SpIFF takes over town for 10 days of movies

Dead Dad


FEB. 1-10

Full festival pass: $170
Individual tickets: $10, $8/before noon, $5/students with ID

Tickets at spokanefilmfestival.org

Opening Reception
Talk with local filmmakers and guest filmmakers over food, drink, music and dancing.
Fri, Feb. 1, at 8 pm. Free with movie ticket stub. Simply Dance Studio, 820 West Sprague Ave.

Filmmaker Forums
Filmmakers will explain firsthand how their projects went from “Action!” to “That’s a wrap.”
Saturdays, Feb. 2 and 9, at 2 pm. Free with pass or ticket stub. Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 West Main Ave.

Best of the Northwest
A collection of short films made right here in the Northwest. Audience votes to crown a winner.
Fri, Feb. 1, at 5 pm. $5. Bing Crosby Theater, 901 W. Sprague Ave.

Festival Closing Party
Beverages and music will be provided.
Sat. Feb, 9, at 9 pm. Free with ticket stub. Community Building Lobby, 35 West Main Ave.

Shorts From the U.S. and Canada
A screening of some of the best short films from North America.
Tue, Feb. 5, at 6:45 pm. $10. Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main Ave.

9:30 pm, Fri, Feb. 8 • Magic Lantern • 100 minutes • Directed by Xan Aranda • Documentary

This evenly split hybrid of concert and documentary follows indie artist Andrew Bird through a year of relentless tour dates. Bird is arguably indie-pop’s best whistler and specializes in looping equipment, integrating multiple instruments into complex pieces that please the ears of hipsters everywhere. The film provides an inside look at how he writes on the road, including a collaboration with St. Vincent set in a hotel room. We explore the early years of Bird’s career and the series of events leading him to leave his solo work behind and establish a band. As in most indie music documentaries, we get a glimpse of the ashes from which the artist crawled after early failings at landing a record deal. In this case, Bird flew away to a beautiful family farm outside Chicago where he remodeled a barn, jammed it full of recording equipment and allowed his soft music to seep out and influence the world. The filmmakers have decided to make the documentary unavailable except at festivals like SpIFF, so this may be your only opportunity to check it out.


2 pm, Sun, Feb 3 • Magic Lantern • 93 minutes • Directed by Shannah Laumeister • Documentary

Follows Bert Stern throughout his career, from the mail room at Look Magazine to becoming one of the first photography stars. The Original Madman explores creativity, fame and the prices paid for achievement. (EG)

2:00 pm, Sat, Feb 9 • Magic Lantern • 90 minutes • Directed by Urs Schnell • Documentary

An expose of a multinational corporation bent on expanding its revenue through selling water, Bottled Life will unsettle you as much as any global warming tear-jerker. The film highlights the exploits of Swiss company Nestle as it expands its bottled water business. The film tracks Nestle’s controversial practice of basically pumping the state of Maine dry at virtually no cost for its Poland Spring brand. Director Urs Schnell also exposes the practice of the company — which also owns the Aquafina and Perrier water brands, among others — of using a pumping station outside an African refugee camp to spin some positive PR.

“They’re predators, water hunters, looking for the last pure water in the world,” says one United Nations water expert. Makes you wonder when we’ll stop giving away our number one natural resource for free — and when we’ll stop buying it back at mark-up. Chilling.


Fri, Feb. 1 and Sat, Feb. 2, 8 pm • Magic Lantern • 91 minutes • Directed by  Mark Sawers • Comedy

An ambitious, manipulative politician is relaxing in a hotel room after some extramarital recreation when he realizes a cameraman is filming his every move. And, it turns out, he’s the only one who can see the cameraman. This clever satire about political corruption and conscience-reckoning plays off our age of reality TV hyper-documentation. (LW)

Sun, Feb. 3 at noon and Thu, Feb. 7 at 6:45 pm • Magic Lantern • 78 minutes • Directed by Josh Melrod/Tara Wray • Documentary

At some point in every creative person’s life, they stand at a fork between two very different roads. On one side, they could dive head-first into their creativity, devoting their life and career to their art, knowing that they’ll never make much money but that they’ll be happy. On the other side, they start giving it all up: sidelining creativity into a weekend hobby, taking on a career and, maybe, making some money doing it. That’s a choice that every single person in the excellent comic-documentary, Cartoon School, has grappled with. At the nation’s only comic book college, some of the finest comic artists in the country cannonball themselves into their creativity, devoting two years of their lives to a grueling, labor-intensive comic Masters program at the Center for Cartoon Studies. This doc tracks students working their way through stories, drawings and the tough decision of how devoted they are to being comic artists for life. Punctuated with wisdom from comic giants like Chris Ware, Lynda Barry and Art Spiegelman, Cartoon School lays out the hard work of making it as a comic artist. And that “making it” is never truly making it.


