Last week, our Monday Morning Poll topic was on the upcoming 9/11 films -- United 93, which comes out this month, and Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, starring Nicolas Cage, which opens August 11. At the same time we asked that poll question (and we're certainly not the only film site asking ourselves and our readers if it's too soon for a film about 9/11) -- the Seattle Arab and Iranian Film Festival (SAIFF) was running here in Seattle. It's a small festival, without the furious deal-making and hot "scene" of Sundance or the red carpets and brouhaha surrounding Cannes, or even the mild fervor that will be generated in Seattle at the end of May with the opening of the Seattle International Film Festival.

Yet now, perhaps more than ever before, smaller film fests -- especially the culture-centric fests like SAIFF, the Seattle Jewish Film Festival, which ran here recently, and lots of other smaller fests around the country -- matter. They matter because it is at these smaller fests that hundreds of seeds of social conscience and cultural understanding are sown. Hopefully some of those seeds will get picked up and scattered around at the larger fests where they'll get more press and attention, but even for those that don't score large play on the festival circuit, much less the Holy Grail of indie film, distribution, small film festivals give their voices a chance to be heard.