Local Film Festivals Provide New Lens for Social Issues



Students at Seattle University live in an entertainment goldmine and may not even know it. With downtown Seattle just in their backyard, students have access to a large amount of events and exploration.

Currently and within the coming month, there are many film festivals occurring around the city, showing motion pictures that may never end up in theaters or on streaming services.

Recent festivals include the TWIST Queer Film Festival, the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival and the French Cinema Now! Film Festival.

While some students may pass over these opportunities to view films that are often fairly different from those shown in the cinemas. Kirsten Thompson, Seattle U’s Director of Film Studies encourages students to jump outside of their comfort zones.

“We’re very lucky because we have an embarrassment of riches right at our doorstep and if I could get my five cents in here I would encourage students [not to] huddle on campus and just watch stuff here that’s in their dorm rooms,” she said, noting the Northwest Film Forum located right on 12th avenue.

Global Awareness Program Director at Seattle U Hazel Hahn, further stresses the importance of festivals such as these.

“These are being done really not to make money but to really provide the public with opportunities to view different kinds of films that are made for purposes for which the primary aim most definitely is not financial profit,” she said. Hahn especially pays attention to the reason that the films shown at festivals were made in the first place, noting that some films do gain financial success both abroad and domestically.

Film festivals provide the opportunity to view films that may never be shown elsewhere, providing glimpses into lives that students may rarely see.

TWIST Festival Oct. 12 to 22


An estimated 10,000 moviegoers will be attending this month’s “TWIST Film Festival”, bringing together filmmakers for the 22nd consecutive year. The purpose of the festival according to Jason Plourde, TWIST 2017’s executive director, is to “highlight LGBTQ stories in which we discover our histories, challenge injustices and celebrate our victories.”

The annual queer film festival runs from Oct. 12 to 22, showing multiple films daily across various Seattle theatres. This year, TWIST features the productions of primarily female and transgender directors from 29 different countries, covering a wide assortment of genres, themes and underrepresented voices.

A lot of effort and planning is put into running a festival of this caliber. Three Dollar Bill Cinema, the nonprofit organization that programs and runs TWIST, operates throughout the year to provide access to films by, for, and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people and their families.

Sam Berliner works year-round for Three Dollar Bill Cinema, and recognizes the feeling of empowerment that the film festival provides to the LGTBQ community

“Our film festivals bring a rich beautiful experience to Seattle twice a year for our queer and trans and alike communities,” Berliner said. “Film is a really powerful medium for queer and trans folks to be able to see their stories represented on screen. It’s really empowering, inspirational and reassuring.”


Berliner works as the festival director for Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival, and is an active filmmaker himself. Additionally, he has started a group called Queer Scouts Seattle for LGBTQ adults and their allies to learn new skills, get outside and meet people.

“The film festivals offer education and empathy development for allies as well as a place for the communities to come together and share resources,” Berliner said.

Northwest Film Forum, a nonprofit film and arts center on Capitol Hill, is screening some of the films for the TWIST festival. “Signature Move,” one of the many films playing at Northwest Film Forum, is a dramatic comedy directed by Jennifer Reeder and starring co-writer and producer Fawzia Mirza. The film, follows a young Pakistani Muslim lesbian residing in Chicago with her conservative mother. The film follows Zynab as she navigates the complexities of life and romance. The movie highlights the beauty of interactions between people of different cultures and life experiences who exchange love and mature together.

The film runs 80 minutes total, packed with comedic execution and emotional impact that is captivating from start to finish. “Signature Move” is an enchanting film that evoked loud applause from the audience as the credits rolled.

Tasveer South Asian Film Festival Oct. 6 to 15

This past Sunday marked the end of the 11-day Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF). The festival website boasts a collection of films which were intended to be a counterpoint to the stories prevalent in mainstream South Asian culture and Bollywood.

In 2017, 58 films and narratives of were shown to the festival’s 3000 attendees. The festival was created to inspire insightful dialogue about social issues, a theme present in the TSAFF’s presentation of Jasleen Kaur’s documentary film, “Maple”.

