St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) 2011 Preview and Highlights

I sometimes miss access to smaller films here in St. Louis, so an annual saving grace is the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF). This excellent showcase for independent and foreign features arrives each November just as the weather's starting to turn cold. What can be better than using this time to check out movies on the big screen? During this 20th year of SLIFF, I'll be covering as many films as possible and posting about them shortly afterwards. An added bonus is having the filmmakers present for discussions with the audience after the screenings. The films are a mix of familiar titles from festivals like Toronto and lesser-known entries that are new to me. I'm hoping to catch a mixture of the buzz-worthy movies and the smaller choices.

First of all, there is a strong crop of "big" films spread out across the 11 days of the festival. I know many of these will be hitting a local theater later this year, but I plan to check out a few of these choices:

A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg)
Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes)
Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard)
I Melt with You (Mark Pellington)
Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Jay and Mark Duplass)
Shame (Steve McQueen)
The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
The Interrupters (Steve James)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay)

Along with the more recognizable movies, I plan to check out more obscure films that likely won't reach theaters anytime soon. Here are some examples that I may try to see:

Andrew Bird: Fever Year (2011, Aranda): I'm a huge fan of Andrew Bird's music, so this concert documentary feels right up my alley. I'm excited to find out about how he creates the remarkable live shows and discover more on his background.

Chico and Rita (2010, Trueba, Mariscal, and Errando): This Spanish animated drama takes place in pre-revolution Cuba and presents a romance backed by jazz and Cuban music. It appears to be an adult story with an impressive visual style, which is right up my alley. 

Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson (2010, Dolman): I watched the first two seasons of Whale Wars and have mixed feelings about Paul Watson. I agree with his goals but feel like his approach (and huge ego) sometimes gets in the way of his success. That said, I'm intriguing to learn more about this strong-willed guy.

Eleanor's Secret (2009, Monfery): This French animated film has an exciting premise and style. A young boy finds a library in the attic where fairy-tale characters come to life.

Karaoke Man (2011, Petty): My interest in this movie might just relate to the title because I love karaoke. This story also involves a comics-book store and an Eastern European superhero costume, so it sounds quirky enough to deserve a chance. 

My Comic Shop DocumentARy (2011, Desiato): This look at a comic-book shop and its customers sounds fun and could be a nice respite from the festival's heavier material.

Outrage (2011, Kitano): Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano returns to his roots with this yakuza film. I'm expecting a lot of blood in this movie, which is near the top of my list. 

Shuffle (2011, Kuene): I love time-travel films, and the premise for this film is intriguing. The lead character of this American indie film is experiencing his life out of order and keeps waking up at a different age each day. 

The Wildcat (1921, Lubitsch): This rarely seen silent film from the renowned German director Ernst Lubitsch is being screened with live accompaniment from the Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra. 

The Woman in the Fifth (2011, Pawlikowski): This crime thriller stars Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas and takes place in Paris, which is enough for me. It also looks like an interesting genre film with a mysterious female lead at the center of the mystery.

Have you seen any of these films at your own local festivals? If so, which of these should I definitely check out? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the "can't miss" choices. 


  1. Ah Brilliant!! I do love a festival! We will be doing it at the same time, but in different countries.

    I hope you enjoy SHAME as much as I did

  2. Scott, I'm hoping to check out Shame, though it's showing the same time as a few other big ones, so it will be tricky.

    I'm really looking forward to this festival; it's cool that you'll be hitting another one too. Thanks!

  3. Great lineup! You are very lucky, I would definitely want to check out Shame, The Artist, The Descendants and maybe even A Dangerous Method!

  4. That IS a good lineup! Some similar ones to the ones we're getting in LA at the AFI Fest, but I didn't get into any of the galas, which include The Artist, Shame, and Carnage, boo. I heard you guesting on the LAMBcast recently (that's why I'm here, heh) - didn't have any idea you were in St. Louis! I lived there my whole life until I moved away for grad school a few years ago, and then succumbed to the siren call of Los Angeles. I remember going to a few things at SLIFF ten or twelve years ago, but I don't remember the lineups being anything as good as this. Or maybe I just wasn't tuned into the upcoming film world as much and didn't know. Love the Tivoli, though. Such a great little theatre.

    Of the ones you've listed, I saw Film Socialisme (liked, but I'm a huge Godard fan; non-huge Godard fans may find it tough going), most of Chico and Rita (liked, but had to skip the ending to get to another festival screening), and Outrage (pretty awesome - relatively standard Yakuza story, but some damn cool kills).

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on the ones you end up seeing!

  5. Castor - I hope to see a few of those you mention, which all look like interesting movies. I'm impressed by the variety of choices in the lineup this year.

    Jandy - Great to hear from you! It's cool to hear from another person who grew up in St. Louis. I can understand that the siren call of LA was too much. SLIFF's lineups have gotten a lot better over the past few years. It also might be that I'm more in tune with the festival circuit now than in the past. The Tivoli is a great theater, especially the big room. Love that place.

    There's a good bet that I'm going to see Outrage next Friday since the time works for me. I've seen a lot of Kitano movies, and they vary in quality, but the cool kills are almost always there. The tricky part is that it's playing at the same time as Chico and Rita. It's going to be tough to decide what to see.


  6. I liked OUTRAGE a lot. I thought it was a grand return to form (i.e. bloody gangsterism) for Beat Takeshi.

    I liked I MELT WITH YOU less--though still liked it--while many downright loathed it.

  7. Thanks for the info. I'm hearing good things about Outrage so this has a good chance of being the first movie that I see. I Melt With You is less likely, so it's good to know that it might not be worth the time.


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