Today I went to my first press screening (ever) for the Seattle International Film Festival. This is where the press, people who shell out tons of money on movie passes, and movie staff, who don’t shell out lots of money on movie passes (because, hey, we work at movie theaters) get to see films picked for the Seattle International Film Festival before they play the festival. For the past two weeks now, Monday through Thursday, the Uptown Theater has shown films at 10 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm. You can stay for all three press screenings, but I had time I’d rather waste at home, and so only went to the first showing at 10 am. Directed by Seattle’s own Megan Griffiths, the film was called Eden, and is based on a real incident that happened to Chong Kim, who was kidnapped as a teenager and forced into sexual slavery. After reading about the Seattle film scene in the latest City Arts magazine, I was hoping to have a chance to talk to Griffiths at the screening (the notice I read said she would attend). While I’m sure she was there, the notice did not say where she was sitting. For all I know, she could have been the one who introduced the film, though I believe that person works in the SIFF offices.
Anyway, Eden is a solid, well-made film, and while the screenplay is by Griffiths and Rick Phillips, Jr., the story is by Chong Kim herself. Considering how professional and well-crafted the film is speaks well for Griffiths’s future, as this is only her second feature-length film (I missed her first film, The Off Hours, when it played at SIFF last year). To quote Benjamin Kasulke, the cinematographer on The Off Hours, in that same City Arts article, “Eden is a movie-movie. It doesn’t show the edges of its indie-ness.” The plot misses most clichés, the acting is strong, the dialog is mostly good, and the film makes the audience feel for these characters and their situations.
If I have a caveat, it involves a lack of underlying tension throughout. Sure, some scenes were tense, such as when Vaughan (Matt O’Leary) asks Eden (Jamie Chung) to shoot one of the girls to prove her loyalty to him, but the film only occasionally highlights the danger that danger she, and all the other girls, are in. This kind of plot should allow the audience to breathe, but I felt it let us breathe too much. Only in dealing with the abduction itself is the tension there. Would that it had kept that tension up throughout the film (Note: as I didn’t have my notepad with me, I don’t know what Eden’s name was before she was given the name “Eden,” and an Internet search has turned up nothing).
And now for something (not) completely different….
This year is the first year I will be working at the festival, having accepting a job as floor staff for SIFF Cinema at the beginning of 2012. This is both good and bad: good, because I can go see any regularly priced film without having to cash in vouchers for it ahead of time (see my badge photo at the top of this post); bad, because my work hours won’t be as flexible as they would have been had I been volunteering.
Also, since I rather tired myself out trying to finish up blog entries about last year’s festival, and as that isn’t conducive to anyone, I will only be focusing on the truly great films on my blog this year, and leave the film-by-film account for Twitter, which is on the sidebar (you can follow me here).
SIFF 2012 runs from May 17-June 10. Click here for information on the movies playing this year.