Missouri Movies Not to Miss at the St. Louis International Film Festival

 In Culture, Event

The Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, now in its 28th year, has a long history of bringing the best work of some of the world’s greatest filmmakers to town, and this year is no exception.

From Thursday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 17, 389 films representing 63 countries screen at various venues around town. One of the festival categories is Show-Me Cinema, which features films with strong Missouri connections. Here are some of the most noteworthy works:

‘St. Louis Superman’
Running time: 90 minutes
Directors: Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
This film profiles Ferguson activist, rapper and former Missouri state representative Bruce Franks Jr. and his journey to become an important leader and voice for equality in St. Louis and beyond. There will also be a discussion after the film concerning its many themes, including activism, racism and gun violence, with Franks, co-director Smriti Mundhra and local activists.
Sunday, Nov. 17, 4 p.m., Missouri History Museum

‘Between the Lines’
Running time: 101 minutes
Director: Joan Micklin Silver
This film was originally released in 1977 and boasts a cast of Hollywood’s finest, including Jeff Goldblum and John Heard. The action centers around an alternative newspaper in Boston and is loosely based on St. Louis film critic Harper Barnes’ stint as editor of the Cambridge Phoenix in the early 1970s. Barnes will be on hand to introduce the restored film and discuss it afterward.
Thursday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., Moore Auditorium at Webster University

‘Latter Day Jew’
Running time: 85 minutes
Director: Aliza Rosen
Witness the journey of comedian and podcaster H. Allen Scott as he prepares for his bar mitzvah at the somewhat advanced age of 30. The gay ex-Mormon and former St. Louisan recently converted to Judaism and goes all out to embrace his new faith and then some.
Sunday Nov. 10, 2:40 p.m., Plaza Frontenac

‘When I Last Saw Jesse’
Running time: 81 minutes
Director: Brian Rose
SIU-Carbondale grad and Kansas City resident Brian Rose presents the mysterious story of student Jesse Ross, who disappeared while attending an academic conference in Chicago in 2006. The film features audio interviews with family, friends and students who were on the trip with Ross and is filmed in haunting 16mm black and white.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 1 p.m., Missouri History Museum

‘Through The Cracks’
Running time: 99 minutes
Director: Ben Scholle
The abduction and murder of 6-year-old Cassandra Williamson in Valley Park, Missouri, in 2002 and the subsequent arrest of Johnny Johnson for the crime, continues to haunt the community. This film looks at questions of mental illness and capital punishment and whether the ultimate crime deserves the ultimate punishment.
Sunday, Nov. 10, 3 p.m., Brown Hall Auditorium at Washington University

‘Once Upon A Boy’
Running time: 66 minutes
Director: Uri Levi
This work centers on the trials of an Israeli family as they deal with the cerebral palsy that affects one of their sons, Ron, and the tensions that inevitably arise. The family eventually travels to St. Louis so Ron can have surgery on his leg at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 12:30 p.m., Tivoli Theatre

‘Kings of Beer’
Running time: 82 minutes
Director: Sean Mullin
Beer is serious business in St. Louis, and this doc shows just how serious as it follows brewers from 65 breweries in 23 countries as they compete for the coveted Global Brewmaster Cup. Contestants are judged by the strictest criteria to see who brews the most consistent version of Budweiser over the course of a year.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 3:30 p.m., Tivoli Theater

Running time: 77 minutes
Director: John Presley
First-time director John Presley, a native Missourian, focuses his lens on the life and career of bluegrass fiddler and multi-instrumentalist Michael Cleveland, who overcame multiple physical challenges to become a world-class musician on par with (some say exceeding) the best in the business.
Friday, Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m., The Stage at KDHX

‘Throw a Billion Dollars from the Helicopter’
Running time: 99 minutes.
Director: Michael Bertin
The subject of public financing of sports stadiums is examined through the story of the city of Arlington’s fight against giving half a billion dollars in public funding to the Texas Rangers for a new stadium. The film also features St. Louis’ Ballpark Village and the negative effect it’s had on downtown bars and restaurants.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 4 p.m., Missouri History Museum

While these next films don’t have overt connections to St. Louis, their themes have everything to do with the St. Louis experience:

Doc Shorts: The Black Experience
Running time: 85 minutes
Six short films look at the black experience in America from a variety of perspectives.
Wednesday, Nov. 13, 5:05 p.m., Tivoli Theatre

‘What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire?’
Running time: 123 minutes.
Director: Roberto Minervini
This documentary showcases the city of New Orleans in summer 2017 as its citizens deal with the aftermath of a string of killings of young African American men by police. The point of view of a large swath of the community is shown, from local activists to politicians to business people.
Friday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m., Contemporary Art Museum

Visit the festival’s website for more information about venues and ticket prices, and a complete list of all of the films that will be featured.

Images courtesy of Cinema St. Louis. Featured image of Bruce Franks Jr. in “St. Louis Superman” courtesy of Sami Khan.

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