SIFF 2022: Capsule Reviews, Part 3

For our final collection, we catalogue a series of moving and provocative documentaries and two animations that stood out as true festival highlights. Read our first and second entries and check back in as we explore a range of diverse and eccentric festivals throughout the year.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Dir. Dean Fleischer-Camp.

Marcel, the sweetest shoe-wearing shell you’ll ever have the pleasure of spending 90 minutes with. Every moment of his heartfelt adventure in search of his lost family feels like exactly what you need – a perfect blend of levity and humanism in search of one little instant that will flood you with memory and emotion. It’s so earnestly saccharine and honest in its portrayal of big grief and turmoil in a tiny shell that every scene quickly transforms you into a mess of elation and heartbreak, laughing along with his endearing innocence while reality tugs at the back of your mind. It’s just what we all need, a little reminder through the chaos and the struggle that we’re not alone, and that the wind wouldn’t be able to sing that perfect song without our presence. — Vaughn Swearingen

Children of the Mist

Children of the Mist. Dir. Hà Lệ Diễm.

Don’t get involved. When making a documentary it’s important to let the subject breath. Stay out of the way and tell their story with objective enough remove that you do not become part of the story. Unless, maybe it is the ethical thing to do, when making a film with humanity in it, to intervene. And so director Hà Lệ Diễm does intervene here, as a route of moral necessity, and becomes a major factor in the resolution of the story. A profile of a culture where children are kidnapped into marriage, the stakes are high for the director’s subjects and so her act of interference is also a moment of bravery, of investing in her story about these kids, of making sure her story is guided to a morally agreeable ending. And this time, we’re awfully thankful. Do get involved. Sometimes it matters a lot. — Calvin Kemph


Watcher. Dir. Chloe Okuno.

It is validating, in a way. A film that commits to how important trusting your instincts can be, even when your periphery is surrounded by dismissal and scoffs at your all too relevant fears. It just does this at the expense of cinematic value, ultimately becoming completely straightforward and obvious. There’s so much raw empathy and disquieting reality here, something that constantly feels right on the edge of so much possibility, but it can’t quite push itself off that edge. Instead it is merely a plateau. Functional, solid, and completely flat. Read our full review. — Vaughn Swearingen

I Love My Dad

I Love My Dad. Dir. James Morosini.

The filmmakers stay out of the way. Co-star James Morosini directs but his style and exact drive behind the camera is not yet evident in his sophomore movie, although the story is his, and amusingly based partly in connection with his own father. Patton Oswalt leads the film and his acting seems to direct the characters around him. It’s all highly functional, within the internal dysfunctions of the characters themselves. There are parts that still need to be shored up. Clips without audio added, that may be meant to play as soundless revelations about characters, or to hide what they are saying, but more likely, need to be dubbed over with a few lines to make the film really feel complete. It’s just about there and has curious emotional potential. There’s enough here for fans of Oswalt, joining his other very-good performance in 2009’s Big Fan(I’m a Big Fan) as a convincing testament to his acting ability. He may be a funny kind of multi-hyphenate after-all. All those years of binging movies has paid off. And it pays off for us, when we find something amusingly sweet and agreeably lightweight like I Love My Dad. Read our full review. — Calvin Kemph

Know Your Place

Know Your Place. Dir. Zia Mohajerjasbi.

Trapped. An existence defined by your inability to live freely, pushed down by external forces constantly in pursuit of trying to marginalize and demoralize. Exasperated, all you want is to scream into the misty air, so hopelessly unable to feel in control of your own life at every turn. This is your home, you are surrounded by your people, and you love it with all of who you are. As you walk the streets, struggling with the inner turmoil of adolescence, every moment serves as a reminder that others don’t wish this to be your home. Those who barely know it. Those who have just arrived, those who cannot see past themselves and don’t wish to consider the existence of others. This is Seattle. Not the Seattle represented by shining tech companies and droves of transplants here in transience hoping to make a few bucks and get out, but the Seattle plagued by those very things, the Seattle suffocating beneath the weight of gentrification and racism. The authenticity on display in Know Your Place is refreshing, a story of a city that’s honest enough about the real people within it rather than pure fantasy or a picturesque ideal. When that shines through, the film speaks truth that needs to be spoken and it does it to great effect. What surrounds that truth exists in excess and often fails to generate the tension necessary for what it’s trying to construct, but that doesn’t make the truth any less important. — Vaughn Swearingen

Riotsville USA

Riotsville USA. Dir. Sierra Pettengill.

Riotsville, USA is a unique work. It explores inequity and the causes of militarization in some wholly unique ways. It’s a vital new lens into the relationship between the police, the military, and protestors. It misses, occasionally, in the presentation of the material, but remains incisive and fascinating to study. Pettengill’s use of archival footage is inspired and well constructed, utilizing the shape of the documentary to detail very specific events worthy of study. The attempts at poetry sometimes let down the subject but there’s enough to chew on that it’s still a good and informative watch, and a provocative takeaway from this year’s festival. Read our full review. — Calvin Kemph


River. Dirs. Jennifer Peedom, Joseph Nizeti.

An orchestral love letter about waking up and loving rivers again. The Willem Dafoe narrated documentary (a spiritual sequel to his narration on the team of directors’ prior film, Mountain, 2017) pours with broad mysticisms about how our relationship with rivers has changed. Once upon a time they routed our movement as civilizations and now we route them for our own ends. Largely worthwhile for the immensely satisfying orchestral presentation paired with pretty cinematography. — Calvin Kemph


Inu-oh. Dir. Masaaki Yuasa.

Masaaki Yuasa‘s brand of animation remains staggering and unique in approach and reinvention of boundaries. Here, a couple cursed musicians find friendship and perform a grand rock opera to break their curse and prove that there is more to them than their disfigurements. It’s a rocking story told mostly through music, with all kinds of odd-sized and stretching appendages, utilizing animation to emphasize perspective and things that can only be done in that format. For the pure blissful creativity of its expression, its well worth the wait, and will reward fans of the director’s other quirky works with another odd ball movie that creates its own rules. — Calvin Kemph

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