Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All Is By My Side.

SIFF Opening Gala: Jimi: All Is By My Side

Catagorizing as SIFF's opening film—Jimi: All Is By My Side—as a Jimi Hendrix biopic is somewhat of a misnomer. More accurately, it's a brief glimpse the years right before the rock legend became a star. Even more to the point, it's an examination of the highs and lows of unbridled artistic spirit expressed through Hendrix's relationships with the women in his life (played by Hayley Atwell and the magnetic Imogen Poots). It's almost eerie how perfectly André Benjamin (aka Outkast's André 3000) embodies Hendrix with his reserved mannerisms and soft spoken artistic prose that can seem both profound and profoundly dumb and self-absorbed. It's as accurate a portrayal of a famous musician as you'll ever find. Writer and director John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) uses stark cuts and stock footage to make the film a vibrant period piece, but it's a somewhat unfocused one that never really attempts to understand what made its protagonist tick (it doesn't help that the Hendrix estate didn't allow Jimi's original tunes to be used). Much like Hendrix's music, Jimi: All Is By My Side isn't so much about substance as the colors it evokes.

Screening: May 15 at 7 (McCawHall). $50–$250.

An Evening with Chiwetel Ejiofor: Half of a Yellow Sun

Chiwetel Ejiofor, the Oscar nominated star of 12 Years a Slave, visits Seattle to receive a SIFF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting. The presentation ceremony corresponds with a showing of Ejiofor's latest film Half of a Yellow Sun, which follows two sisters' tribulations during the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s. To provide more Ejiofor, SIFF will also screen the cult favorite Serenity on May 18.

Screening: May 19 at 6 (Egyptian Theatre), $35–$150

An Afternoon with Laura Dern: Wild at Heart

From the challenging brilliance of David Lynch's films to the popcorn perfection of Jurassic Park, Laura Dern has showcased her acting ability across the cinematic spectrum. She'll be on hand to accept a SIFF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting before the screening of Lynch's 1990 Palme d'Or winner Wild at Heart (good Nic Cage alert!). SIFF 2014 also features screenings of Dern's latest film, the big screen adaptation of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.

Screening: May 15 at 7 (McCawHall), $25–$150

The Search for General Tso

While many documentaries help expose important truths and challenge societal perceptions, some of the best docs revel in weird, trivial specificity. The Search for General Tso fits firmly in the latter camp. The film examines the American obsession with the Chinese dish and attempts to uncover its origins.

Screenings: May 16 at 11am (Pacific Place) / May 17 at 3:45 (Lincoln Square) / May 18 at 6:30 (Pacific Place). $10–$12.

SIFF 2014
May 15–June 8, Various Venues

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