(click for larger version)
October 24, 2012Dustin Hoffman has directed his first film. It's called "Quartet." Robert De Niro will be appearing in a new comedy called "Silver Linings Playbook." And Al Pacino and Christopher Walken have teamed up in a new movie called "Stand Up Guys."
But these films won't be in general release until well after Christmas.
The only way you can see them before next year is by attending the 21st annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) beginning Nov. 8. These big-name films are the festival's "tent poles."
"We call them 'tent poles' because they hold up the whole structure," said Chris Clark, artistic director of Cinema St. Louis, the sponsor of SLIFF. "They hold up the tent and bring in the people."
And they help introduce viewers to the festival's 182 other feature films and more than 250 short subjects — films that, for the most part, would never be seen in St. Louis otherwise.
This year's festival begins on Nov. 8 and runs until Nov. 18. Its films will be screened at the Hi-Pointe Theater, the Tivoli Theater, Plaza Frontenac, Brown Hall at Washington University, Winifred Moore Auditorium at Webster University and the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville, Ill.
The films, both shorts and feature-length, include comedies, dramas and documentaries — and they come from all around the world. In fact, six of the films submitted for this year's Best Foreign Film Oscars will be shown at SLIFF. But the organizers say the festival isn't just for foreign film buffs or for those who want to see small, specialized American movies.
"The festival is for everybody," Clark said. "From the deeply passionate cinema lovers to ... Well, it really is for everybody. That's why we offer a lot of free programming."
For example, all the movies shown at Washington U. are free. Other SLIFF programs cost slightly more than a normal movie ticket.
SLIFF is a nonprofit organization, established in 1992. That year a total of 25 films were shown to an overall audience of about 2,500. Last year, more than 24,000 tickets were sold. And organizers are expecting even larger audiences this year. SLIFF's parent organization is Cinema St. Louis, which also sponsors several other, smaller festivals each year in St. Louis.
From left: Cinema St. Louis operations supervisor Brian Spath, artistic director Chris Clark and executive director Cliff Froehlich.
photo by Ursula Ruhl (click for larger version)
Brian Ross is the general manager/programmer for the Hi-Pointe Theater, a long-time partner of SLIFF. Ross said the Hi-Pointe and the festival are a perfect match. Both the theater and the festival, he said, are dedicated to preserving a very special — and fairly large — community of people who love movies. People who want to see films they might not see in St. Louis without the festival.
"That community needs to survive and thrive," he said. "Besides, it's always a treat to see something different."
Maybe that's why in the last 20 years the festival's audiences have grown a hundredfold.
A complete list of films at this year's SLIFF is available at cinemastlouis.org.
•Hi-Pointe Theatre, 1005 McCausland at Clayton
Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer in “Rust and Bone.” (click for larger version)
•Plaza Frontenac Cinema, Plaza Frontenac, Lindbergh Boulevard and Clayton Road
•Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd.
•Washington U./Brown, Forsyth Boulevard and Chaplin Drive (two blocks west of Skinker Boulevard)
•Webster U./Moore, 470 E. Lockwood Ave.
•Wildey Theatre, 252 N. Main St., Edwardsville, Ill.
•Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd.
•Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.
•Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd.