This week brings virtual editions of the annual Seattle Asian American Film Festival (which also features a drive-in event!), the Nordic Lights Film Festival, and the Seattle Jewish Film Festival, along with the last days of HUMP! and Tacoma's Destiny City Film Festival. On top of that, you've got a slew of new options streaming through local theaters and nationwide platforms, like The People vs. Agent Orange via Grand Cinema and Ammonite on Hulu. Read on for those and more of our latest picks, including in-person screenings at the newly reopened Ark Lodge and other local theaters. Plus, don't forget that this Friday is the last day to submit a film to the stoner-centric SPLIFF!
Newly Streaming: Local Connection
Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman
If you're an interior design nerd looking to expand your knowledge of early American furniture, this documentary about the designer and architect Gustav Stuckley, a pioneer of the American Arts and Crafts movement, was made specifically for you.
The People vs. Agent Orange
This new documentary shows how the United States military's widespread chemical warfare in Vietnam left subsequent generations with ongoing, severe health problems. It highlights the work of Tran To Nga, a French-Vietnamese journalist who has sued 14 companies that produced and sold the potent defoliant dioxin used against her and others in Vietnam. Tran is seeking damages, and a legal victory would be a first as there has been no compensation provided to a Vietnamese victim since the war. There is also a group of people closer to home in the Pacific Northwest fighting their own battle. Carol Van Strum has worked for decades to expose the dangers of chemicals like Agent Orange, which the US continued to use despite the detriment it caused to people's health. Van Strum was also one of the leading forces behind the Poison Papers, an online archive of records that drew city attorneys' attention from Portland to Seattle. The People vs. Agent Orange directors Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson are longtime collaborators who worked on this documentary together. They pursued this story after seeing the damage these chemicals could have on people in photographs and began digging into the history of the ongoing crisis. CHASE HUTCHINSON
Jessie Barr's directorial debut—executive produced by Nicole Holofcener (Lovely and Amazing, Walking and Talking, other movies starring Katherine Keener)—follows a 16-year-old as she wades through a troubled teenhood colored by her mother's death.
Filmed in Istanbul and across Turkey from 2017 to 2019, Stray follows three dogs—Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal—as they roam around with seemingly no care in the world. The country is unique; after citizens pushed back against attempts to remove the country's animal population, it is now illegal to euthanize or hold any stray dog captive. This leaves countless dogs to live free and make Istanbul their own. Stray initially made me think of the 2018 dog-centric documentary Los Reyes, which attempted to pull off a similar concept. It almost entirely focused on the dogs, with occasional conversations happening off-screen in audio form only. That doc reduced the people of the place itself to background noise. Thankfully, that is not the case in Stray. Instead, director Elizabeth Lo uses the dogs and their view of the world as an entry point to see Istanbul's people. Culture and community are ever-present even as the documentary approaches its peoples' stories subtly. CHASE HUTCHINSON
Grand Illusion & Grand Cinema
Un Film Dramatique
Filmed over the course of four years, this film follows the first class of a newly built middle school on the outskirts of Paris.
Northwest Film Forum
Women's Adventure Film Tour 2021
Kicking off on International Women's Day, this program features seven short documentary films about women in extreme sports.
2021 HUMP! Film Festival
Every year, The Stranger puts out the call to sex-havers everywhere to submit a homegrown amateur porn film depicting whatever they're into (barring poop, kids, and animals, of course). The result is an incredibly diverse representation of human sexuality in all its straight, gay, trans, queer, kinky, funny, pissy, painful, and pretty forms. Let's see what wild spins people put on their submissions that were created during the lockdown, shall we?
9th Annual Seattle Asian American Film Festival
Films by and about Asian Americans are showcased at this annual festival, which always includes diverse features and short films about the rich and varied experiences of these populations, particularly in Seattle and the Northwest. This year's festival will include nine feature films screened virtually, as well as the drive-in premiere of martial arts action-comedy The Paper Tigers at the Burien Drive-In on Saturday. (Update: that screening is sold out.)
Northwest Film Forum
Destiny City Film Festival
Spare yourself the I5 traffic and take a virtual journey to Tacoma for the eighth annual Destiny City Film Festival, boasting an on-demand program of short and feature-length independent films from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Nordic Lights Film Festival
This annual film festival, supported by the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY), celebrates the richness of Nordic culture, featuring films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and even the Faroe Islands. This year's virtual program includes 10 features (like Dag Johan Haugerud's Beware of Children, about the dramatic aftermath of a tragic event in a middle-class suburb of Oslo, and Antti J. Jokinen's Helene, a biopic of the 20th-century Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck) and a smattering of short blocks.
Seattle Jewish Film Festival
This annual film festival, which is already primed in the art of virtual programming thanks to last year's event also getting canceled due to COVID, explores and celebrates global Jewish and Israeli life, history, complexity, culture, and filmmaking. It showcases international, independent, and award-winning Jewish-themed and Israeli cinema, and the audience votes on their favorites. This year's festival kicks off on a lighthearted note with the documentary Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me, featuring a post-screening appearance from the comedian Howel Mandel himself.
Newly Streaming: Nationwide
Brimming with the soothing ASMR you'd expect from a film set on a southern coast in the 1800s (think Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but in England), Francis Lee's latest film follows the love affair between a poor and brilliant fossil hunter (Kate Winslet) and a wealthy visitor's wife (Saoirse Ronan).
COVID Diaries NYC
NYC film students capture their experiences of the pandemic in the big city in these short films, presented in 40-minute stand-alone episodes.
Critics' Choice Awards
Actor Taye Diggs will host this COVID-modified version of yet another awards show that honors the best in film and TV. Many of the nominees already won awards at last weekend's Golden Globes, like Judas and the Black Messiah and Small Axe, so tune in tonight if you missed out on that one, or if you just really love acceptance speeches.
'Le Franc' and 'The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun'
While he only made two feature films, Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty is remembered as a giant of African cinema. These short films, the first two installments of what was meant to be a trilogy, were his final projects before his death in 1998.
A defense attorney (Jodie Foster, who won a Golden Globe for her role), her associate, and a military prosecutor uncover a far-reaching conspiracy while investigating the case of a suspected 9/11 terrorist imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for six years.
Murder Among the Mormons
In this limited docuseries, a string of deadly pipe bombings in 1985 Salt Lake City are traced back to a conspiracy involving rare documents that challenge Mormon orthodoxy.
Raya and the Last Dragon
A teenage heroine embarks on an odyssey across Asia to restore a magical stone that, as magical stones are wont to do, has the power to reunite a fractured kingdom and save the world from ruin.
Disney+ (also playing at various theaters; see details here)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
Some of us were wee children when the first SpongeBob SquarePants movie was released 17 years ago, but, as the old proverb goes, once a square pant, always a square pant. With that truism in mind, adults and children alike will be happy to know that Nickelodeon's long-delayed follow-up feature is here, featuring Keanu Reeves as the gnomic, wisdom-spouting tumbleweed spirit that he is.
Paramount+ and VOD
NEW THIS WEEK
AMC theaters and Cinemark Lincoln Square - Bellevue (starting Friday)
Various theaters (starting Friday)
Raya and the Last Dragon
Various theaters (staring Friday; also streaming on Disney+)
Dara from Jasenovac
AMC Pacific Place 11
Ark Lodge (starting Friday) and AMC
Tom and Jerry
Various theaters (also streaming on HBO Max)
A Writer's Odyssey
Pacific Place 11 & Cinemark Lincoln Square - Bellevue