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SIFF History

Founded in 1976, SIFF is Seattle's leading year-round film organization that brings the best in international and independent film to the Seattle area with the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Cinema and Futurewave Education.

At SIFF, we pride ourselves in offering audiences the opportunity to discover original stories, explore diverse cultures, and take new emotional journeys. Our mission is to create experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world. Through the art of cinema, SIFF promotes film as a medium that fosters cross-cultural communication, education and internal understanding by creating experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films, from major and independent American studio premieres, to the latest international works from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin American and beyond.

Recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America, the Seattle International Film Festival is the largest, most highly-attended film festival in the United States, with over 150,000 attendees in 2012 and was recently named one of the 50 unmissable film festivals by Variety.

The 25-day festival has continued to maintain relevance as Seattle's most accessible and highly publicized film event, and is renowned for its eclectic programming with over 450 features, short films and documentaries from over 70 countries annually.

SIFF is a constantly innovating year-round film organization that highlights new discoveries from around the world alongside established filmmakers and talent. Acclaimed films such as TrainspottingBraveheartKiss of the Spider WomanPoltergeistThe Empire Strikes BackReturn of the Jedi, and Donnie Darko have had their World or American premieres at the Festival. Numerous directors and actors of critical acclaim and celebrity have come to Seattle to participate in the Festival. More recently, these have included Ewan McGregor, Francis Ford Coppola, Spike Lee, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Jessica Biel, Steve Buscemi, Anthony Hopkins, Ang Lee, and Peter Sarsgaard, amongst many others.

In addition to producing the Film Festival, SIFF also operates SIFF Cinema, reaching more than 150,000 attendees annually, and has recently moved into the flagship SIFF Film Center, SIFF's new permanent home on the grounds of Seattle Center. With classroom and archival space as well as a 100 seat screening room perfect for community-based programming, we will be able to greatly expand and enhance our year-round efforts. The stability of a permanent home will also ensure these programs thrive for years to come.

Condensed SIFF History

1976 SIFF is co-founded by Dan Ireland and Darryl MacDonald as part of the for-profit, State Fright, Inc. The festival lasts two weeks and features 18 films, all shown at the Moore Theatre in downtown Seattle.
1979 Third installment of SIFF features 120 films and lasts more than a month.
1980 SIFF begins hosting post-screening discussions with filmmakers.
1984 The Secret Festival-an event within an event-debuts featuring films that cannot be publicly screened and requiring the audience to be solemnly sworn to secrecy.
1985 Moore Theatre expansion forces SIFF to move to the Egyptian Theatre in Capitol Hill. New festival features include midnight screenings, retrospectives, all-night movie marathons and short film competitions.
1990 Cinema Seattle is founded, assuming new non-profit administration for SIFF and the film festival.
1993 Cinema Seattle begins membership program and regular off-season programming and screenings. ECOVISION, a predecessor to Planet Cinema, also debuts.
1995 SIFF is the first festival to broadcast an entire film (Party Girl, featuring Parker Posey) over the Internet. Women in Cinema Festival and Screenwriters Salon programs are introduced.
2007 SIFF Cinema, SIFF's year-round programming venue located in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at Seattle Center's McCaw Hall, opens.
2008 SIFF expands regional footprint to include Everett, names the Everett Performing Arts Center a Festival Venue.
2011 SIFF regional expands footprint to include Renton, names the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center a Festival venue and the SIFF Film Center opens at Seattle Center.
2011 The SIFF Film Center opens on the campus of Seattle Center and SIFF announces that it is re-opening the Uptown Theater in Queen Anne as a new venue for SIFF Cinema.