Arts & Entertainment: Sister Cities set to host 11th annual film festival

  • (Photos courtesy of the Sister Cities International)

  • (Photos courtesy of the Sister Cities International)

It is film flam time in the 253 with the 11th annual Sister Cities International Film Festival set to run weekly until April 4 at Proctor District’s landmark Blue Mouse Theatre. It will showcase films from Kitakyushu, Japan; Kiryat-Motzkin, Israel; Cienfuegos, Cuba; Fuzhou, China; Gunsan, South Korea; Alesund, Norway; Taichung, Taiwan; Biot, France and El Jadida, Morocco. Every week will bring a new film from a country where Tacoma has a sister city relationship.

“This annual film festival helps promote Tacoma’s global connections,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. "It also provides us great opportunities to get out and enjoy one of Tacoma’s unique neighborhood business districts. We are pleased that Tacoma’s historic Blue Mouse Theatre will continue to host this important educational and cultural event that celebrates our sister cities."

After its inaugural year in 2004, Sister Cities International gave Tacoma’s film festival the Sister Cities International Culture and Innovation Award. Since then, more than 1,200 people have attended the festival each year.

Tacoma currently has 12 sister cities, the newest of which is Biot, France. Each has supporters in this area on a volunteer sister city committee that selects a film for the festival. Some committees work with consulates to select a film from the region, while others screen several films and select the entry themselves. Since some countries and committees are more active in the festival than others, not every sister city is screening a film. Vladivostok, Russia; Davao City, Philippines and George, South Africa do not have films in the festival this year but the ones that are being screened promise to be top notch.

“These are all really big movies in their home countries,” said Debbie Bingham, coordinator of the festival.

The movie from Taiwan this year, “Cape No. 7,” for example, is the third best-selling movie in Taiwan. The movie from Morocco, “Boiling Dreams,” is a documentary and the filmmaker will be in attendance. The Japanese movie, “What the Snow Brings,” has won many awards, including acceptance into the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival as well as being the winner of the audience choice, best actor and best director honors at Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix.

The Tacoma Sister Cities program seeks to promote cultural and political diversity, and encourage international exchanges between business, governments, health, arts, cultural and educational organizations. The film festival is extremely popular to local filmgoers and tickets for the 200-seat movie screenings often sell out well in advance, so advanced purchases are recommended. Tickets are $10 each or season tickets are $80 and available at the Blue Mouse Theatre, North 26th and North Proctor streets, at Pacific Northwest Shop, 2702 N. Proctor St. or online at

Movies in the Sister City International Film Festival

“What the Snow Brings” – Japan

Thursday, Feb. 7

Following a tip, Manabu Yazaki loses his last money betting on the older horse in a draft-horse race held in his childhood home of Obihiro on the island of Hokkaido. That evening he seeks out his older brother Takeo, a trainer who owns a stable. Takeo is cool to his brother's return since Manabu cut off contact with Takeo and his mother 13 years earlier, after completing a degree at a Tokyo university, founding a successful company and getting married. After finding out that Manabu’s company is going bankrupt, his marriage has ended and he is hiding from his partner and creditors, Takeo offers to let his brother stay if he earns his keep as a stable hand. However, he resists letting him see their mother, who is in a nursing home.

"Off White lies" – Israel

Thursday, Feb. 14

After years of living apart from her dad, Libby, an introverted yet sharp-witted teenager, is sent to live with him in Israel. Her arrival coincides with the outbreak of the second Lebanon war.

“The Beauty from Alhambra” – Cuba

Thursday, Feb. 21

In this good-natured, nostalgic drama, Rachel is a woman who longs to sing, and does so in the Cuban cabarets of the 1920s and 1930s, culminating in a career at the famous Alhambra in Havana. She is willing to use influential men to further her career, but also understands that she, in turn, will be used. The story is based on a book by Miguel Barnet entitled “Rachel’s Song.”

"Last Train Home" – China

Thursday, Feb. 28

A couple embarks on a journey home for the Chinese New Year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars toward being a world superpower.

"Secret Sunshine" – South Korea

Thursday, March 7

Sin-ae moves with her son Jun to Miryang, the town where her dead husband was born. As she tries to come to herself and set out on new foundations, another tragic event overturns her life.

"O'Horten" – Norway

Thursday, March 14

A drama focused on a life-changing moment in 67-year-old train engineer Odd Horten’s existence: the evening of his retirement.

"Cape No. 7" – Taiwan

Thursday, March 21

Aga, a band singer, returns to Hengchun with frustration. Tomoko is a Japanese model assigned to organize a local warm-up band for the Japanese superstar beach concert. Together with other five ordinary Hengchun residents who were not expected to be great.

"The Butterfly" – France

Thursday, March 28

In this family-friendly movie, Julien, a collector of butterflies, seeks to find the rare Isabelle Butterfly at the request of his now deceased brother. Before he begins his journey to the Alps for this year’s search, he meets 8-year-old Elsa, a girl with a very inattentive mother.

Julien agrees to bring Elsa along on his search, not knowing that Elsa’s mother never approved or knew about this. As they hike through the mountains and hills of the Alps, we learn more about both characters, their personalities and their lives. Meanwhile, Elsa’s mother notices that her daughter is missing, and calls the police to begin searching for her missing daughter. Julien and Elsa scale the mountains, avoiding the police without even knowing that they were being searched for. As they reach a suitable place to find the sought-after butterfly, they set up camp and wait.

"Boiling Dreams" – Morocco

Thursday, April 4

In a tiny Moroccan village, a young father of two makes an illegal crossing into Spain, but never calls his family back home.


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