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A film a day: Top picks for SIFF

A cake with movie characters exploding from the top among golden rays sits on top of a person's neck. The cake reads "SIFFTY years of surprising cinema"
The Seattle International Film Festival, taking place May 9-19 this year, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The nonprofit also operates four local cinemas year-round.

The 50th Seattle International Film Festival kicks off this week with screenings of films made near and far in a variety of venues across the city. For Seattle movie lovers, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year. But what should you make sure to see?

Whether you’re wanting to take in a playful action romp, a riveting family drama, a stunning work of independent horror, or some great locally-made works, here is one recommendation for each day of the in-person fest.


June Squibb and Fred Hechinger in Thelma.
June Squibb and Fred Hechinger in Thelma.

The opening night film of the festival is one that gives cinema icon June Squibb, who will be receiving this year’s Golden Space Needle Award, her own action adventure. Playing the titular Thelma, a 93-year-old woman who is scammed out of a chunk of change and takes matters into her own hands, it’s her long-overdue first leading role. Alongside the late great Richard Roundtree, who plays her partner in justice, she will set out to steal her money back just as she steals our hearts. Best hop on to your scooter as this is the most fun way to kick off the festival.

Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre

I Saw the TV Glow

I Saw the TV Glow from writer-director Jane Schoenbrun.

Come out for this late Friday screening to have your mind melted and your soul nourished with writer-director Jane Schoenbrun’s spectacular I Saw the TV Glow. It’s a horror film unlike any other that centers on two teenage friends who become enamored with a fictional Buffy-esque show called The Pink Opaque that is suddenly canceled. Left adrift in the aftermath, the film becomes an allegory about culture, identity, and finding your place in a chaotic world. The journey that Schoenbrun takes us on, which they’ve explicitly said is a trans allegory, is an absolute gift of cinema. You’ll wish you could bottle up the feeling of it. Hopefully each festival going forward has an artistic work as bold and beautiful as this.

Friday, May 10 at 9:15 p.m. at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Janet Planet

Janet Planet is a coming-of-age story from writer-director Annie Baker.

Oh to grow up and see our parents are themselves complicated people who are also just trying to figure out this crazy thing we call life. In writer-director Annie Baker’s first film we witness this experience in intimate detail that feels as vast as the universe in its impact. A film about a mother and her daughter as they spend their days drifting through life, it’s a gentle work that isn’t afraid to embrace quiet moments of humor just as it tears your heart out. Though it takes place over one solitary summer, it becomes something timeless. Even as cinema has been home to many coming-of-age stories, only a precious few could hope to be as wonderful as this.

Saturday, May 11 at 4:45 p.m. at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Good One

Metrograph Pictures
Actor Lily Colias as Sam in Good One.

A film that is not just a good one but a great one, it’s a true discovery in every sense of the word. Both writer-director India Donaldson and breakout performer Lily Colias have come together to make something really special that feels like it is operating in the vein of the work of someone like the great Kelly Reichardt while remaining wholly original. Following the young Sam (Colias) as she goes on a camping trip with her father and his friend, it’s understated yet enthralling. With every step that the characters take, Donaldson teases out the growing insecurities and resentments of the men in painful detail. This builds to something unexpected yet chilling, cementing it as one of the most genuinely incisive portraits of growing up you’ll see all year.

Sunday, May 12 at 11:00 a.m. at AMC Pacific Place

Rainier: A Beer Odyssey

Mickey Rooney in Rainier: A Beer Odyssey.

If you’ve ever had a Rainier in your life, you’re going to want to see Rainier: A Beer Odyssey. If you’ve seen a Rainier in your life, you’re going to see this movie. If you’ve ever thought about Rainier, you’re going to want to see this movie. Both a comprehensive documentary about one of the most memorable advertising campaigns ever made as well as a recounting of the decisions that led to it coming to a close, it’s a chapter of Pacific Northwest history told with charm and care. To be honest, even if you’ve somehow never even heard of Rainier and have been living under a rock, this is about as perfect an introduction as you could hope to get.

Monday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian


Game Theory Films
A scene from Seagrass.

