Past efforts to compete with SIFF have gone over like OK Soda; nobody seems to even remember them. I reckon the problem lay in the approach. By opposing SIFF on moral grounds--arguing over all the things the festival isn't and failing to appreciate the things it is--the ill-begotten programs, however good they might have been, were BBs bouncing off the bulwark of a successful institution.
This year, however, a coalition of Seattle's finest film and video organizations, micro and independent cinemas, and alternative exhibitors have banded together to present Satellites 2000--not an anti-SIFF program, but rather, an adjunct festival designed to nourish the commonweal. Between the Grand Illusion, the Little Theatre, 911 Media Arts Center, Independent Exposure, and Cinema 18, all the stars of what I like to call the undie film community ("indie" having been rendered meaningless and "microcinema" being too specific) are represented. Though the week-and-a-half-long series doesn't exactly have a unifying theme, its eclectic content and focus on alternative spaces offer up a pupu tray of the kind of alternative-to-alternative cinema that Seattle's underground exhibitors put on all year round.
Week One Highlights:
• The debut of American Pimp, an astounding new documentary by the Hughes Brothers (Grand Illusion, Fri-Thurs May 19-25).
• Drunkdance, a collection of locally produced shorts on the topic of Seattle's real drug of choice (911 Media Arts Center, Fri May 19 only, 8 pm).
• The third annual Super Super 8 Festival (Sit & Spin, Wed May 24 only, 8 pm).
• A 50th anniversary screening of Gian-Carlo Menotti's spooky 1951 opera film, The Medium (Little Theatre, Wed May 24 only, 8 pm).
Next week brings the latest installment of Independent Exposure and Michael Almereyda's Another Girl, Another Planet, and more.
Resistance to SIFF has proven futile. But as festival audiences grow beyond the capacity of the theaters (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has stopped going simply because of the lines), the possibility for Satellites 2000 to benefit from a little crowd run-off seems pretty good. And pretty good is a good start.