My Blind Brother: Renton Opening Night

Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) stars as Robbie, a blind athlete who’s handsome, successful, and more than a little arrogant. He regularly participates in marathons and charity runs as a way of raising money for other blind people, an act of kindness perhaps somewhat diminished by how often he brags about and flaunts his athletic prowess. He’s also a local celebrity, adored by fans and broadcast news reporters alike. Meanwhile, Robbie’s sighted brother Bill (Nick Kroll, “Kroll Show”) stays by Robbie’s side every step of the way, acting as his eyes during marathons and other athletic events. Despite Bill’s own accomplishments, he tends to get overlooked—a consequence of standing in the shadow of his successful blind brother. Feeling resentful and jealous, Bill heads out to drown his sorrows, only to get sidetracked when he inadvertently crashes a wake taking place at the bar. There he meets Rose (Jenny Slate, Obvious Child), the ex-girlfriend of the deceased, whom she dumped right before his untimely death. Bill and Rose bond over a shared sense of guilt and shame, and Bill quickly falls for her. Unfortunately for him, Rose soon begins dating Robbie. Now Bill has to decide whether to stand by his brother’s side as usual or finally stand up to his brother and go after the girl of his dreams.

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Disorder

A French Special Forces soldier, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts, The Danish Girl, Rust and Bone), returns home after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and soon begins experiencing night terrors and flashbacks. These clear indications of PTSD will effectively end his military career, leaving him with limited employment options. He decides to accept a position as a bodyguard from a wealthy Lebanese businessman, the unscrupulous Whalid (Percy Kemp). Vincent starts by working security detail for a party at Whalid’s luxurious estate, but when Whalid suddenly has to leave for a business trip, he entrusts Vincent to watch over his house as well as his family while he’s gone. Throughout the weekend, Vincent becomes increasingly more captivated by Jessie (Diane Kruger, “The Bridge,” Inglourious Basterds), Whalid’s glamorous yet elusive wife. As he starts to fall for her, he also grows more and more suspicious that someone is after her and her son. This slow-burning psychological thriller takes viewers on a serpentine journey through the what-ifs and paranoia of a troubled man, endlessly questioning Vincent’s sanity, and leaving the reality of danger a tightly wound mystery.

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The High Sun

Two neighboring Balkan villages, one Croatian and one Serbian, set the stage for three different love stories. The first takes place in 1991, with tensions rising between the two villages as each anticipates the rapidly approaching war. Amid an atmosphere of madness, confusion, and fear, lovers Jelena (Tihana Lazovic) and Ivan (Goran Markovic) are preparing to elope in secret, at least until Jelena’s brother Sasha (Dado Cosic) learns of their plans and tries to stop them. The second narrative takes place in 2001, after the war has ended. Its scars are still too fresh for a couple to form an ongoing relationship, though, as revealed when Serbia-based Natasha (Lazovic) meets Croatian handyman Ante (Markovic). The final story is set in 2011, when love might be able to take root if the lovers can finally break free of the past. Luka (Markovic) returns to the village to attend a rave and see Marija (Lazovic), his Serbian ex, again. By having the same two actors appear as the different pairs of lovers in each of the three decades, the film reveals the dangers of repeating history and giving in to a “code of hatred.”

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Long Way North

This beautifully drawn animated adventure tells the story of a young aristocrat, Sasha, growing up in Saint Petersburg in the late 19th century. Sasha’s explorer grandfather, Oloukine, has gone missing while on an expedition to the North Pole, and though everyone else believes him dead, Sasha doesn’t. She discovers his itinerary and becomes convinced that he hasn’t been found because the search for him and his ship, the famous Davai, has been taking place in the wrong part of the North Pole. Sasha’s parents worry that she’s ill-suited for her aristocratic rank and make plans to arrange a marriage for her, but all Sasha wants to do is follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and become an explorer like him. Now that she knows the ship’s true destination, she escapes from her home in Russia and embarks on a journey north, determined to find out what really happened to Oloukine and save his tattered reputation—but the journey may not be as easy as Sasha would like. Long Way North tells a spirited and enchanting tale of hope and perseverance even in the face of unexpected obstacles.

