The Student Guide to SIFF 2019

The 2019 Seattle International Film Festival kicks off today and with 234 features from 86 countries, it can be daunting to say the least, especially for first time attendees. That’s why we made a handy-dandy guide to help navigate the festival. Below you’ll not only find the films you should be on the lookout for, but also the periphery elements that will make your overall experience more enjoyable! These tips will help organize your trip, get involved, and save you some time and money in the process.


The Seattle International Film Festival lasts for an eye popping 25 days and as students, it can often conflict with deadlines. It takes place during the last few weeks of the quarter and wraps up just before finals week on June 9th, so if you’re not careful, it’ll be easy to buy tickets early, only to realize you can’t go.

What I recommend is pull out all your syllabuses for your classes and plot out the deadlines for the rest of the quarter. Then go to SIFF’s website, make an account, and use their My Festival feature. With it, you can add films you’re interested in to your account and see them over the course of festival. Compare your school calendar with the one online and see which ones you can attend. Note that there are usually two screenings of each film, but pay attention to their location as they can occasionally be located in Shoreline or Bellevue.

You can use your Husky ID to catch public transportation from campus to the SIFF Cinema Uptown (route 32), SIFF Egyptian (route 49), and AMC Pacific Place (Link/49/70). Or split a Lyft or Uber with friends — use code SIFF19 on Lyft and you’ll get 15% off your rides! Set yourself up to arrive about an hour before the show time, because a line will usually form outside the venue and the best seats in the theater will fill up fast.

Some films have special guests scheduled to attend! This information is listed on the SIFF website under the select films, and if you want insight into the film you just saw, some times they will host a Q&A session afterwards. SIFF also loves to throw parties, so be on the lookout for those special events.

Ticket Sales

SIFF has three tiers of tickets on their site: Available, Limited Availability, and On Standby. Available is exactly as it sounds: you can still buy tickets. Limited Availability means tickets are running out but few are still left for sale so buy them quick.

On Standby means that the allotment of public tickets for the screening are sold out. SIFF partitions the available seats between public tickets and pass holder tickets. On Standby still means you can see the film, but there is no guarantee. If a film you want to see is On Standby, you can go to the theater the day of the screening and wait in the Standby line. Once both the ticket holders and pass holders are let in, SIFF will let in people from the Standby Line to fill in the remaining seats. It’s done on first come, first serve so if it’s something you really want to see, get there early!


Volunteering with SIFF is a great way to get free tickets to the festival while also padding out your resume. By volunteering you not only get a free T-Shirt, but you’ll get complimentary tickets that are good for festival screenings or for admission to films at SIFF’s year round cinema. If you’re like us, you stockpile them during the festival and when Oscar season comes around, you unload them and save yourself some cash. PLUS, volunteering at the festival puts you on a list for Appreciation Screenings and Membership Appreciation Nights that SIFF puts on throughout the year to say thanks to the volunteers.

To volunteer, you can follow the steps on here and make an account with Shiftboard. Most shifts are taken, but if you check periodically, spots will open up. Venue Crew is our personal favorite as you often get to relax while the screening is taking place, but assisting the festival lounge or packing gala gift baskets are also well and good. Lastly, if you can get a buddy to occupy the same shift as you, time will fly by!


SIFF memberships are a great way to get access to a plethora of perks that’ll help with the festival. SIFF tickets are usually $14, but with a membership you get $2 off every time. Additionally, you’ll also get a slew of year round perks with SIFF like discounted tickets, access to special screenings, and early access to presale of next year’s festival tickets. Memberships are $50 at the base level, but students can get discounted memberships for $35. If you’re a movie aficionado, the membership will pay for itself, plus the early festival access (for next year) will ensure you get tickets before they go on standby.

SIFF Picks for Students

Like we mentioned, there are over 200 feature films at the festival this year and most of them don’t have any readily available reviews. If you look at the festival guide, you only get a short blurb about the synopsis and nothing else. It’s a blessing because you’ll often find yourself surprised when you find a hidden gem, but it’s also a curse because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. The following selections are films that we’ve seen or heard good things about, and think will suit the tastes of students the best. If you want to see a comprehensive list of all the films we’ve seen with their ratings, you can check out our Capsule Review Page here.

The Farewell: Sunday, June 9th SIFF Egyptian 6:00pm(Closing Night Film)

A true lie. That may seem like the greatest oxymoron, but it’s what makes The Farewell so intriguing. Modeled after director Lulu Wang’s real-life experiences, the film follows Billi, played by Awkwafina, as she returns to China after discovering her grandmother has been diagnosed with cancer. However, instead of informing her, Billi’s family keeps her in the dark, staging a faux-wedding to let their grandmother see the entire family and celebrate one last time. Refrained from letting her emotions get the better of her, Billi struggles to keep the secret from the one she loves, questioning the morality of this decision and leading to an emotionally packed 98 minutes that will bring you into tears. 

