SLIFF 2012 Narrative Features
Set in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, this smartly self-referential film – the first feature ever directed by a Rwandan – describes the trials of a determined director named Balthazar (Hervé Kimenyi) as he tries to produce his own first feature, “The Cycle of the Cockroach.” Balthazar’s trenchant drama, about a brother and sister dealing with the aftermath of genocide, finds no support from agencies only interested in funding policy-friendly films. As Balthazar presses on, borrowing recklessly from a loan shark, scenes from the film he’s attempting to make materialize on screen – a vision of horror and systematic madness that offers bracing insight into the nature of political violence. “Grey Matter” won the Best Actor award and earned a special jury mention for Best New Narrative Director at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.
In the middle of the night, the rural Marecaux family awakens to find their house full of police, who ransack their home while showing open contempt toward the owners. The stunned parents (César nominee Philippe Torreton and Noemie Lvovsky) stand accused of participating in a pedophile ring, and their terrified kids are dragged away to child protective services. Though there is no material proof against the couple and the accusers’ testimonies are wildly inconsistent, the Marecauxs are sent to prison rather than allowed bail. This compellingly dramatized film – an epic nightmare – is based on the memoirs of the real-life protagonist at the center of one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in modern French legal history. The Hollywood Reporter calls the film “a riveting account of one man’s descent into legal purgatory.”
A darkly turbulent crime drama from leading Thai new wave director Pen-ek Ratanaruang – familiar to SLIFF attendees from “6ixtynin9,” “Monrak Transistor,” and “Invisible Waves” – “Headshot” is a disorienting existential thriller ripe with shadowy paranoia. When straight-laced cop Tul is blackmailed by a powerful politician, his disillusionment leads him to work as a hitman for an iconoclastic group that assassinates those who are above the law. But when a devastating blow literally turns Tul’s world upside-down, he finds himself plagued by doubt, unsure of whether his vision impairment is a medical condition or a result of karmic retribution. Offering pointed social commentary on the modern penal system, “Headshot” is more than just a thriller: Dubbed a “Buddhist neo-noir” by its director, the film is a smart, stylishly executed, ethically oriented update on a classic genre. “Headshot” is the official Thai submission for the 2013 Academy Awards®.
While the Cold War heats up on the world stage, rebellious youth in 1955 Moscow wage a cultural battle against dismal Soviet conformity by donning brightly colored black-market clothing, adopting American nicknames. and reveling in forbidden jazz. Straight-laced 20-year-old Communist Mels (named after Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin) initially finds these brazen “hipsters” shocking, but after falling under the spell of the beautiful Polly, he eagerly joins the new revolution. Soon enough, Mels is a full-on hipster, cavorting in the latest flashy fashions, sporting an enormous pompadour, and wailing exuberantly on the saxophone. “Hipsters” won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 2009 Russian Golden Eagle Awards and Best Art Direction at the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival. The Washington Post writes: “The Russian musical ‘Hipsters’ is a candy-colored confection with a dark, bittersweet center.”
The Hole (3D)
Legendary director Joe Dante (“The Howling,” “Gremlins,” “Explorers”) makes his first foray into 3D with a family thriller. When Susan (Teri Polo, “Meet the Parents”), the single mother of Dane and Lucas, uproots the family and moves them to the sleepy town of Bensonville, the boys believe life couldn’t possibly get worse. But they haven’t yet reckoned with the evil that lurks under their new home. Exploring their eerie new residence, the brothers find a sinister black hole under a locked trap door in the basement. After prying open the door, they realize that the pit appears to go on forever. Far worse, the hole seems to contain malevolent forces, and now that its entrance has been reopened, strange shadows begin to lurk around every corner and past nightmares come alarmingly to life.
With director Dante, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and discuss his career in a post-screening interview with Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas.
Hyde Park on Hudson
In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson in upstate New York – the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the royal couple is desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic affairs, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal weekend an unforgettable one. Seen through the eyes of Daisy (Laura Linney), Franklin’s neighbor and intimate, the weekend will produce not only a special relationship between two great nations but also a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love and friendship.
Actress Williams will attend
MIDNIGHT AT THE HI-POINTE
I Am a Ghost
Taking place in a Victorian house during an indeterminate time period, this spine-tingling horror film mixes experimental non-linear filmmaking with classic haunted-house storytelling. Emily, a troubled spirit who has no idea that she is dead, haunts her own house, wondering why she can’t leave. With the help of Sylvia, a clairvoyant hired to rid the house of spirits, Emily is forced into a patient/therapist relationship, uncovering disturbing secrets about her past that may help her move on to the “next place.” Planet of Terror’s Jaime Cortez raves: “The last 20 minutes of this film are some of the most intense and incredibly terrifying moments I've seen in a genre film this year.”
The Ides of March
SLIFF offers a free screening of “The Ides of March” as a tribute to native St. Louisan and New Filmmakers Forum jury head Beau Willimon, who co-wrote the Oscar®-nominated screenplay based on his play “Farragut North.” Ambition seduces and power corrupts in this nerve-wracking political thriller by director-star George Clooney (“Good Night, and Good Luck”). Idealistic campaign worker Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) has sworn to give all for Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney), a wild-card presidential candidate whose groundbreaking ideas could change the political landscape. However, a brutal Ohio primary threatens to test Morris’ integrity. Trapped in the down-and-dirty battle, Stephen finds himself caught up in a scandal where the only path to survival is to play both sides. The film’s all-star cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood.
With screenwriter Willimon, who will receive the Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award.
It May Be Love But It Doesn’t Show
The path of good intentions is paved with difficulties and hilarious misunderstandings in this goofy but sweet Italian comedy. Salvo and Valentino operate a small company that carries tourists around Turin in an old, colorfully restored English bus. When they hire the beautiful young Natascha to deliver the tour information in English, Salvo also hopes that she will reignite his love life. Meanwhile, Valentino is obsessed with long-time girlfriend Gisella, but she finds his adoration too stifling and leaves him heartbroken. Complicating romantic matters further, Salvo’s good friend Sonia comes back from the U.S. with a new boyfriend in tow but other desires in mind.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day
Cult animator and Academy Award® nominee Don Hertzfeldt has combined his three short films about a troubled man named Bill – “Everything Will Be OK” (2006), “I Am So Proud of You” (2008), and “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (2011) – into a seamless, beautiful, darkly comedic new feature film. Nearly two years in the making, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is Hertzfedt’s longest and most ambitious film to date, blending traditional animation, experimental optical effects, trick photography, and new digital hybrids printed out one frame at a time. “There is a moment in each installment of Don Hertzfeldt’s masterful trilogy of animated shorts where you feel something in your chest,” writes Steven Pate in the Chicagoist. “It’s an unmistakably cardiac event, the kind that great art can elicit when something profound and undeniably true is conveyed about the human condition.”