[SIFF week one]

* The Red Awn still doesn’t exist on the IMDb, apparently. It’s written and directed by Cai Shangjun, the writer of Shower and Spicy Love Soup, both of which I also enjoyed, particularly Shower. This was a father-son reunion story of sorts, set among migrant harvesters in rural China, and a beautifully-shot trip into a world that I really don’t know anything about. Which is part of the point of film, yes?

* My first animated feature was Nocturna, part of the Films 4 Families portion of the festival. It’s a Spanish & French film that’s been described as a cross between Monsters, Inc & Miyazaki, which is a pretty fair assessment, actually. It’s an utterly charming story about an orphan who loses his star, and discovers the system that makes night as we know it happen. The version I saw was dubbed, but I thought it was well cast. And how can you not love a movie where one of the characters is a cat shepherd? I ask you.

* The only midnight movie on my schedule this year was Epitaph. It’s a little disjointed, but it had some really great scares, and is beautifully filmed. It’s a solid first film from the directors, who have scads of potential.

* Sita Sings the Blues is, hands down, my favorite film of the festival so far. I need it out *now*, so I can force everyone I know to see it. It’s the Indian epic of Ramayana as told from memory by friends of the director, animated, turned into a musical with tunes performed by Annette Hanshaw from 1929ish, with an autobiographical thread from the director. The interplay between all of the texts, the way the epic comments on the music, it makes my toes curl. Plus it uses several different styles of animation, and the most mindblowing thing? It was animated over the course of five years by the director alone. It is full-on amazingness. I need to own it, like, yesterday.

* There’s always a few revival features at the festival, and this year we have the 40th anniversary of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, which I hadn’t seen since I was in high school, and certainly never on the big screen. Obviously the amazing thing with this film is it does what you could never do in a theater — cast the leads crazy young. Editing and ADR enable the creation of a performance that could never exist on stage. And the effect is heartbreaking. (Also, oh man, Mercutio! I have so much love always for that role.)

* Finally, my first documentary was a local piece, A Wink and a Smile. It follows a group of students through a burlesque class in Seattle. Our screening was the world premiere, and though it was not *quite* as insane as last year’s Blood on the Flat Track premiere (for one thing, no one took photos of the screen), it was pretty amazing. The documentary itself was fabulous, blending history, the Seattle scene, and the development of the class as they worked their way towards their graduation performance. It almost made me want to try burlesque. Almost.