The 30th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival is back this year with both virtual and in-person programming at the Tivoli Theater, Washington University, Webster University, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library Auditorium. Kicking off on Thursday, November 4, and running through Sunday, November 21, the fest is stacked with offerings from local filmmakers, international festival hits, and upcoming awards contenders. There’s no wrong way to enjoy SLIFF, but here are some highlights we think you shouldn’t miss:
A late-breaking, surprise addition to SLIFF’s 2021 programming, this biopic tells the inspirational story of legendary St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, played by Zachary Levi, from his humble beginnings as a grocery store stock boy to a Super Bowl-winning, NFL MVP, Hall of Famer. Both Kurt and Brenda Warner will be attending in-person for a post-screening Q&A at this year’s Centerpiece Event.
A group of bus drivers in Dorset, England, mount a lovingly handcrafted amateur stage production of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien that, after an initial failure playing as a straight-faced drama, finds success as a comedy. This comedic documentary chronicles the story of this production as the amateur troupe prepares for a one-night-only show at a London West End theater.
A schoolteacher finds her career in jeopardy after a sex tape she recorded with her husband is leaked online and outraged parents, and fellow staff members, call for her dismissal. Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2021 Berlinale, this scathing satire from Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude tackles hypocrisy and mob mentality with an unconventional, irreverent sense of humor that’s just as explicit as its subtitle sounds.
Amin Nwabi has kept a secret about himself for 20 years—one that stands to radically shake the world he has built for himself, but one that he is now ready to tell. Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen brings the story of Nwabi’s childhood journey as an Afghan refugee to life using striking, vivid animation.
The latest from Academy Award-winning Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, and co-winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, A Hero follows a calligrapher imprisoned for his mounting debts. After performing a good deed, he inadvertently becomes a local hero, which complicates his potential release due to increased public scrutiny.
The English-language debut from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Memoria stars Tilda Swinton as a Scottish woman living in Colombia who, after experiencing a mysterious sensory syndrome caused by a loud bang, suddenly can’t sleep. Memoria’s inclusion in this year’s slate is particularly special because its theatrical release is being treated as a “traveling art exhibition,” only playing in one theater at a time, with no plans for streaming or home video release.
Director Celine Sciamma’s follow-up to 2019’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Petite Maman centers on 8-year-old Nelly, who explores the woods where her mother used to play as a child while helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home following the death of her grandmother. While exploring, Nelly comes across another girl roughly her same age. The pair forges a surprising connection while building a treehouse.
Built around a drama therapy-inspired experiment, six men from Kansas City, Missouri, come together to work through their collective trauma as survivors of childhood sexual assault by Catholic priests and clergy. In collaboration with director Robert Greene, they create fictional scenes based on their memories and dreams to reclaim the spaces that allowed this abuse, offering them an avenue for catharsis. The film’s collaborators will be in attendance for the opening night screening, and Greene will also receive SLIFF’s 2021 Contemporary Cinema Award.
An anthology film from celebrated Japanese director Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy tells three self-contained stories that include an unexpected love triangle, a failed seduction, and a chance encounter with the past that potentially rekindles an old flame. Taken together, Hamaguchi uses these stories to paint an enchanting portrait of the complexities of modern love.
Julie is turning 30 and facing an existential crisis. She is restless in her current relationship with an older, successful graphic novel artist and throws herself headlong into a new relationship with a younger man, hoping to get a new perspective. Norwegian director Joachim Trier uses Julie’s comic and dramatic existential quest to illustrate an ever-recognizable millennial experience.