In the documentary, Director Jasleen Kaur depicted the heart-wrenching story of Maple Batalia, a 19-year-old health science student who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend. The film is a personal and emotional tale of the events leading up Maple’s death, with features from Maple’s parents, extended family and friends.

Following the screening, the audience was encouraged to participate in a question and answer session with the director. The discussion, facilitated by TSAFF members, gave the floor to the audience to comment on the movie and contemplate issues of personal and social importance.

“I just wanted to thank you for having raised this very important question about the way in which we raise our boys”, one audience member said during the discussion.

“Maple” depicts the nature of domestic abuse in South Asia and the factors which construct senseless domestic violence, an underrepresented issue in mainstream South Asian film.

“There is something in the culture that makes it so that women don’t want to talk about these issues,” Kaur said. “They don’t want to shame their families.”

In the lobby, following the screening, Maple’s mother, father, and friends reflected on the film.

The TSAFF is proud to provide directors the resources they need to share their stories. Films and documentaries like “Maple” can be instrumental devices in inspiring social change. The TSAFF provided a personal experience which went beyond the movie itself. The TSAFF will return in 2018.

French Cinema Now! Sept. 18 to Oct. 5


Seattle International Film Festival’s (SIFF) annual week-long event, French Cinema Now!, came to a close on Oct. 5. This year’s impressive lineup, comprised of 19 French-language films from 12 countries and three continents in total, upheld a classic theme present throughout French cinema: nuanced storytelling and poetic realism.

France, often considered to be the motherland of modern filmmaking, is widely known for its distinctly intellectual slow-burners. These films stand in stark opposition to action-packed, obscenely high-budget American movies. French film is celebrated worldwide for its intricate explorations of the human spectrum of emotion.

SIFF has stated that French Cinema Now! 2017 featured “a strong representation of women filmmakers and universal stories.” Aniello De Angelis, a former programmer at SIFF and current programmer at Tribeca Film Festival, gave some insight into the cultural resonance and contextual importance of French Cinema Now!.

“French Cinema has and always will be my favorite cinema,” De Angelis said. “All that they’ve done, all that they’ve offered to film as a concept, from the impressionists to the new wave to the new extremities to now will always excite and entice me.”

French Cinema Now! 2017 featured films from seasoned directors, such as Cédric Klapisch, Bertrand Tavernier, and Agnès Varda. In addition to classics from renowned french filmmakers, the festival also included new-wave works from directors like Anne Émond, Alain Gomis, Karim Drifi and Raja Amari.

“It’s great,” De Angelis said. “ Much like [Italian cinema], it offers a glimpse at films that aren’t necessarily festival or big-name pictures. Nonetheless, [these films] remain integral to the cinema as a culture. You have acclaimed, instrumental directors, like Varda, and you also have works from new directors that represent developments in modern French cinema. What else can you really ask for? It’s so sick.”


Many of this year’s picks were historical dramas, including “Django” (2017), “Dalida” (2016) and “Nelly” (2016). Others portrayed small-town life and flawed familial relationships in films like “Chouf” (2016) and “Wallay” (2017).

Films explored a variety of topics. “Marie Curie,The Courage of Knowledge” (2016) was about Marie Curie’s struggle to carve out a space for female scientists in turn-of-the-century Europe, and Marion Hänsel’s “Upstream” (2016) was about brothers seeking understanding of a father’s death in the woods of Croatia.

French Cinema Now! 2017 pieced together a varied collection of French art that resonated with audience members of every background.

French Cinema Now! Will return to SIFF in 2018.

For students interested in attending film festivals in the Seattle area, the internet can be an incredible tool, with even more festivals coming up such as the Polish Film Festival Oct. 20 to 29 and the Social Justice Film Festival Nov. 16 to 21.

Though some students may think festivals are out of the way, Dr. Thompson maintains that exploration of art, no matter the form it comes in, is vital and an enrichment of students’ education.

“Open yourself up to art, make the time for it,” she said, adding that the right art could change the direction of a student’s life.

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