Crystal Swan: Friday May 24th Lincoln Square 9:00pm/Friday May 31st SIFF Uptown 8:30pm/Saturday June 1st SIFF Uptown 2:30pm

A young DJ from Belarus dreams of escaping her oppressive motherland and emigrating to America, the land of freedom and possibilities. Things go awry when she forges her visa references, leading her to the town of Crystal and a dysfunctional family wrapped up in wedding preparations. This bold and entertaining comedy with a great soundtrack is definitely one to watch!

For Sama: Sunday, June 2nd AMC Pacific Place 6:30pm/ Monday, June 3rd SIFF Cinema Uptwon 4:00pm

The Syrian Civil War is one of the most significant conflicts of our time. While it may be easy to characterize the war by news headlines, it is just as easy to forget the individuals living through it. Waad al-Kateab’s and Edward Watts’ SXSW Jury Doc winner and Cannes selection, For Sama, shines a light on those that decided to stay and fight Bashir Al Asad’s regime. Tracking the war from its inception in the Arab Spring to late 2016, the film structures itself around al-Kateab’s personal letter to her daughter as she assesses her reasons for staying the country and coming to terms with the fact that it may be Sama who has to make a better world for herself. With shocking video, For Sama humanizes a war that has long been a political talking point and gives it new context for those removed from it. (Read Our Full Review)

The Sound of Silence: Friday, May 17th  SIFF Uptown 9:30pm/Sunday, May 19th Majestic Bay 6:00pm

Peter Saarsgard plays a New York ‘house tuner’ at the turn of the last century trying to figure out the source of Rashida Jones’ bad vibes. Described as a quiet indie drama, this film has a solid cast and will no doubt be quirky and charming.

Blinded By The Light: Thursday, May 23rd SIFF Egyptian 6:30pm / Friday, May 24th SIFF Uptown 3:15pm

Remember the feeling when you heard that one song that expressed all of your emotions and solved all your problems. Well, Blinded by the Light explores that feeling. Following British Pakistani teen Javed and his discovery Bruce Springsteen, Gurinder Chadha’s (Bend It Like Beckham) crowd-pleasing film explores self-expression as a means to escape and stand up to the racial intolerance in his hometown.

The Art of Self Defense: Friday, May 31st SIFF Egyptian 6:30pm / Saturday, June 1st SIFF Uptown 3:30pm

The Art of Self Defense follows Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) who is the victim of a brutal mugging that leaves him shaken and traumatized. Determined to muscle up and prevent a future attack, his search for self defense leads him to a karate dojo where he quickly ascends rank and becomes a star pupil of Sensei, but what he soon learns is there is more to the dojo and his training than he first thought. Thriving on dry-pan, dark humor, director Riley Stearns creates a film that cuts deep into toxic masculinity by showing how normalized it has become. (Read Our Full Review)

Death of Dick Long: Friday, June 7th SIFF Egyptian 9:00pm / Saturday, June 8th SIFF Uptown 2:30pm

Death of Dick Long is director Daniel Scheinhert’s follow-up to his indie hit Swiss Army Man which sees two drinking buddies, Zeke and Earl, as they attempt to cover up the mysterious death of their friend Dick Long. Through hilarious attempts to maintain their complicated lie, Zeke and Earl find themselves falling from one rabbit hole to another as Scheinhert employs the same dark comedy and zaniness that made Swiss Army Man a success. 

The Nightingale: Saturday, May 18th SIFF Uptown 9:00pm / Thursday, May 23rd SIFF Egyptian 9:30pm

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale is not an easy watch, but the gravity it presents in its scenarios are needed as it discusses violence against women and the horrors of colonialism. After a vicious act of violence, Claire pursues the perpetrators through the Tasmanian bush looking to extract revenge for the wrongs committed against her. It has a lengthy run time, but its blunt look at thematic targets will surely leave a lasting impression long after you leave the theater. 

Archival Film Series: As always, we recommend checking out one or two  archival films to help fill in your back catalog of important films. This year SIFF has great offerings including Fritz Lang’s Spies, Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three, I Am Cuba, Fantastic Planet, and Between the Lines. Any one of these are worth watching on their own, but seeing them in a theater is certainly preferable to your computer screen.

Other Notable Recommendations:




Meeting Gorbachov

The Apollo

We Are the Radical Monarchs

Film Club has a special code to get $3 off your tickets for Banana Split, the Futurewave Shorts, Blinded By The Light, and House of Hummingbird! Use UWFILMCLUB19 at checkout when buying tickets for those films!