Skip to main content

Make Believe Seattle: a new destination for genre fans

Make Believe Seattle Film Festival
Enlarge Icon
Courtesy of Make Believe Seattle Film Festival

Washington is no stranger to film festivals, but now there’s a Seattle festival for films that are stranger.

“Make Believe Seattle” debuts this weekend, and it’s a lovefest for genre films.

According to its mission statement, "Make Believe Seattle" is an imagination-focused genre festival located in Capitol Hill. The festival is dedicated to shining a light on the best in genre cinema, while also expanding the definition of what "genre" means for a new generation of cinephiles.

“Genre cinema is sort of a blanket term that people use to describe a whole host of genres: Horror, sci fi, anime, animation, fantasy," explains Festival Director and Lead Programmer Billy Ray Brewton. "If it's dealing with something of a heightened imagination, which is our personal definition, we consider that genre cinema.”

Movies that wouldn’t normally get big budget green lights from major studios thrive on the festival circuit, and genre filmmaking opens up opportunities to many under-represented creators.

Daniel Montgomery is the director of “The Jessica Cabin,” which he refers to as “a gay ghost story." Montgomery says, genre films, especially horror films, allow for marginalized people to shine through storytelling.

“As queer people, we often feel like we are outside of the norm," Montgomery says. "We are the other, so it feels like it's our playground to play in, you know. Reality is scary enough for a queer person on a regular day. So like, let's play in surreality.”

He says seeing yourself represented on screen is an important part of feeling like these stories are yours to tell.

“I think everybody would agree that it's important to feel represented, and to see yourself reflected in a story so you can immediately identify with it," Montgomery says. "And I also think there's a pretty wonderful range of queer expression. I know I mentioned that this is a gay ghost story, but technically, it's a bisexual, nonbinary, gay ghost story, you know, it's a range. And I just think when you have more colors, it's more fun to paint.”

Onur Tukel is the director of "Poundcake," a dark comedy/horror that asks the question, “Is it okay to feel catharsis through the horrific?”

“It's a dark comedy about a killer in New York City, who's going around, he's stalking straight white men; he's killing straight white men," Tukel says.

"But the idea is kind of poking fun at the idea that look, straight white men, you know, they're responsible for the patriarchy, and colonialism and slavery and capitalism, and all all the problems of the world. It's their fault.”

Tukel says he realizes he’s walking a pretty fine line, but that's kind of the point.

“With horror, I think the goal is to be shocking," he says. "With comedy, I think one of the goals is to be inappropriate," he explains. "I want people to have their feathers ruffled before they saw the movie. And then when they went in, be pleasantly surprised by the unifying message of the movie.”

Another film, “Polaris” is described as an “eco-action-fantasy-thriller!” It’s the story of an indigenous child taken in and raised by a polar bear. Director K.C. describes it as Mad Max in the Arctic.

“I love how genre filmmaking captivates the imagination in whatever realm that is," she says. "For me, I'm a huge fan of science fiction and a huge fan of fantasy storytelling… I also think it's has always been a strong platform for speaking philosophically for talking about issues in ways that are really, you know, blended with a narrative in ways that are exciting and engaging, and don't feel sort of too heavy, they feel really important. “

“Polaris” opens Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at the SIFF Egyptian. You can catch “The Jessica Cabin” at 6:15 p.m. Friday at the Century Ballroom. “Poundcake” has its world premiere as the closing film of the festival, at 8 p.m. Sunday at the SIFF Egyptian.

Festival Director Brewton says it is well past time that Seattle has its own genre festival.

"As soon as I moved to Seattle, I was like, 'Oh! How does Seattle not have a genre festival?'" Brewton says. "It's the Pacific Northwest, it's already steeped in like, the spooky and the weird and like, how does it not have one?"

"Make Believe Seattle" has "inclusivity" as a core value. Brewton says that it's time to look for new ways of putting these types of events together.

"I've been going to these festivals for 15 years, and I've always felt comfortable there as a filmmaker, I've always felt comfortable there as a horror fan or a genre fan. I've never felt comfortable at one as a queer person," he explains. "And I think a lot of people feel that way. I think a lot of queer people, people of color, women... because, you know, genre festivals have traditionally been catered to straight white men."

Brewton says that he's looking to do things a little differently than the norm, and that extends to the cost of attending the festival.

"What's the barrier to attending a film festival? Money," Brewton says. "A lot of the times a festival pass runs $1,000. We certainly don't want anybody to not be able to attend our festival because of those kinds of reasons."

The most expensive pass for "Make Believe Seattle" is the VIP pass, which runs $150. Other passes range from $25 up to $150, and single screening tickets are between $10 and $18, depending on the show.

The festival kicks off tonight, Wednesday, March 22, with a free screening of "Friday the 13th: Vengeance 2: Bloodlines," an unauthorized fan film directed by Jason Brooks. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Northwest Film Forum. Tickets are free, but you have to RSVP, and they're first come, first served.

You can listen to the entire conversation by clicking on the link above, and you can find all the information about Make Believe Seattle at their website.

Why you can trust KUOW