Siff 2010 - Week 3
June 17, 2010

Maria Tomchick

On the last weekend of the Seattle International Film Festival, I saw two documentaries that I recommend people seek out:

Last Train Home was about the largest annual human migration in the world: when 130 million Chinese workers leave their factory jobs to return home to the countryside to visit their families for Chinese New Year. The filmmaker follows one family over the course of four years to gauge the impact of China’s position as the main manufacturer to the world. This film was much better than I expected it to be, and definitely worth seeking out, especially if you’d like to know who makes your blue jeans, t-shirts, iPods, and other inexpensive, imported goods.

Plug & Pray – a film about computer technology, robots, and artificial intelligence might seem like something only an egghead would care about. But this film centers on interviews with Joseph Weizenbaum, a retired computer science professor at MIT, who is critical of the impact of computers and handheld devices on our culture and lifestyle. His realist viewpoint is juxtaposed with interviews of computer scientists and engineers who are trying to bring about a future where people will become human/machine hybrids. Their stated goal is to find a way to cure disease, but eventually their real goal is revealed: eternal life—but only for a select few. If you think genetically modified food is bad, this film will scare the heck out of you.

This year, like every year, SIFF had a lot of really good films. But Seattle is a film mecca year-round, with several independent screens. For example, SIFF will be showing The Best of SIFF this weekend: three days of films that were voted the best of the film festival by audiences and the SIFF jury. (The SIFF Cinema is located in the basement of McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center.)

Also this weekend, Northwest Film Forum will be showing The Oath, a documentary I reviewed on May 31st (see my blog post for that day). It will run from June 18th through the 24th. Check it out.