5pm, Fri, Feb. 8 • Magic Lantern • 100 minutes • Directed by Ken Adachi • Drama

The title is depressing, but somehow this film by first-time feature director Ken Adachi is hardly a bummer. Yes, it begins with Russell Sawtelle (Kyle Arrington), a down-on-his luck drummer who’s just been kicked out of his band, learning that his father has died and his dad, by all accounts, kind of seemed like an ass when he was alive. When his estranged siblings, hot-shot brother (Lucas Kwan Peterson) and erratic sister (Jenni Melear) show up for the funeral, the story becomes deeply interesting, moving and thought-provoking. Given their father’s remains, old Cadillac and dingy house to look after, the three siblings come to terms with what’s happened as they get to know each other again. It’s a well-acted and smoothly shot film — with an excellent soundtrack — that might make you want to call your brother or sister after the final credits roll.


6:30 pm, Magic Lantern • 90 minutes • Tizza Covi • Foreign

A successful actor named Philipp Hochmair begins work for theaters in Vienna and Hamburg, but his lifestyle leads him to lose touch with reality. (EG)

11:30 am, Sun, Feb. 3 • Magic Lantern • 84 minutes • Directed by Kevin Miller • Documentary

The documentary opens with an orgy of patriotism — banners of American flags, soldiers and mourners on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The scene, however, is misleading. The crux of the documentary isn’t about terrorism or political warfare, rather it focuses on the existence of hell and the interpretation of Christian dogma. Writer and director Kevin Miller sets out on a mission to interview authors, pastors, theologians — mostly old white men — and even members of the Westboro Baptist Church to determine if the Lake Of Fire truly exists, and if so, who will spend eternity there. Surprisingly, there is relatively limited talk of everyone’s favorite fallen angel, Satan. The documentary features protesters holding hand-drawn signs that read “Soldiers die for fag love,” Christian haunted houses depicting scenes of suicide and rape to scare children away from hell’s temptations, the heavy metal band GWAR and teenage girls with blinged-out crucifixes learning how to perform an exorcism. But it’s not all fire and damnation. The documentary also sheds light on in-depth interpretations of scripture, Christian denominations and the bearded brethren of founding fathers in the early church.



See this week’s music section for an interview with director James Cullingham.

6:30 pm, Tue, Feb. 5 • Magic Lantern • 2:03 • Sergei Loznitsa • Foreign

Soviet and German soldiers are fighting a brutal resistance campaign deep in an ancient forest. (EG)

7 pm, Fri, Feb 1 • Bing Crosby Theater • 93 minutes • Directed by Till Schauder • Documentary

American Kevin Sheppard moves to Iran in 2008 to play professional basketball. But he finds much more than a job: Sheppard befriends some outspoken Iranian women on the eve of the country’s massive Green movement protests. It’s a story of sports, freedom, politics, equality and an insight into how people from two countries that hate each other can form a bond. (JO)

7:30 pm, Fri, Feb. 1; 6:45 pm, Wed Feb. 6 • Magic Lantern • 68 minutes • Thomas Riedelsheimer • Foreign

The film outlines the 4-year process of making art for an island previously used by UNESCO activists. (EG)

1 pm, Sat, Feb 2 • Bing Crosby Theater • 76 minutes • Directed by Jean-François Laguionie • Animation

An animated parable following a diverse cast of characters through different paintings, and eventually out of the canvas and into the real world. (EG)

7 pm, Sat, Feb. 9 • Magic Lantern • 86 minutes • Directed by Mikael Buch • Foreign

A gay French-Jewish mailman is exiled from his Nordic boyfriend back to his zany Paris lifestyle. (EG)

