At Opening Night Gala (2007-05-24)

The SIFF Opening Night Gala is not merely a movie. It's an entire evening event, from disorganized line to interminable introduction to delightful screening to dancing reception.

Disorganized Line

The back of my Gala Pass says, "Passholders will be allowed preferred entrance into theaters up to 20 minutes prior to showtime, or until passholder allotment is reached." Usually this means separate pass holder's and ticket holder's lines, the former entering first. The staff at McCaw Hall were not aware of this convention, however.

As a group of pass holders gathered, I explained the existence of pass holders who hadn't upgraded to VIP to a half-dozen people: to McCaw Hall staff guarding the door upon my arrival, to SIFF staff directing foot traffic inside, to SIFF staff entering the building, to SIFF staff about to clear the area for ticket holders, to two McCaw Hall additional staff directing foot traffic inside. Finally feature programmer Maryna Ajaja approved our entrance.

Interminable Introduction

Once inside our friends guessed how long the introduction would require, from "Good Evening" to the dimming of the lights for the film. Would it be 13 minutes? 17 minutes? 20 minutes? In "The Price Is Right" format I chose 21 minutes, confident from previous opening night experience that the introduction would require more than 20 minutes. The proceedings began 15 minutes late and lasted longer than 35 minutes.

Surprisingly, parade of sponsors by Gary Tucker (Director of Communications and Community Programming) was one of the more enjoyable parts, complete with a picture of a cat with a bottle of vodka. In lolcat style Ryan and I were working on the caption "I Bought You Vodka, But I Drinked It" when a person behind us said, "I Can Has Vodka?". (Later "i'm in ur likker, drinkin ur vodka" occurred to me.)

Delightful Screening

SIFF opening night films often premier elsewhere; Son of Rambow showed at the Sundance Film Festival. This screening was a crowd-pleaser like The Notebook or The Illusionist rather than a surprise like Me and You and Everyone We Know.

It reminded me most of Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys from SIFF 2002, though not opening night. (As I mentioned previously, I met Jena Malone from The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys--and Saved!--when she was in town for Donnie Darko.) Both films contain animated sequences based sketches drawn by one of the film's characters. In Dangerous Lives the religious element is Catholic, while in Son of Rambow it's Plymouth Brethren. Dangerous Lives is set in the 1970s, while Son of Rambow is set in the 1980s. Dangerous Lives has mid-teen characters while Son of Rambow has early teen characters.

The improbable plot of Son of Rambow makes good comedy and tolerable sentimentality. The goings-on are goofy, especially with the addition of a French foreign exchange student. The sentimentality, most prominent in the blood brother scene and several rescue scenes, stands in the literary tradition of innocent romantic friendships among boys at English schools.

Dancing Reception

Finally, the evening ended with a reception. The reception was huge and included a dance area, long lines of food and drink, floors of different music, and films projected on the walls. We danced with friends into the night.

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