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Originally published May 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 22, 2008 at 9:07 PM

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Do it yourself: SIFF 2008

And so it begins: The Seattle International Film Festival, starting Thursday and continuing through June 15 with hundreds of movies, even...

Seattle Times movie critic

Festival preview

Seattle International Film Festival

Thursday-June 15, Pacific Place, Uptown, Egyptian, SIFF Cinema, Harvard Exit and other venues. Main box office: Pacific Place, Sixth Avenue and Pine Street, second level; open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, noon- 6 p.m. Sundays and Memorial Day. Info: 206-324-9996 or www.siff.net.

And so it begins: The Seattle International Film Festival, starting Thursday and continuing through June 15 with hundreds of movies, even more hundreds of lines and countless thousands of kernels of popcorn. For the casual SIFF-goer, the question is this: How do I choose, from the aforementioned hundreds, what to see?

You can browse www.siff.net, or The Seattle Times SIFF Guide (available at numerous locations, including all SIFF venues and local libraries), and find some movies already in convenient packages that may coincide with your interests: Films4Families, Midnight Adrenaline, Alternate Cinema, Face the Music, Planet Cinema (environmental films), Emerging Masters, Northwest Connections or archival presentations. But here, mostly sight unseen, are a few other mini-festivals you can craft yourself:

Where the stars are

Big-name movie stars drop by SIFF in person occasionally, but you can regularly see them on the big screen during the festival, in movies like this:

"August," the story of a dot-com entrepreneur facing his industry's downturn, starring Josh Hartnett and David Bowie. (9:15 p.m. May 29, Uptown; 9:30 p.m. June 2, Pacific Place)

"Battle in Seattle," a drama set during the WTO protests of 1999. It's the opening-night film, so you might even see some movie stars in person: Charlize Theron is scheduled to attend, along with director/writer Stuart Townsend and co-star Martin Henderson. (7 p.m. Thursday, McCaw Hall)

"Camille," a dark love story starring Sienna Miller and James Franco. (9:30 p.m. May 25, Uptown; 4 p.m. May 28, Uptown)

"Elegy," Sir Ben Kingsley will be on hand to introduce his newest film, a drama about a womanizing college professor co-starring Penélope Cruz and Dennis Hopper. (2 p.m. May 25, Egyptian)

"The Great Buck Howard," a showbiz comedy with Colin Hanks, his dad Tom Hanks, John Malkovich and the always wonderful Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada"). (7 p.m. June 6, Egyptian; 11 a.m. June 8, Egyptian)

"Savage Grace," starring Julianne Moore in a based-on-a-true-story crime drama about a society murder. (9:30 p.m. May 30, Egyptian; 1:30 p.m. June 1, Pacific Place)

"When Did You Last See Your Father?" with Colin Firth and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent ("Iris") as a son and father coming to terms with their relationship. (6:30 p.m. June 7, Egyptian; 4 p.m. June 8, Egyptian)

Is that you, Mathieu?

The French actor Mathieu Amalric should be a household name — and, when he turns up in the new James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" this fall, probably will be. For now, he's the guy who should have won an Oscar for last year's most remarkable performance: as a paralyzed man who can communicate only with one eye's blinking in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Catch him on-screen at SIFF in three new French movies: as a corporate psychologist in "Heartbeat Detector" (10 p.m. Saturday, Pacific Place; 1 p.m. May 26, Pacific Place); alongside Gérard Depardieu in the drama "Michou d'Auber" (4 p.m. May 27, Uptown; 6:30 p.m. May 28, Uptown); and in the post-World War II drama "A Secret," a prizewinner at the 2007 Montreal Film Festival (4 p.m. June 5, Uptown; 9 p.m. June 7, Egyptian).

Ready for our close-up

Support your local filmmaker and check out the following features, all shot right here in the Northwest:

"Butterfly Dreaming," a psychological thriller about a widower's growing madness, directed by Rufus Williams. (9:15 p.m. May 29, Harvard Exit; 11 a.m. May 31, Harvard Exit)

"The Dark Horse," a drama about a ballet teacher returning to her childhood home on Orcas Island, directed by Cornelia Duryé Moore. (6:30 p.m. June 4, SIFF Cinema; 1:30 p.m. June 7, SIFF Cinema)

"My Effortless Brilliance," about a pair of old friends spending a weekend in a Western Washington cabin. Local director Lynn Shelton's follow-up to "We Go Way Back," a prizewinner at Slamdance two years ago. (9:30 p.m. Saturday, Egyptian; 4 p.m. May 26, Egyptian)

"Sweet Thing," Joe Lia's tale of a pair of young women who find friendship during an aimless summer. (9 p.m. June 7, Harvard Exit; 4:30 p.m. June 9, Harvard Exit)

"Visioneers," Jared Drake's corporate satire starring Zach Galifianakis and Judy Greer. (9:30 p.m. June 12, Egyptian; 4 p.m. June 14, Egyptian)

Haven't we seen you before?

