Film Reviews
'A New Leaf: Reimagining Henry Shaw’s Museum.' Film preview by Diane Carson.

The weekend of July 19 to 21, the 19th Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase concludes with a diverse program of films written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louisans or by those with strong St. Louis connections. The nine different programs include two feature length documentaries, two feature narratives, and five short film compilations grouped as drama, sci-fi / thriller, horror, documentary and experimental works.

Noteworthy, grounded in the history of Henry Shaw, writer / director Paul Schankman’s 'A New Leaf: Reimagining Henry Shaw’s Museum' chronicles that museum’s restoration and describes Shaw’s botanical contributions beginning in the mid-19th century. Renovating the museum yielded unexpected discoveries leading to extended reconstruction: wall and ceiling murals, portraits found under dropped ceilings, a treasure trove of objects. Organized through the four seasons, the documentary describes a fascinating process and honors a lovely, lasting legacy.

Another impressive program is the Experimental Shorts compilation, consisting of seventeen works by fourteen individuals. Quite varied in style and content, the shorts run from one minute to ten minutes, twelve of the pieces just three to five minutes. Several of the artists created beautiful, transporting meditations on space, light, water, sound and music; others imaginatively addressed significant topics including environmentalism, commercialism, racism, and peace in this exceptional assemblage of talent.

Not screened but on the schedule, three Narrative Shorts programs focus on different genres: Drama, Sci-Fi / Thriller, and Horror. There’s also a documentary shorts program and three features. Director Lisa Rhoden Boyd’s “Prison Performing Arts: The Voice Within” documents a two-week workshop with women inmates at the Vandalia, Missouri, prison. Director / co-writer Dan Steadman’s “Smile” dramatizes a young man facing life’s challenges. Cody Stokes’ “The Ghost Who Walks” invites us to join an ex-con hunting for his family and hunted by his former, betrayed criminal boss.

All programs screen at Washington University’s Brown Hall with post-screening discussions with filmmakers for feature-length films. For more information, you may call 314-289-4150 or find it on the Cinema St. Louis website