WRITTEN BY MOIRA MACDONALD
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
Helen Loveridge | Gets Reel
Helen Loveridge, executive director of the Seattle International Film Festival, spends a lot of time watching — 600 to 800 movies a year, to be precise. After 16 years in international film sales, the British-born Loveridge came to Seattle in 2001, and last year succeeded longtime director Darryl Macdonald as head of the vast festival, whose 31st annual edition will unspool May 19-June 12.
This time of year, she's busy attending film festivals, racing from one meeting to another, and evaluating films as part of the festival's selection committee, which weeds through hundreds of possibilities to select this year's program. On the comfortable couch where she watches movies at home ("March is spent on my sofa, slipping tapes in and out of my video player"), she shared a few thoughts about what makes a film stand out from the pack.
Q. What do you look for when selecting a film?
A. I think it's two things. It has to be a certain vision, that the filmmaker has an interesting vision. Wong Kar-Wai, (for example), early on, you could see the marriage of his sensibilities, writing and visual. It was obvious from his first film that he was a great artist. And then, for me, there has to be a certain kind of humanity. It has to be believable. It can be cruel, but it has to ring true, true to patterns of human behavior. If I sense something is false, or just made up for the sake of a good plot, it won't work for me. That's why I'm personally not a big fan of animation, or special effects.
Q. Do you sometimes select films you personally don't like?
A. Oh, yes, absolutely. I try to find someone else who will champion the film. We have a number of programmers at the festival, and we have quite different tastes. You know, we show 225 films. It would be impossible to really like all of them. So we just try to get an overview of the best that there is around each category. I can see myself, sometimes, that something might not be my taste, but you know that a certain filmmaker has a following, or you know the subject is quite interesting.
Q. What are your all-time favorites?
A. Werner Herzog's "Aguirre: The Wrath of God."That's the film that made me realize, oh, there's more to this. I was 22, I think, when I saw it. It was the film that made me write a letter to the British Film Institute to say, "What do you have that I could do?" Hsiao-hsien Hou's "The Time to Live and the Time To Die" — it's one of the most moving films I've ever seen. Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye." I've never gotten over that film, such a wonderful grown-up film with fantastic performances from a big cast, Altman-style. "Chinatown" — don't need to say anything about that. Jean Vigo's masterpiece, "L'Atalante." And, for a guilty pleasure, "The Big Easy." I've seen it at least 20 times, can recite it line for line. I just love it. That line "Your luck's about to change" — I fell off my chair.
Q. Do you still go to the movies just for fun?
A. Oh, God, yes. I was very behind on viewing the current movies, so I went on a blitz and in one day I watched "Ocean's Twelve," "Closer" and "Finding Neverland," one after the other. Then I went for "Ray." If Jamie Foxx doesn't win the Oscar, there's no justice.
Q. Any Best Picture picks?
A. Oh, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," because it's just the most stunning work of the imagination. That's what I think should win. What will win? "Finding Neverland," I think, which I quite liked, especially Johnny Depp — that lovely Scottish accent.
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