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Originally published Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 7:15 AM

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5 memorable SIFF openers from 40 years

Movie critic John Hartl looks back at some of the noteworthy opening films from 40 years of the Seattle International Film Festival.


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“The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum” (1976)

No one knew if a film festival would be a draw at all, but the crowds that poured in that opening night couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. Also playing that evening was R.W. Fassbinder’s “Fox and His Friends,” the first Fassbinder film to be shown in Seattle in 35mm (it looked spectacular). Previously, only inferior 16mm prints had been screened here.

“Little Buddha” (1993)

Bernardo Bertolucci came to Seattle to make his religious epic starring Keanu Reeves. When he returned to premiere the movie at SIFF at the 5th Avenue, major technical problems with the soundtrack sent Bertolucci into an understandable tizzy.

“Braveheart” (1995)

Mel Gibson brought his three-hour Scottish epic to SIFF at the 5th Avenue. It was the longest movie ever shown on opening night, and still the only opener to win the Academy Award for best picture (it won no Golden Space Needles).

“The Whole Wide World” (1996)

Dan Ireland, co-founder of SIFF, left the festival to pursue a career in filmmaking. Presented at the Paramount Theatre on opening night, this intimate drama about two writers remains a rare instance of a film-festival director completing a feature-length film.

“Battle in Seattle” (2008)

Although reviews were mixed, this documentarylike drama ignited the crowd at McCaw Hall. It probably never played to a more involved audience.

John Hartl, Special to The Seattle Times



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