Feb. 8 at 7 pm and Feb. 9 at 4:15 pm • Magic Lantern • 107 minutes • Directed by Tom Gustafson • Drama

Edward, a misunderstood and dejected 30-year-old is living at home with his culturally isolated parents on a rural Kansas corn farm. He finds temporary solace in the local family-owned Mexican restaurant, El Mariachi, where he befriends an older former mariachi band player, Alberto, who longs to pass on his musical skills to his family’s disinterested younger generation. Recently unemployed, Edward dusts off his guitar — a reminder of his teenage dream to run off and start a band — to learn some of Alberto’s mariachi songs and soon becomes fascinated by Alberto’s stories of the famous mariachis of Guadalajara, Mexico. Not long into the lessons, though, Alberto suffers a debilitating stroke.
Now, without his beloved mentor or anyone else to turn to, Edward packs his bags and guitar and heads to Mexico, planning to join a mariachi band no matter how small his chances may be as an inexperienced “gringo.” Once in Guadalajara, he befriends an outgoing and beautiful local woman, Lilia, at the restaurant she owns with her mother. Lilia — who has her own troubled past — encourages Edward to follow his dream of becoming a great mariachi despite all of the personal, cultural, social and musical obstacles he must overcome.


9 pm, Fri, Feb. 1 • Bing Crosby Theater • 90 Minutes • Directed by Brian Young and Todd Warger • Documentary

Damn. Guys back in the day were a lot more hard-core than the sort of dudes you’d run into on the street in 2013. Need proof? Well, back in 1911, some burly men in Bellingham, Wash., were arguing about how long it would take to get from their town to the top of the nearby Mt. Baker and back again. The only solution they could come up with — presumably because they didn’t have Google — was to start a race that would take people from Bellingham to the top of the mountain and back.

That’s the premise of this documentary from Brian Young and Todd Warger, which unearths a forgotten (or at least unheralded) facet of Northwest mountaineering history. Much of the film is told through shots of newspaper clippings, old photos and the narration of Kevin Tighe (Nick’s dad in Freaks and Geeks!) but it also includes a slew of re-enactments, some starring William B. Davis, best known as the “Smoking Man” on the X-Files. Sure, those reenactments are cringe-worthy in their corniness, but they hardly take away from this riveting film that reminds us of a time when people would run up a mountain, in the dark, with heavy boots and little training, just because someone said it couldn’t be done.


5:45 pm, Fri, Feb.1; 6:45 pm, Sat, Feb. 9 • Magic Lantern • 78 minutes • Directed by Libbie Dina Cohn • Documentary

The film is a single-shot journey through a park in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, providing an interesting perspective of life in China. (EG)

Sat, Feb. 2 at 8:45 pm; Sun, Feb. 3 at 6:30 pm • Magic Lantern • 83 minutes • Directed by Scott Gabriel • Comedy

Disclaimer: The Perfect Wedding is not a Christmas movie. It just so happens that all of the quirky characters are brought together by the holiday and wedding planning. With impossibly picturesque Florida as the backdrop, old high school friends Roy and Vicki are invited to their friend Alana’s family home to plan her “perfect wedding,” which is somewhat compromised by her overbearing mother and ailing father. A love triangle forms between Roy, his ex-boyfriend Paul (also Alana’s brother) and Gavin, whom Roy brings along to pretend to be his boyfriend. Though presenting an unlikely sequence of events, the film deals with some tough issues — alcoholism, infidelity, ageing and awkward parental humor — in a very real way. Things get messy, confessions come out and, when the dust settles, beautiful romances emerge. This movie is less about a wedding (or two), and more about the messed up, yet loveable wedding party.


