Overview of the 18th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival
Each November throngs of cinema fans gather for the annual conclave that is the St. Louis International Film Festival. The 2009 edition is monumental in scope and diversity.
There is programming for everyone — whether you are a hardcore film buff or a casual fan. In addition to over 100 feature films, shorts and documentaries, SLIFF is offering children’s programming, animation, awards, film criticism, as well as special appearances from Jason Reitman, Connie Stevens and the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Tickets for films and events may be purchased at the screening venue. It is a good idea to purchase tickets in advance, as many films will sell out.
The primary venues for this year include Webster University, the Hi-Pointe Theatre, the St. Louis Art Museum, Tivoli Theatre and Plaza Frontenac.
This past Wednesday, November 4, on my show Juxtaposition on KDHX, I chatted with Chris Clark from Cinema St. Louis. Listen to and download the podcast:
Here are some programming highlights.
With a screenplay by author Nick Hornby and a buzz-worthy turn from star on the rise Cary Mulligan, An Education is the perfect opening night selection for the Festival. Belleville’s Peter Sarsgaard stars in this coming of age film set during the onset of swinging Sixties London.
Up In the Air
In case you hadn’t heard, George Clooney spent a lot of time here earlier this year filming this movie about a corporate downsizer whose life is being turned asunder. Director Jason Reitman’s film has generated a strong Oscar buzz on the festival circuit. St. Louisan Kevin Renick is featured on the soundtrack, and you can listen to or download my interview with Kevin and his performance of the song “Up In the Air,” recorded live at KDHX on November 4.
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassuss
Heath Ledger died during principle filming. Good thing Jude Law and Johnny Depp stepped in to replace him. This mythical fantasy also features Tom Waits as the Devil. Terry Gilliam always makes interesting films and this one is not to be missed.
Each year SLIFF presents a diverse array of sidebars that focus on films from a specific region or particular topic. This year’s selection of sidebars is particularly strong. A few worth noting are:
A terrific collection of films from Argentina, a burgeoning and refreshing hot bed for contemporary cinema. Films in this sidebar include: The Headless Woman, Liverpool, Possible Lives, and XXY.
Asian Film Sidebar
Once again SLIFF has an amazing block of Asian films, from such different Pan-Asian locales as Iran, India, China, and Indonesia. Films include: 24 City, Adele, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, The Drummer, Operation Babylift, Tahaah, Those Three and The Photograph.
Eastern European Sidebar
Romania is another “it” spot for world cinema. SLIFF 2009 features two films from Romania in its Eastern European sidebar. These include: First of All Felicia and Hooked. Bosnia is also represented with three stunning films: Grbavica, Snow, and Storm. As part of the Bosnian Cinema Program (November 17-18) Faruk Sabanovic will be on hand to discuss his career and show clips of his work. A program of Edward Serotta documentaries is also being offered.
Noir/Crime Thriller Sidebar
From all regions of the globe it appears that the Film Noir genre is alive and well. The meatiest sidebar of the 2009 festival features a selection of works from the USA and around the world. Films include: 2:22, Cat City, Desdemona: A Love Story, Formosa Betrayed, The Headless Woman, and Yella, among many others.
Once again SLIFF has gone out of its way to present a stellar selection of documentary films. KDHX’s Thomas Crone has two documentaries in this year’s fest. Both of them follow up on the 1970s River City Music scene. Old Dog New Trick follows the career of Steve Scorfina of Pavlov’s Dog & REO Speedwagon. The Pride of St. Louis centers on Danny Liston and the rise of Mama’s Pride. Crone’s films also explore the vital role KSHE Radio had in helping these bands break. As a bonus, Scorfina and Liston will perform together at the Duck Room on November 20.
Cinema St. Louis has mounted an ambitious selection of films for the 18th Annual Festival. It’s impossible to highlight it all here. The best way to get the low down on the Festival is to visit the Cinema St. Louis Web site or grab a program book at one of the venues.