This one is for the children of divorce who were ever taken on a trip and told it would fix things only for it to do anything but. Accompanying a family as they travel to a remote island for the parents to do couples counseling, it is part ghost story, part grounded drama, and completely crushing in the best way. Starring former Seattleite Ally Maki, who gives a potent performance as a matriarch trying to hold her family together while facing her past, it’s the type of experience that thrives in the specific details, drawing you in deeper and deeper until you feel like you’re about to fall headfirst into its world. It’s a terrifying plunge, but an enduringly truthful one.

Tuesday, May 14 at 2:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown  


The wooden mannequin of Oddity proves to be no Pinocchio.

Have you ever seen the classic Pinocchio and wanted to see a movie about another lifelike wooden person though one whose face was also etched in a permanent scream? Well, you should probably talk to someone about that desire after you see this confined and creepy horror film. Set in rural Ireland where a woman is mourning the loss of her twin sister who was recently killed under mysterious circumstances, it drops you right into the terrors and doesn't let up as she tries to get to the truth of what really happened that night. Taking place primarily in a single house, it ratchets up a suffocating sense of dread with every twist and turn pulling you deeper into the darkness. When the bottom then drops out in a cathartic climax, it’s one final frightening moment of freefall that will be a real treat for all you fellow horror freaks looking to get scared.

Wednesday, May 15 at 1:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Sound Visions (Local shorts)

A scene from Dream Creep, one of the local short films playing at SIFF.

One would be remiss not to highlight the great local shorts that you can see at the festival. Whether you're looking for a truly Tacoma film about a boxer in Donut Boy, a delightful nightmare of a horror film in Dream Creep, a supernatural social media chiller with The Influencer, or the more ephemeral vision of I Think I'd Like to Stay, there's all that and so much more. While features get a lot of love, don’t sleep on this block as you can find some real gems.

Thursday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Sono Lino

Lino Tagliapietra in Sono Lino.

Glass art is a fundamental part of the Pacific Northwest and, if you haven’t already, you're going to want to get to know Lino Tagliapietra. This documentary is as much a profile of an artist as it is a reflection on when it is time to hang it up and what we leave behind once we do. Not only do we get to see the beauty of the process, but this is a film that takes us behind the scenes into the life of one of the form's greatest living artisans. Just as we get to take in local sights on the way, we come to fully know a man who just loves to create.

Friday, May 17 at 4 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown

Sing Sing

Colman Domingo in Sing Sing.

The closing night film this year is an empathetic and thoughtful drama about a group of men who put on plays in the prison where they are incarcerated. It provides both a sense of community and a creative outlet for them in a confined world where that is in painfully short supply. Though led by the always great Colman Domingo, the film’s cast is also made up of actual men from the real-life program with Clarence Maclin giving a dynamic debut performance where he plays a fictionalized version of himself. It’s the type of film that doesn’t shy away from the pain the men endure in the prison just to tell a “feel-good story.” Every emotional moment, be they tragic or transcendent, is completely earned. It’s a reflective drama about the many limitations that are imposed on the men, which they and the film break free of in triumphant fashion.

Saturday, May 18 at 6 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Downtown

All We Carry

Mirna and Magdiel in the documentary All We Carry.

Last but not least is an essential documentary about the modern asylum system in America that is seen through the eyes of those navigating the challenging and winding process. While not entirely alone as they are given sanctuary in a Seattle synagogue, Magdiel and Mirna must face down a bureaucracy that goes from holding them in detention to demanding they discuss the worst parts of their lives to prove they should stay rather than being sent back to Honduras. As they raise their young son and try to build a life, the possibility that it could be upended at any moment looms large. Director Cady Voge shows the necessary amount of care to the family while also remaining unflinching in showing how draining this journey can be for them. In every thoughtful choice of how this documentary is framed, a portrait of their reality comes into focus.

Sunday, May 19 at 2:30 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Uptown

What did we miss?

Let us know about your top picks for SIFF 2024 by emailing

Chase Hutchinson is a freelance journalist and critic covering all things film from the vast world of horror cinema that continues to unsettle us to works of smaller independent cinema that challenge the art form itself. His work has appeared in outlets including The Boston Globe, The Inlander, The Seattle Times and The Stranger.