6:30 pm, Sun, Feb. 10 • Magic Lantern • 90 minutes • Directed by Kim Nguyen • Narrative

A love story set in sub-Saharan Africa, focused on two young lovers caught in a world of violence and magic. (EG)

5:30 pm, Fri, Feb. 1; 2:15 pm, Sun, Feb. 10 • Magic Lantern • 94 minutes • Directed by Wojciech Smarzowski • Narrative

A tragic drama about post-WWII persecution of Mazurians. (EG)

Sat, Feb. 10 at 4:15 pm, Magic Lantern • 33 minutes •  Directed by Ira Gardner • Documentary

The film begins with a familiar, fatherly voice stating one of the most impactful quotes in political history — “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Though the film is not about Reagan, it exposes the life of unwillingly retired photographer and Russian-native, Leonid Bergoltsev. A drunken promise by fellow photographer, Spokanite Don Hamilton, while traveling in China led Bergoltsev away from his home in Moscow (Russia, not Idaho, he emphasizes), where he was a photojournalist. In the documentary, Bergoltsev celebrates the simplicity of un-posed, film photography and is often compared to contemporary Henri Cartier-Bresson, but with access to the Kremlin and Premier Nikita Khrushchev. This film focuses not only on the evolution of photography during his profession, but also the cultural assimilation he experienced in the United States following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, he’s satisfied with photographing his granddaughter and reminiscing about his photojournalism career, but, as the title suggests, he’s still stuck sitting between two chairs, in a cultural limbo between Russia and America.


Feb. 2 at 7 pm, Magic Lantern • 136 minutes • Directed by Dong-hoon Choi • Foreign

A diamond, a casino, a reunited collection of career criminals — sound familiar? We were jokingly calling this full-length South Korean heist film “Gangnam’s Eleven,” but the honor among thieves in The Thieves is a bit more complicated. Admittedly, the subtitles can be hard to follow during rapid dialogue, and there are enough quickly introduced characters that, even with distinctive names like Chewingum and Pepsee, my companion and I had to give them nicknames like “Jail Girl” and “Fake Mustache” to keep things straight.

But there’s a reason it’s Korea’s highest-grossing film ever, so don’t worry too much — soon, each character’s individual motives and tangled backstories come into focus, and the mistrust among team members is not misplaced. I don’t think it’s revealing too much to say the casino robbery doesn’t go off as everyone planned, and from there the movie turns into a multilayered game of cat-and-mouse with police chasing thieves, thieves chasing thieves and thieves chasing the elusive Chinese fence Wei Hong. Not everyone keeps up, and not everyone survives, but I couldn’t help rooting for the thieves left standing at the sequel-setting end.


4:30 pm, Sat, Feb. 2 •Magic Lantern • 90 minutes • Directed By Marten Persiel • Documentary

Forget Dogtown, this isn’t your typical “praise-the-American-rebels” skate flick. Focusing on the birth of skateboarding abroad, this film dives into the ’80s skate scene in communist East Germany. Not only did these kids have communism to rebel against, but they also took the punk lifestyle to heart, making for a gritty, teenage wasteland full of broken stuff and kids doing tricks. There’s also the underlining lesson of what skateboard culture stands for, aside from the kickflips and ollies. The movie is composed of heartfelt narratives from members of the first East German skate crew, and outlines the life of their leader known as Panik, aptly named for his disruptive habits. Juxtaposed throughout the narrative are old film clips and modernist cartoon sketches delivering a fast-paced original depiction of skateboarding outside America.


4:15 pm, Magic Lantern • 93 minutes • Directed by Sebastián Borensztein • Foreign

A mysterious Chinese boy named Jun appears in Buenos Aires with a tattoo on his arm that details a specific address. Roberto meets Jun and discovers the tattoo, puts his work at a  hardware store aside and becomes enmeshed in the boy’s life. (EG)

4:30 pm, Sat, Feb. 9 • Magic Lantern • 92 minutes • Directed by Jon Ward • Drama

A tormented youth compels fellow grad students to build a hi-tech device to bring himself closure. The device could be used for evil if it falls into the wrong hands. (EG)

Mon., Feb. 4 at 6:30, Fri., Feb. 8 at 5:30 • Magic Lantern • 82 minutes • Directed by Musa Syeed • Drama

Gulzar and his best friend Afzal’s plans to escape the poverty and strife of Kashmir are derailed by a military curfew, trapping them in their small village on Dal Lake until the curfew is lifted. The two spend most of their time bromancing during the day and stealing materials from construction sites for money at night until they meet Asifa, a pretty young scientist in Kashmir, to study the pollution of Dal Lake. Gulzar and Afzal guide Asifa around the lake as she conducts her tests while tensions mount between the friends as they each make advances on her. Gulzar’s thoughtfulness plays foil to the brash Afzal until Asifa finally asks Gulzar to guide her around Dal Lake on his own. Still, it would be generous to call the connection between Gulzar and Asifa a budding romance. Instead, the two develop a kind of gentle bond as the time they spend on the water is juxtaposed against the polluted lake and the impoverished area surrounding it. Director Musa Syeed’s knack for finding elegance in the details, even in the most unsightly of scenes, allows the viewer to find a beauty in Dal Lake that Gulzar can’t — at least not at first.