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If There’s a Hell Below

Abe (Conner Marx), a young journalist from Chicago, travels to the rural American West for a scoop that will undoubtedly jump-start his career. There he meets Debra (Carol Roscoe), a self-described government whistleblower who supposedly has a national security story weighing on her conscience. Convinced that someone is watching their every move, Debra is paranoid and reluctant to tell Abe anything, even after checking to make sure he’s not wearing a wire; Abe, on the other hand, drove over a thousand miles for Debra’s story, and he’s determined to get it. The first step is finding some way to convince Debra he’s trustworthy. The beginning of the film showcases what happens when two people with opposing desires can’t seem to figure out how to negotiate. As Abe and Debra dance around each other, crucial information hangs in the balance. Nathan Williams’ film is told in real time, with numerous scenes dedicated to showing the two characters driving along endless stretches of highway, attempting to find a place to talk where they can’t be overheard. Accordingly, the vast, dusty landscape of eastern Washington plays an important role, providing an atmospheric backdrop of anticipation and dread to put the finishing touch on this 1970s-inspired political thriller.

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Rainbow

This heartwarming story follows two orphaned siblings living with their aunt and uncle in a scenic village in Rajasthan, India. Pari, the responsible older sister, acts as a guide for her blind eight-year-old brother, Chotu. Chotu remains cheerful and free-spirited, even as he yearns to be able to see again. Inspired by a message on a poster of Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Pari promises Chotu that he’ll get his sight back before his upcoming ninth birthday. Pari writes letters to Shah Rukh Khan, asking for his help, and doesn’t give up hope even when he doesn’t respond. When she finds out that Shah Rukh Khan will be filming a movie just a few hundred kilometers from where she and Chotu live, the two siblings decide to run away from home to find the superstar and convince him to fix Chotu’s vision. Despite the obstacles in front of them, Pari and Chotu are determined to complete their excursion to Ranau, the village where Shah Rukh Khan is filming. As they cross the desert planes of Rajasthan, they run into a number of eccentric characters, each one helping to further their journey in one way or another.

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SEED: The Untold Story

This feature-length documentary takes viewers on a powerful journey that exposes the fatal secrets of the seed industry. During the 20th century alone, we lost an estimated 94 percent of our vegetable varieties and faced the largest seed shortage in history. A number of dedicated farmers and seed keepers have taken on the task of keeping the rest of our seeds safe from extinction, but they face significant obstacles: the commodification and hybridization of seeds by large corporations such as Monsanto. Not only are these companies depleting the seed industry, but they are also poisoning the communities who live near their unregulated test plots. Though these challenges may seem insurmountable, this documentary gives hope to a brighter future by highlighting the independent farmers, seed savers, and other good Samaritans who are doing their part to protect the diversity of our agricultural heritage and to alert the public to what the hybrid companies are doing. SEED: The Untold Story features a combination of interviews, archived footage, and animation to tell a compelling narrative about the seed industry. By the end of the film, every viewer will understand the magic of seeds and the importance of growing one’s own life force.

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Welcome to Norway!

Seattle International Film Festival – Published May 4, 2016

Set against the backdrop of a beautiful Norwegian village, this scandalous comedy follows a xenophobic ski-resort owner, Primus (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), as he attempts to find a way to save his failing business. The film brings humor to a serious, topical issue when Primus encounters a group of refugees and sees an opportunity: If he turns his family’s resort into a refugee camp, he will be able to support it with government funding. Unsurprisingly, Primus soon discovers how out of his depth he is. Although he has not finished the resort renovations and the government has not yet greenlit the facilities, he takes in 50 refugees. To top it off, his arrogance and habit of regularly making tasteless jokes about the people he’s sheltering brings up conflict after conflict. His entire venture likely would have gone up in flames if not for Abedi (Olivier Mukata), a young man from Congo who answers Primus’ questions about the refugees and advises Primus on how to run this new operation, in addition to speaking five languages. Eventually, all the new tenants, but especially Abedi, start to change Primus’ attitude for the better.

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