SLIFF Picks: 5 Fab Features From the Film Festival's Foreign Fare
One of the great joys of the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival is that it brings foreign film to our fair city—and we mean something beyond “Amélie” (which might or might not be what I’m watching as I write this …). It also brings cinema that sheds light on foreign issues—or casts a different light on them altogether than what we’re fed each day in the news.
Here are a few of our top SLIFF picks to get your dose of global culture this week:
1/ “Those Who Feel the Fire Burning”, 5:05pm on Nov. 13 at the Tivoli
Yes, that time is correct—and those of us who tend to run a little late should count ourselves lucky for the extra five minutes. This film is beyond timely as refugees pour into Europe from Syria. It’s a blend of fact and fiction, opening with a fictional character in a raft who drowns at sea, followed by a progression of stories of migrants at Europe’s outskirts. These are based in truth but told from the perspective of the drowned man’s ghost, with his commentary written over the images. Documentary is never truly objective, but this film will dazzlingly blur the lines between fact and fiction—and leave viewers with much to think about. English, free
2/ “Moomins on the Riviera,” 1:30pm on Nov. 15, Washington U./Brown
Or, for speakers of Finnish, “Muminfamiljen på Rivieran” (anyone?). But the Moomins are adorable no matter what the language. Beloved in their native land, across Europe and with American kids in the know since the ’40s, the comics have recently been translated into English. The hippopatimi-like family ventures to the Riviera in this film, and their aesthetics and charm will please Cherokee Street makers with an eye for craft design and Kirkwood families alike. It’s a nice break from the festival’s heavier fare—plus the parents’ names are “Moominpappa” and “Moominmamma,” which is adorable enough to pluck even this jaded, Disney-avoiding writer’s heartstrings. English, free
3. “Goodbye Theresienstadt,” 12:05pm on Nov. 15, Plaza Frontenac Cinema
This powerful tribute to survival and resilience transports the audience to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where six Danish Jews who were children at the time of the Holocaust recount a failed escape to Sweden and their journey to and time at the camp, as well as their ultimate rescue. Subtitles, $12
4. “Goodbye to Language,” 7pm on Nov. 9 (that’s today!) at the Hi-Point Backlot
Jean-Luc Godard. In 3-D. On a big screen. I’m pretty excited right now. So much so that I don’t have any words for it. The film that both provokes and reflects my current state won the 2014 Jury Prize at Cannes and comes from the master of French New Wave himself. And it’s not just projected in 3-D—it’s filmed for 3-D. In the first half, a couple’s relationship disintegrates; in the second, the world is explored at dog’s-eye level. All in all, Godard contemplates history and illusion and might hint at yet another chapter unfolding for the great director. Subtitles, $12.
5/ “Court,” Nov. 10 at 9:15am and Nov. 12 at 4:20pm at Plaza Frontenac
If the American political system currently has you frustrated, “Court” might make you feel better. An elderly man known as the people’s poet is tried in India on trumped-up charges of making a sewage worker kill himself. Basically the whole trial just goes to sh*t with delays, incompetence, witness coaching, pulling in colonial law at the cost of logic … pretty much becoming a total cluster. Director Chaitanya Tamhane took top awards at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals for this work combining pro and amateur actors who come together to blend humor and sharp commentary on contemporary Indian society.
Need more SLIFF? Read my interview with “House of Cards” showrunner Beau Willimon on his short film about an autistic surfer, which will be showing during the festival.