6:30 pm, Thu, Feb. 7 • Magic Lantern • 119 minutes • Andres Wood • Narrative

The life story of the folk artist Violeta Parra. (EG)

11:45 am Sat, Feb 2; 2:15 pm, Sun, Feb 3 • Magic Lantern 94 minutes • Directed by Mary Liz Thomson • Documentary

Within hours of a pipe bomb blowing up her car and breaking her back, environmentalist Judi Bari was arrested for the explosion. Who Bombed Judi Bari? is produced by Darryl Cherney, the only other person in the car that day in 1990. The footage, which includes extensive shots of Bari and scenes of environmentalists celebrating their 1990 protest known as Redwood Summer, shows you just how controversial environmentalism was in the Reagan era. Bari, a key member of the green radical group Earth First!, turned out to be innocent when both the Oakland Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation botched the investigation and lied eight ways to Sunday. Bari died of breast cancer before law enforcement could find who actually planted the bomb, and before a judge granted her and Cherney several million dollars in damages. So much for justice, or something.


Mon, Feb. 4 at 6:45 pm and Sun, Feb. 10 at 11:30 am • Magic Lantern • 62 minutes • Kristy Guevara-Flanagan • Documentary

In the midst of widespread online controversy over whether women — particularly good-looking women — can be “geeks,” this documentary takes a stab at the origins of why there aren’t more female nerds out there. Director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, who has worked on two other films chronicling the American female experience, tackles the idea of superheroes here. In her Kickstarter-funded film Wonder Women!, she tackles America’s fascination with the superhero — Batman, Spiderman, Superman — and the lack of true, strong female superheroes in comic books. Everyone wants to be a hero, but who do young girls have to look up to? Wonder Women! chronicles the true power of America’s first superheroine — Wonder Woman — around World War II: a time when America looked to its females to protect the homefront. With commentary by feminist icons Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna and Shelby Knox, and actresses Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), this film is essential viewing for nerds — male and female — and feminists alike.


Film festivals give you a great excuse to watch cartoons and not feel weird about it, and this year’s animation selections are as out there as ever.

Being Bradford Dillman
Molly Flowers is a girl and thinks boys are gross. Her pill-addicted mother wants her to like boys. So she tells her she was born a boy and was named Bradford Dillman. Molly soon develops a relationship with her potential self.

An ox, forever yoked to a cart, carries a nation of warring people. While the beast stumbles on, the men and women in the cart continue to fight and kill each other.

Edmond was a Donkey
Edmond is exceedingly normal. His job is normal, his house is normal and his wife is normal. Yet, he feels anything but normal. He knows that he is different, he just doesn’t know how exactly.

Here and the Great Elsewhere
A film about the meaning of things, this is a 14-minute exploration of one man’s existential crisis. The film uses pinscreen animation. Each image is made by outlining the image in a bed of movable pins.

I Saw Mice Burying a Cat
The title says a lot. A group of mice are trying to bury a cat. As they carry the large feline down a steep slope they lose control. They fall and the cat and mice go flying.

A man is robbed and stabbed in a junkyard. He’s dying. In the final seconds of his life he remembers playing with a boyhood friend in a field. The two grew apart as drugs and violence started to separate the once fast friends

Oh Willy...
Willy, a middle-aged man, returns to the nudist colony he grew up in. His mother is on her death bed and Willy wants to say goodbye. When his mother does die, he is forced to face the choices he made as a young man. Unable to cope, he flees into the woods, only to find an unlikely protector.


Animation for Grown-Ups • Fri, Feb. 8 at 7:30 pm; Sun, Feb. 10 at noon and 4:30 pm • $8-$10 • Magic Lantern Theatre 

Movie in the Park: Encanto @ Pavillion Park

Sat., Aug. 13
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