)
AMC Pacific Place

This One's For The Ladies
The New Jersey Nasty Boyz, a group of black “dom” dancers founded by twins Tyga and Raw Dawg, make a lot of women horny at the Dojo, a karate studio by day and a male strip club by night. But director Gene Graham’s documentary isn’t for the Boyz, it’s for the ladies who have been coming together and throwing dollars at the boys’ penises for years. (Heads-up: The documentary shows lots of big hard naked dicks.) There are so many ways these stories could have been mishandled or misrepresented, and yet the cast is treated with dignity and humor. It’s funny. It’s hot. And many of the interviews are so compassionate and complex, they could easily be iconic if the documentary gets a large enough audience. It feels like the Paris Is Burning of underground male strippers in New Jersey, and it’s astonishing how much humanity can come out of a little dick dancing. (CHASE BURNS)
SIFF Cinema Uptown

A Skin So Soft
Not much happens in this documentary essay by Quebecois filmmaker Denis Côte. The dialogue is sparse—there’s more heavy breathing than words—and the action is small, especially considering the characters’ physical size. The film portrays six bodybuilders in Canada as they go about their daily lives: waking up, eating breakfast, caring for children, brushing their teeth, taking selfies, and, of course, picking up heavy things and then putting them back down. These men are massive, with muscles built and maintained through hard work and protein powder, and their brute size belies their sometimes sensitive inner lives. In one scene, you see a colossal tattooed muscle man eating his breakfast and quietly crying at something playing on his laptop. What inspired this emotion, we don’t know, but that hardly matters: the tears of a giant, wiping his eyes before he heads out the gym, are deeply, strangely fascinating, as is this whole quiet film. (KATIE HERZOG)
SIFF Film Center

Eighth Grade
The best way to understand and experience eighth grade for today’s 13-year-olds, along with all of its joys and terrors, is to watch this charming film. Eighth Grade made me remember those days when wanting to be popular or cool or merely accepted felt more important than any of the life-and-death tragedies of the world that were happening around me. Elsie Fisher as Kayla is destined to be a new star with her performance as a sweet, vulnerable, and outcast YouTube personality with no followers who is mostly ignored by her peers. All Kayla wants is to be the coolest girl in the world, and what she doesn’t realize is that she already is (and will someday find this out)! (CARL SPENCE)
SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Half Widow
Being widowed is hard enough. But imagine if your husband disappeared and not knowing if he is alive or dead, or whether he will ever return. In the Muslim community of Kashmir, Neela and Khalid have a loving relationship, despite having met only once before their wedding. After her husband is taken away during the 1999 conflicts, Neela is left with no answers and the police won’t help: “I am in search of someone whom they say never went missing.” She can’t move on. And not to sound cold-hearted, but the story does drag a bit as Neela wanders around looking sad. But Half Widow is beautifully filmed and the story has an emotional resonance. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
AMC Pacific Place