Some favorite filmmakers whose work has been showcased at SIFF in the past include:

• Festival co-founder Dan Ireland ("The Whole Wide World," "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont") returns with the world premiere of his new film "Jolene," based on an E.L. Doctorow story about a young woman's journey across America. (9:30 p.m. June 13, Cinerama; 2:30 p.m. June 14, Cinerama)

• The great German filmmaker Werner Herzog is regularly represented at SIFF, in recent years as a director ("Grizzly Man," "Rescue Dawn"), actor ("Incident at Loch Ness") and inspiration ("Walking to Werner"). This year, he's represented with his latest documentary, "Encounters at the End of the World," turning his unique eye to a research community in Antarctica. (7 p.m. May 31, Uptown; 4:30 p.m. June 4, Egyptian)

• French master of suspense Claude Chabrol, whose "Merci pour le chocolat" was at SIFF a few years back, has a new thriller at the festival this year: "A Girl Cut in Two," in which a TV weather reporter (Ludivine Sagnier) juggles two wealthy lovers. (9:30 p.m. June 6, Uptown; 1:30 p.m. June 8, Uptown)

• Catherine Breillat, whose "Sex Is Comedy" and "Anatomy of Hell" have been featured at the festival, goes 19th century with the costume drama "The Last Mistress," starring Asia Argento. (9:30 p.m. Friday, Egyptian; 4 p.m. May 25, Uptown)

And the winner is ...

Some films arrive at SIFF already honored with awards from other festivals worldwide, such as:

• "Frozen River," Courtney Hunt's drama about two women who become unlikely partners in a dangerous moneymaking scheme, won the grand jury prize for drama at this year's Sundance Film Festival. (7 p.m. June 12, Pacific Place; 4:30 p.m. June 14, Uptown)

• Winner of 10 Donatello Awards (the Italian equivalent of the Oscars), including Best Picture, Andrea Molaioli's "The Girl by the Lake" is a thriller about a murder in an idyllic town. (9:30 p.m. June 11, Uptown; 7:15 p.m. June 14, Uptown)

• "Katyn," Andrzej Wajda's Polish drama about a 50-year cover-up of World War II crimes, was one of five foreign-language Oscar nominees this year. (7 p.m. May 28, Egyptian; 1:30 p.m. May 31, Egyptian)

• "American Teen," a documentary about a group of high-schoolers from filmmaker Nanette Burstein, won the documentary directing award at Sundance. (7 p.m. May 30, Egyptian; 11 a.m. May 31, Egyptian)

• John Crowley's "Boy A," the story of a juvenile offender returning to society, won a special jury award at the Berlin Film Festival this year. (7 p.m. Saturday, Uptown; 11 a.m. May 26, Egyptian)

Reel-life stories

SIFF is always strong in the documentary department, and some of this year's offerings promise to introduce audiences to some intriguing people:

• "Derek," narrated by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, looks at the life of maverick British filmmaker Derek Jarman. (7 p.m. June 5, Harvard Exit; 4:30 p.m. June 7, Harvard Exit)

• "Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Tennis Shoes," about the writer/voice of "Prairie Home Companion," makes its world premiere at SIFF. (7 p.m. June 12, Egyptian; 11 a.m. June 14, Egyptian)

• "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," an examination of the late gonzo journalist, is directed by Alex Gibney (an Oscar winner for "Taxi to the Dark Side") and narrated by Johnny Depp. (3:45 p.m. Saturday, Egyptian; 9 p.m. May 26, Egyptian)

• Director James Marsh will visit the festival with his documentary "Man on Wire," about the great French high-wire artist Philippe Petit (best known for walking a wire between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in 1974). (7 p.m. June 4, Egyptian; 11 a.m. June 7, Egyptian)

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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