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Thursday, June 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Local directors shine at this fest

Special to The Seattle Times

Smack in the middle of the Seattle International Film Festival comes a weekend of tempting counterprogramming to the SIFF behemoth. The second annual Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) opens tonight and runs through Sunday.

The first STIFF came together fairly quickly last year, presenting about 60 independent works from the Northwest and beyond. It was the brainchild of local filmmakers who decided that more attention should be paid to Seattle directors of ambitious shorts and features

The 2006 edition of STIFF offers 63 films from seven countries. About a quarter of those, says festival director Clint Berquist, are local. Berquist says he and his staff are pleased with this year's crop of movies from the U.S., Canada, Spain, Japan, Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom.

"The quality has gone up considerably," Berquist says.

"We had a year to plan and program, and we had double the number of last year's submissions to choose from."

On the bill are documentaries, narrative features, experimental shorts, comedies, psychological horror and animation. Seattle entries include Todd Pottinger's promising "Big City Dick," a nonfiction look at the public and private life of street musician Richard Peterson; Joe Shapiro's "Anybuddy Home?," in which a man is faced with the challenge of disposing of his friend's body; and Chris Diani's "Creatures from the Pink Lagoon," described as a "campy spoof of classic B horror flicks [in which] libidinous gay men are turned into flesh-eating zombies by toxic mosquitoes."

Also on the schedule are another 10 shorts recently completed under the auspices of STIFF's Weekend Film Challenge. A 48-hour film contest, the Challenge gave a number of production teams two days last month to make six-minute works. Each film had to incorporate randomly selected criteria such as genre, prop, character and punch line.

Now playing

Seattle True Independent Film Festival, tonight-Sunday, three Seattle theaters. For more info on schedules and tickets, go to www.stiff2006.com.

That program will play twice. STIFF takes place at three Seattle venues: the Rendezvous (2322 Second Ave.), Central Cinema (1411 21st Ave.) and the Market Theater (1428 Post Alley). Tickets can be bought at the door or through the festival's Web site (www.stiff2006.com), which also has the full schedule and descriptions of each film.

Highlights include the very funny, mistaken-identity comedy "Available Men," a short by David Dean Bottrell in which a talent agent, scheduled to meet an arrogant screenwriter in a hotel bar, mistakes another man for the screenwriter. The ensuing confusion is inspired farce demonstrating that dialogues about sex and business can easily sound similar.

Locally produced "Wally," a moving documentary by Bob Fink, concerns a middle-age man with a mental disability. Living on a farm, supported by family and neighbors, the affable Wally is under pressure to leave and radically change the only kind of life he has known since childhood.

Hue Wong's crazy, kung-fu claymation piece "Yak Phlem" is an indescribable bout between a one-eyed ninja master and, well, something else. Visual-effects animator Jason Wen ("Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit") delivers the eye-popping "Cherie," about a waitress-cum-painter having a very, very bad hallucination reminiscent of David Cronenberg's "Naked Lunch."

Scott Rosenbaum's arresting "Coda" stars singer Jasin Cadic as a glam rocker who spends his 27th birthday (the magic age for legendary rockers to die) throwing his weight around in his hometown and facing the wrath of a broken-down drunk (the New York Dolls' David Johansen).

Two other features are worth noting:

• Bill Tangeman's manic "Starbucking" is a documentary about a man named Winter on a mission to visit every Starbucks shop in the world. Is he obsessive-compulsive? A narcissist? (A highlight is his summit meeting with a guy attempting to eat at every Denny's.)

• "In Broad Daylight" tells the extraordinary true story of the emotional and physical transition of the film's co-director, Jamie Koufman, a world-renowned doctor, from male to female. Background events, told from the perspective of Koufman's family and colleagues, are remarkable testimony to the tricky business of self-acceptance.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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