Wednesday, 04 November 2015 01:12

Previewing the 24th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival

Written by 

Everything about this year’s Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival is bigger, bolder and more daring than previous offerings with 70 nations represented across the 447 films being shown (including 97 narrative features, 86 documentary features, and 264 shorts). Special events, master classes and exclusive premieres supplement this record number of films.

Additionally they are hosting 125 filmmakers and related guests, including award honorees Alex Winter (Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award), Trent Harris (Contemporary Cinema Award), and Rosemary Rodriguez (Women in Film Award).

Actor/writer/director Alex Winter, a former St. Louis resident, is being honored with this year’s Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award. Winter’s provocative documentary Deep Web opens the festival on November 5, followed by a showing of the beloved goof classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on November 6 and his exploration of the music industry’s response to the digital revolution, Downloaded on November 7. Winter will be on hand for all three screenings for a Q&A. 

The 24th annual fest also continues the dialogue it initiated last year with Race in America: The Black Experience. Two programs that specifically address the issues related to the events in Ferguson. This year SLIFF has expanded its community outreach programming by offering free admission to some of the Race in America programming.

Civil rights activist and U.S. Congressman John Lewis will be in attendance for the November 8th screening of the documentary, Get In The Way: The Journey of John Lewis at Brown Hall at Washington University. The film is the first to chronicle the life of this American pioneer.

Other prominent guests include Women in Film Award recipient Rosemary Rodriguez who returns to SLIFF after 14 years to screen her new film, Silver Skies, and Contemporary Cinema Award winner Trent Harris who will be on hand for screenings of his Beaver Trilogy and the documentary Beaver Trilogy Part IV.

 

With SLIFF only days away there is a genuine excitement about this year’s most anticipated narrative films. Here’s a look at some of the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival’s most popular offerings:

The 33

This compelling drama is a tense survival story about 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2000 miles underground following a mine collapse in 2010.  It boasts an amazing ensemble of actors including, Antonio Banduras, Juliet Binoche, James Brolin, Martin Sheen and Gabriel. Director Patricia Rigden is gaining buzz as a possible Best Director Oscar nominee.

Saturday, November 7, 7:30 p.m., Tivoli

 

Anomalisa

The wacky mind of Charlie Kaufman gives us a new stop motion film tinged with surrealism that adeptly balances a love story soaked in

awkwardness and black comedy. Ohio has never been this strange.

Sunday, November 15, 6 p.m., Tivoli

 

Brooklyn

This film, based on Colm Tóibín’s novel has been adapted for the screen by famed author Nick Hornby. It follows Irish immigrants from their native Ireland to Brooklyn, where their loyalties are tested. Set in the1950s, the movie utilizes an impressive cast to underscore the difficulties new arrivals faced in finding safe footing amongst the American experience.

Friday, November 6, 7:00 p.m., Tivoli

 

Carol

It’s a big year for turning books into celluloid tales. This one features a powerhouse performance from Cate Blanchett as the title character. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Price of Salt, this intense love story centers on an affair between two women from different backgrounds. Blanchett’s latest pairing with Director Todd Haynes (whom she worked on with I’m Not There) features an electric chemistry with co-star Rooney Mara is generating massive critical acclaim.

Sunday, November 8, 4 p.m., Tivoli

 

Cemetery of Splendor

Here is another great example of Thai contemporary cinema from Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Mekong Hotel, Tropical Malady, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). Returning to his themes of reincarnation, serenity and spirituality, his latest endeavor is a visually stunning film about a woman whose treatment of a soldier’s sleeping disorder opens her mind to dreams, visions and illusions. Rich in tradition, peacefulness and magic this is one of the festival’s must see under the radar films.

Saturday, November 14, 9:15 p.m., Plaza Frontenac

Sunday, November 15, 6:50 p.m., Plaza Frontenac

 

Court

A winner at several film festivals this absurdist commentary lambasts the caste system and economic and political injustice systems of contemporary India. The movie’s plot revolves around an aging folksinger whose arrest on bogus charges ignites a furor when his case goes to trial. Frustrating and futile, the movie boasts an ensemble cast of newcomers and established stars that give the movie a unique texture that connects with the audience.

Tuesday, November 10, 9:15 p.m., Plaza Frontenac

Thursday, November 12, 4:20 p.m., Plaza Frontenac 

 

Henri Henri

Martin Talbot’s film has drawn comparisons to Amelie’ in that it features a quirky and odd protagonist. Henri is an orphan charged with maintaining the chandeliers and lights in an orphanage. His life is turned asunder when his home is sold forcing him to make his way out into in fast paced world. Alone in a new environment he finds a job, meets a girl and sees the world with a new luminosity. This fish out of water story is told with a lighthearted comedic tone that is paced and timed to perfection.

Friday, November 13, 7 p.m., Plaza Frontenac

Sunday, November 15, 7:10 p.m., Plaza Frontenac

 

Legend

Tom Hardy steps away from the Hollywood blockbuster (Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max Fury Road) to star as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious gangsters to emerge from the violent underbelly of the1960s London. They just don’t make gritty old school crime thrillers like this one anymore.

Saturday, November 14, 8:30 p.m., Tivoli

 

If narratives are not your cup of tea there are a lot of short films to entice and delight. Packaged into thematic categories, the ever shorts programming includes a selection of cinema from around the world and covering a wide range of topics.

This year’s festival offerings also include three locally produced independent films, Cronies, Four Way Stop and The Nameless. These feature length flicks demonstrate the creativity and ingenuity found in our film community.

If you are not a film junky fear not, the film festival offers something for everyone, including plenty of sidebars (covering everything from Eastern European, Asian, Italian and Architecture focuses), short films, documentaries and independent films.

As the St. Louis Film Festival expands so does it network of partners, offering even more locations for film events around town. This year’s venues include the Tivoli Theatre, Plaza Frontenac Cinema, the Hi-Pointe Backlot, Ballpark Village, Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium and Sverdrup Hall, the Missouri History Museum, The Stage at KDHX, St. Louis University’s Center For Global Citizenship, Brown Hall and the Steinberg Auditorium at Washington University and the Contemporary Art Museum.

For showtimes, information, tickets and listings visit www.cinemastlouis.org.

Related items

Media