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Northwest Film Forum

Inciting public dialogue and creative action through collective cinema experiences

Original drawing by Emma Seymour

NWFF lists 26 partner organizations on their website. And yet, by the end of this lengthy list they’re not actually done. They conclude with an unassuming “and more,” clarifying for the reader that this phalanx of artistic partners is not all-inclusive. There are troops waiting in the wings.

Generally speaking, the NWFF seems to pride itself on resisting any sort of comprehensive categorization. Every descriptor of their work could be punctuated with an “and more.” They’re a theater, an editing bay, a gear library, a film vault, an events space and a styrofoam-cake-decorating studio.

This Capitol Hill space acts as a “room of requirement” for Seattle artists and organizations, morphing to fulfill the needs of each new film-related endeavor. “More than a movie theater, it’s a gathering space,” explains Christopher Day, the managing director at NWFF. For non-filmmakers, this means two things: access to a shifting kaleidoscope of fresh artistry in one location, and endless chances to join the film community in Seattle, in whatever capacity suits you.

The forum’s two screens split their screening hours between festival showings and bespoke programming. The space proudly hosts festivals that represent a diverse set of Seattle communities, including the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, YIPS (Young Independent People Seattle) Festival, Seattle Queer Film Festival… “and more.”

Among this procession of premieres, two festivals stand out as Film Forum signatures. Both the Children’s Film Festival Seattle in February and the Local Sightings Film Festival in September – a celebration of local Pacific Northwest film and filmmakers – draw crowds and regularly sell out showings. The NWFF also draws from festivals happening elsewhere, screening the best of the Sundance Film Festival shorts for Seattle audiences each year.

In their non-festival programming, the team at NWFF often collaborate with local film-fluencers to put on original events. In their “Unstreamable” series, NWFF partners with the movie experts at Scarecrow and the creative minds behind the Unstreamable blog to show films that cannot be found on any online platform. Recent examples include Garbage Pail Kids and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

I attended the Unstreamable showing of Poison Ivy a ’90s erotic thriller starring a 16-year-old Drew Barrymore out to destroy her best friend’s family using any means necessary (but mostly sultry eye contact and risqué evening gowns). Watching Barrymore attempt to seduce a clearly uncomfortable 60-year-old Tom Skerritt was delightfully absurd, but the real fun was watching the film alongside the appreciative audience at NWFF. The group was quick with a gasp or giggle whenever Barrymore bewitched another parent, or when Leonardo DiCaprio made a surprise cameo.

Audience participation is not only expected; it’s practically required at some NWFF events. In the “Mourning Sickness” series, drag star Monday Morning treats attendees to showings of personally selected cult classics, with content that leans heavily toward campiness and fun.

The NWFF complements these events with a steady stream of carefully selected films you won’t see anywhere else in Seattle. Christopher Day describes the usual NWFF movie as one that’s “typically smaller, independent or foreign. We screen things that tend to sneak under everyone else’s radar. Above all, something our audience will want to see.”

Go see what art is in motion at NWFF today, or make some of your own in one of their many artistic workshops:


Number of screens/seats:

2 screens, 110 seats/46 seats.


NWFF maintains their popcorn machines like a cooking nerd cares for a cast-iron skillet. They keep the machines well-seasoned to infuse a depth of flavor into the popcorn, then toss the finished product with peanut oil and salt. Customers are encouraged to customize their popcorn, with a rotating seasoning station that includes chili powder, Cajun seasoning, paprika and nutritional yeast.

NWFF members get free refills.


Located in the center of Capitol Hill, parking options at NWFF are as bad as public transportation options are excellent – so travel by bus or light rail. If you must drive, street parking is available for the dogged (or lucky) searcher, and consistent parking can be found at the Harvard Garage for $10 an evening.

Signature showings:

  • Children’s Film Festival Seattle

  • Local Sightings Film Festival

Fun fact:

Hosted the PNW’s first disability-focused comedy festival (The Disabled List Comedy Fest) this January.

What’s a typical NWFF movie?

“Smaller, independent or foreign; things that tend to sneak under everyone else’s radar.”

What's Poppin:

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