Here Are the Most Bookish Movies at SIFF This Year

The Seattle International Film Festival kicks off tonight, and the next four weeks will bring hundreds of movies from around the world to venues throughout the region. You should absolutely take part in SIFF; it’s one of the cultural events that shapes and defines the city. Because we know you love books — you’re on this site, after all — we thought we’d assemble SIFF’s most literary films into an alphabetical list for you, along with SIFF’s descriptions. If you’re interested in a film, just click on the title, which will take you to SIFF’s page, where you can watch a trailer and buy tickets. At the end of the list, I’ll give some of my picks.

The Academy of Muses

Eclectic Spanish filmmaker José Luis Guerin inventively explores the fine lines separating fact, fiction, art, and life through the story of an ethically dubious university professor who uses the precepts of ancient literature as an excuse for his dalliances.


This sumptuous and dreamy biopic about posthumously celebrated Italian poet Antonia Pozzi explores the artist's passions, enlightenment, sexuality, and torments as a young girl in 1930s Milan as she struggles to find her own voice in her short life.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story

Uncover the fascinating truth behind wunderkind JT LeRoy, whose tough, sordid memoirs about life as a teenage male hustler captivated the literary world—until he was revealed to be a fictional creation of 40-year-old female writer Laura Albert.

Finding Babel

75 years after subversive Soviet writer Isaac Babel's execution for supposed criticism of the Communist Party, his grandson works to piece together the story of the grandfather he never knew and understand the author's unique artistic style.

The IF Project

A compassionate Seattle police officer creates a unique writing program along with a group of inmates at a maximum-security women's prison, challenging them to answer a simple question with a difficult answer: What if things had been different?


Frequent Ang Lee collaborator James Schamus steps into the director's chair to adapt Philip Roth's novel about an independent-minded college student (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) at odds with the mindset of 1950s America.

Love & Friendship

Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco) delivers a marvelously witty take on Jane Austen's novella about cunning widow Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) who plots and flirts to find suitable husbands for herself and her daughter.

Maya Angelou and I Still Rise

Made over a four-year period, and featuring interviews with the iconic writer herself, this inspirational and informative documentary uses an effective chronological approach to celebrate beloved poet Maya Angelou and her work.

Paul à Québec

Michel Rabagliati's celebrated graphic novel The Song of Roland comes to life in this charming, wryly funny, and uplifting tale of a graphic designer and his relationship with his dying father-in-law.


Sexually questioning high-school freshman Neil (Michael Johnston, Teen Wolf) discovers a new creative outlet when his new friend Julia (Hannah Marks, Awkward) takes him down the rabbit hole of online erotic fan fiction.

Uncle Howard

The nephew of filmmaker Howard Brookner, whose work captured the creative culture of '70s and '80s New York City, sets out to find the lost negative of a film on William S. Burroughs, uncovering his uncle's influence on a generation of artists along the way.

Vintage Tomorrows

Dive deep into the world of steampunk, the subgenre of science fiction inspired by 19th-century technology and aesthetics, in this documentary featuring appearances by authors William Gibson, China Miéville, and Cory Doctorow.

Whew! That’s a lot of movies. How do you narrow them down? Here are the three I’m most excited for:

  • I can’t wait to see Author: The JT LeRoy Story. LeRoy/Laura Albert is one of the most fascinating figures of the early 2000s, and the question of authenticity in literature is very serious and very interesting. (“LeRoy”’s books were billed as fiction, after all, which means there’s a slight moral difference from, say, the James Frey situation.) I’ll be interviewing director Jeff Feuerzeig after the screening at Shoreline Community College on Monday, May 30th at 3 pm.

  • Whit Stillman and Jane Austen are a match made in heaven; you could argue that Stillman’s movies have largely been modern-day Austen riffs. So Love & Friendship is a must-see: it’s got a great cast, Stillman is stretching himself in an interesting way, and even a bad Austen adaptation has the benefit of being an Austen adaptation, so you can’t really go wrong with this one.

  • The trailer for Slash sold me. A teen comedy set in the world of sexy fan fiction? With what seems to be a realistic depiction of nerd culture? I’m down for any movie about finding your identity through writing, and movies that demonstrate both the benefits and the detriments of growing up nerdy are in short supply.