The St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) hosts its annual Filmmakers Showcase from July 13-17.
Among the dozens of great films is one that resonates with me and many other people in my community.
Elegy to Connie is a stop action animation film laced with documentary interviews celebrating the life of Connie Karr, a council woman killed in the Kirkwood City Hall shootings in February 2008.
Those shootings changed my community of Kirkwood forever. On that day in February 2008, two police officers, two council members and one city official died at the hands of Cookie Thornton. The mayor was critically injured and died within months.
St. Louisans enjoy less than six degrees of separation from one another; in communities like Kirkwood, it’s more like two degrees of separation. I knew Connie Karr through mutual friends. Like so many in our community, I was on a first name basis with Mayor Mike Swoboda. And the gunman, Cookie Thornton, had once volunteered at Nipher Middle School, the same school that my two boys attended. The director of Elegy to Connie, Sarah Paulsen, attended the same elementary school as my boys and I was on committees with her mom, Kathy.
The night of the shooting, I was at middle school teacher conferences. As my last conference wound to a close, I noticed people standing in small groups talking in hushed tones. I asked my son’s social studies teacher what was going on. He told me there had been a shooting at City Hall. At that time, no one seemed to know the gravity or extent of the situation. I saw police lights further north on Kirkwood Road. When I arrived home, my neighbor paced across his driveway, cell phone to his ear. He hugged me and, like the whole community, we were linked together in grief and sadness. I hurried into my house to be with my boys, the only place that felt right, and safe.
I never thought Kirkwood would be one of the (now) dozens of communities made famous by gun violence. It’s not a club we chose to be in. But the shootings made our community look at itself more closely and ask hard questions about disenfranchisement, white privilege and alienation. Sarah Paulsen, a gifted and talented visual artist, examines those questions in “Elegy to Connie.” I hope to see you in the audience.
"Elegy to Connie" screens Sunday July 13 at 2:30 at the Tivoli.
St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase schedule