Saturday, May 17, 2014

Seattle International Film Festival - The Opening Night Experience

To begin my second year covering the Seattle International Film Festival, I chose to take in all the glitz and glamour of the Opening Night Gala as a ticket holder rather than as a member of the press. What an amazing evening it turned out to be with some big announcements, a locally flavored movie premiere, and an after party that capped off a celebration worthy of the festival's 40th year of operation.

The Red Carpet entryway at the Marion Oliver McCall Hall is the first thing you see as you walk up the steps and into the building. Even with no one there, the space had an energy like it just knew something special was about to happen. When it was time for me to head in, I was fortunate enough to be walking by the one and only Hayley Atwell as she posed for pictures and answered a few questions so I was able to snap a few pictures with my camera phone.

After everyone took their seats, the festivities began with awards being given out and promotional videos were played to get the crowd sufficiently juiced up for some big news. Finally, SIFF's Artistic Director Carl Spence and Managing Director Mary Bacarella made an announcement that is sure to change the course of SIFF's year round and festival programming for years to come.

Here's an excerpt from the official press release:

"This evening, at the Opening Night Gala in McCaw Hall, the Seattle International Film Festival announced that it has purchased the SIFF Cinema Uptown (with the "Angels of the Uptown") and has also signed a lease for the Egyptian Theatre, (thank you, Seattle Central Community College) securing these two neighborhood landmarks as year-round SIFF Cinema and Festival venues. Managing Director Mary Bacarella and Artistic Director Carl Spence took to the stage to make the announcement, which signals a tremendous future of growth for the organization that's now celebrating its 40th anniversary."

And now it was time for the Opening Night movie to begin which was fittingly a biopic about legendary local music product, the one and only Jimi Hendrix. Jimi: All Is by My Side is a well written and beautifully acted film although it only received a lukewarm reaction from the audience. Even so, everyone was still excited to see writer and director John Ridley along with Hayley Atwell share their thoughts during the post screening Q&A which was moderated by Mr. Spence.

For my part, I thought the movie was decent if not a bit long and drawn out. There were lots of disjointed pieces thrown together in a way that I'm guessing was supposed to evoke Hendrix's eclectic creativity, but none of it ever really meshed into the strong, cohesive work it was intended to be. On a more positive note, the acting was absolutely phenomenal with possible Oscar nods coming for both André Benjamin in the title role and Hayley Atwell for a performance that should go down as a landmark in her career. Imogen Poots and Ruth Negga were also very strong in supporting roles.

With the movie and Q&A wrapped up, it was time for the audience to head over to the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall event space for an after party filled with food, beverages, lights, and music all of which kept people going strong late into the night. Food and drinks were provided by so many local businesses, I can't even remember who all was there. Below are some photos of food provided by Pel’Meni Dumpling Tzar, Sweet Iron Waffles, and Salumi Artisan Cured Meats.

I was also very happy to see my friends from Snoqualmie Ice Cream on hand to pass out a variety of mini ice cream sandwiches which helped to keep everyone cooled down during the event.

Overall, the Opening Night Gala was a huge success and really set the tone for what should be an amazing festival filled with films and fun for the next four weeks. Feel free to follow along as I continue to provide coverage on my website throughout the festival and, if you were not aware, I also work for Yelp here in Seattle and we are an official festival sponsor. Thanks to this partnership, Yelp community members will have opportunities to attend special festival screenings so stay tuned to the Yelp Seattle Event Pages for more info!

Posting on social media during the festival?
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#YelpSeattle - #YelpLife


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