WEST OF REDEMPTION's Tony Becerra (Producer), Larry Estes (Producer), Cornelia Duryee Moore (Director) with Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard at SIFF Opening Night.

WEST OF REDEMPTION’s Tony Becerra (Producer), Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard, WEST OF REDEMPTION’s Larry Estes (Producer) and Cornelia Duryee Moore (Director) at SIFF Opening Night.

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) officially kicked off its 41st year last week and this year’s festival features some amazing talent from Washington State.

SIFF’s Director of Programming, Beth Barrett, has worked many years to make the festival the largest and longest-running in the country. “This is my 13th festival and, when I started, I worked part time most of the year and there were only 250 films total in the festival – this year, there are 450,” remarks Barrett. The festival is only part of the organization’s year-round programming. “We operate on 5 screens and three locations. Our mission has remained the same – to create experiences bringing people together around film – but the organization has grown to meet that mission on an expanded level.”

Barrett is particularly enthusiastic about this year’s festival and its programming. “I am really excited by our documentary and archival programs – with record numbers in both sections, we are able to explore avenues that we have wanted to for so long. Culinary Cinema is a strong addition this year, and our celebration of Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation (an organization committed to restoring classics) is a powerful way to pay homage and tribute to the films that formed us as viewers and filmmakers.”

But another SIFF also means another edition of the popular Northwest Connections section.

“Northwest Connections is important because there is amazing work being done here in Washington State,” explains Barrett. “And a lot of it is flying under the radar – from talented experimental short filmmakers to indie dramas like West of Redemption, the filmmakers here in the Northwest are getting their visions to the screen. An important note is that we are only able to select a portion of the films that are made here in the northwest. This is a vibrant and creative community.”

Barret enthuses over the varied work Washington and northwest filmmakers do, as well. “The films in this year’s selection really represent the breadth of the films being made here – from documentaries about rock n’ roll luminaries to narratives about breezy summer days, from experimental shorts to hilarious comedies – the northwest filmmakers do it all.”

Seattle-based Cornelia Moore directed West of Redemption (a project Washington Filmworks financially supported through the production incentive program) in Spokane, and is an avid fan of Northwest Connections: “Northwest Connections has always been the way I “SIFF.” I love to watch the incredible creativity of my Seattle colleagues, and each year I try to plan my festival around catching as many of them as I possibly can. I think it is very important that SIFF showcases our local work so beautifully each year. The support that SIFF programmers show us here in Washington, by screening our work, is one of the main reasons why Seattle film keeps getting better and better. This year is no exception. I am tremendously excited by the Northwest Connections lineup for SIFF 2015.”

Rosalie Miller, the filmmaker behind SIFF 2015 short The Things We Keep, believes the category helps expose our local talent efficiently: “What’s so great about the Northwest Connections program is the role it plays in providing a high-profile platform for local/northwest filmmakers to have their work seen and heard. SIFF is such a morale booster. Our film community takes pride in the festival and what it represents — the acknowledgement and celebration of northwest voices is vital. And those very voices want to continue to engage with and/or support SIFF even further!”

Additionally, Shawn Telford, the director of SIFF 2015 short El Camino Solo, believes the sidebar is an excellent way to bring the community together: “The Seattle film community is like a series of archipelagos with everyone working separately but in the same body of water. It takes a great deal of effort or a powerful organization to bring everyone together[…]needless to say, Northwest Connections is one of those rare moments when Seattle filmmakers come together to share stories of encouragement, trials and tribulations and to be inspired by one another. Deepen existing friendships and forge new ones. Money doesn’t make movies. Friends make movies. That’s why we need each other. That’s why we need to come together, share ourselves and our hearts. For the rising tide floats all boats. ”

SIFF runs from now until June 7, and Northwest Connections runs throughout the festival. You can get tickets for all screenings here.