Looking back to 2016 Seattle International Film Festival, an interview with Beth Barrett


Seattle International Film Festival is one of the major film festivals in US and to look back at 2016 festival we sat down with Beth Barrett, Director of Programming of the Seattle International Film Festival.
Beth started her work for SIFF in 2003, after years of being a festival-goer. She is responsible for managing all aspects of film programming, the staff of film programmers, and securing films and guests for the Festival. Beth is also instrumental in the programming and management of SIFF Cinema and SIFF’s other year-round programs. An aficionado of short films, she secured SIFF’s status as an Academy Award® qualifying festival in 2008. Beth has been in Seattle for 23 years and holds an MA in Northern Renaissance Art History.

Bijan Tehrani: Looking back at 2016 Seattle International Film Festival, please tell us about its highlights
Beth Barrett: From Tribute screenings honoring Viggo Mortensen, to the first year of our China Stars program, SIFF was a launchpad for international independent film from around the world. The eclectic and adventurous programming included interactive late night screenings (B-Movie Bingo!); SIFFX, a festival within SIFF looking at VR / AR filmmaking; a strong slate of Ibero American filmmakers in attendance; An Afternoon With Molly Shannon; the 5th year of Catalyst / New American Cinema; YouTube sensation Princess Shaw, who performed on Opening Night; 137 films making their premiere at SIFF; Lou Diamond Phillips with THE NIGHT STALKER; Irish drag queen Panti Bliss with THE QUEEN OF IRELAND; NBA star (and former Seattle SuperSonics player) Spencer Haywood; legendary director Iwai Shunji; and debut films from actress Clea DuVall, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, and producer/writer James Schamus.
BT:  How was the presence of international cinema at the festival?
BB: We presented films from 85 countries at SIFF 2016, with focuses on Ibero American cinema and films from China this year. Our African Pictures program remains a vital part of the Festival, with 10 films from across the continent, many making their premiere here in Seattle. Our mission is to bring the world to Seattle through film, and create experiences around film that bring communities together.
BT:  Did you had filmmaker guests from other countries attending the festival?
BB: We welcomed over 400 guests from more than 20 countries around the world, including Nepal, China, Poland, Senegal, South Africa, Jordan, Chile, Denmark, and across Europe. Additionally, there were many international filmmakers living in the USA that were able to attend the Festival with their films.
BT:  Please tell us about the jury of the festival and 2016 awards
BB: We had 5 feature films juries this year – the Official Competition, New Directors, Ibero American, New American Cinema and Documentary Films. Each of the juries viewed 10-12 films, many making a premiere in SIFF, and awarded Grand Jury Prizes. For Short Films, SIFF is an Academy Award qualifying festival, with Grand Jury prizes in 3 categories, Live Action, Documentary, and Animation. Additionally, we have Audience Awards in 6 categories – Best Film, Documentary, Short Film, Director, Actor and Actress. The full list of awards can be found here http://www.siff.net/press/siff-press-releases/siff-2016-award-winners
BT:  Did you had any events or seminars during the festival?
BB: Our Festival forums are held every weekend of the festival, ranging from a Masterclass with James Schamus, Catalyst keynote from Ted Hope, panels on film distribution, the role of critics in today’s film landscape, funding your independent film, the State of Short Films, and Developing Audience on Social Media. Our Forums reached over 1,000 people, and SIFF Education brought the Festival to local schools, reaching over 4,000 students and connecting filmmakers from around the world to youth around Seattle.
BT:  How was audience attendance comparing to previous years?
BB: Attendance at SIFF 2016 was over 150,000 people across all of the 850 screenings and events during the 25 days. This is very comparable to the last few years, proving that Seattle audiences are very committed to supporting the festival and independent cinema.
BT:  How do you see the future of Seattle International Film Festival?
BB: The future of SIFF is very strong, with invigorated and engaged audiences at the Festival, and with our year-round SIFF Cinema. SIFF Education is introducing international cinema to Seattle students, and the strength of SIFF 2016 ensures that the audience for independent and international cinema is alive and well in Seattle. We will continue to exhibit diverse, challenging, and entertaining films from around the world. 


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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