SLIFF 2012 Narrative Features
The year 1968 changed the world. Around the globe, protest and revolution took over the streets. Indigenous Australians finally secured the right to vote. The U.S. absorbed the shock of two brutal assassinations. And the Vietnam War raged. But for four young Aboriginal sisters from a remote mission, 1968’s life-altering effects are more personal: It’s the year the Sapphires – Cynthia, Gail, Julie and Kay – are discovered by Dave (Chris O’Dowd, “Bridesmaids”). A kind-hearted talent scout who displays very little rhythm but a vast knowledge of soul music, Dave bills the group as Australia’s answer to the Supremes, and secures the sisters their first true gig, flying them to Vietnam to sing for the American troops. Based on a true story, “The Sapphires” is a hugely entertaining film with sensational song-and-dance performances – a triumphant celebration of youthful emotion, family, and music. The film was a breakout hit at the 2012 Telluride Film Festival.
Sense of Humor
In this laugh-out-loud killer comedy, two hack comics are trying their best not to be two “hacked” comics. When touring Montréal comedians Luc and Marco make audience member Roger the butt of jokes at one of their shows, the decision proves a bad career move. Roger, who appears to be a vicious serial killer, promises revenge with what he refers to as “the ball cutter,” but he gives the unlucky duo a chance to save themselves: They must school the humorless Roger in the art of comedy, allowing him to charm the woman he loves and take down the nemesis who picks on him at work. Will they be successful in their Cyrano-like attempts to teach Roger the art of joke-telling or will he bomb? Either way, Roger is going to kill. Director Gaudreault wrote the screenplay for the 1999 Ron Howard film “Edtv.”
Shun Li and the Poet
Shun Li, a young Chinese immigrant, leaves her job in a textile factory near Rome for a small town along the Venetian lagoon. She’s driven by one burning desire: to somehow get her papers and bring her young son from China to join her. The tavern where she works has always been the traditional meeting place of the local fishermen, including Bepi (Rade Serbedzija), known as “The Poet,” a handsome old Slav fisherman who immigrated to Italy when he was just a youth. A tender, delicate bond grows between Shun Li and Bepi, and they begin a silent dialogue between their two cultures, which appear so different but prove not at all distant. “Shun Li and the Poet” won a trio of prizes at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.
The Silent Thief
This taut psychological thriller examines familial bonds, the human need to belong, and the thin line between sanity and insanity. Brennan Marley is an outcast drifter who threatens to destroy a family’s unity by displacing their biological son, Mike, while he is away at college. Hungry for acceptance and exceptionally cunning, Brennan becomes a boarder at the Henderson family’s beach home under false pretenses. Claiming that he is an orphan from England, Brennan uses his manipulative prowess to ingratiate himself with each member of the Henderson family before Mike returns home from college for Christmas vacation. As Brennan’s tactics become increasingly pernicious, long-buried family secrets are revealed with violent results.
With director Clary.
Silver Linings Playbook
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper, “The Hangover”) has lost everything: his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself back living with his mother and father after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive, and reunite with his wife. All Pat’s parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) want is for him to get back on his feet – and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. When he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games”), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, she offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something for her in return. As their deal plays out, silver linings appear in both of their lives. “Silver Linings Playbook” won the People’s Choice Award at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival.
SINGLE ADMISSION FOR DOUBLE BILL
Siren of the Tropics
As part of double bill celebrating native St. Louisan Josephine Baker, SLIFF features the radiant star’s first film, the silent “Siren of the Tropics,” with live musical accompaniment by the Poor People of Paris. Marquis Sévéro, a rich, lazy Parisian, wants to divorce his wife so that he can marry his goddaughter Denise. But Denise loves André, an engineer employed by the marquis. Filled with jealousy, the marquis sends André to the Antilles and instructs Alvarez, his manager at the site, to prevent the engineer from ever returning to France. When André breaks up Alvarez’s attempt to rape Papitou (Baker), a beautiful native girl, she becomes devoted to André and works to protects him against Alvarez’s schemes.
With live musical accompaniment by the Poor People of Paris.
Native St. Louisan Josephine Baker remains justly famous for her scandalous Danse sauvage and her banana skirt, but the woman born Freda Josephine MacDonald was far more than an erotic dancer – during her eventful life, Baker was also a film star, singer, decorated member of the French Resistance, civil-rights activist, and adoptive mother to a large multicultural family. Beginning her career as a street-corner dancer in St. Louis, Baker moved first to New York during the Harlem Renaissance and then to Paris, where her massive popularity prompted Ernest Hemingway to declare Baker “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” This new documentary – co-written by her son Brian Bouillon-Baker, who also serves as on-screen guide – offers an intimate portrait of Baker, including a visit to her hometown and interviews with friends, family members, and fellow artists.
In “Sister,” award-winning writer/director Ursula Meier tells a heartbreaking tale of familial survival by any means necessary. Twelve-year-old Simon lives with his older sister in a shabby housing complex at the bottom of a mountain with a luxury Swiss ski resort. With his sister drifting in and out of jobs and relationships, Simon takes on the responsibility of providing for the two of them. Every day, he takes the lift up to the opulent ski world above, stealing equipment from rich tourists to resell to the local kids down in the valley. He is able to keep their little family afloat with his small-time hustles, but when Simon partners with a crooked British seasonal worker, he begins to lose his boundaries, affecting his relationship with his sister and plummeting him into dangerous territory. “Sister” is the official Swiss submission for the 2013 Academy Awards®.
Songs for Amy
Set against the stunning backdrop of County Galway and crossing the Atlantic to New York, this darkly comedic love story follows struggling Irish musician Sean O’Malley (Sean Maguire, “Meet the Spartans”). After a drug-fueled night of debauchery with his band the night before his wedding, Sean wakes up in the wrong town in his underpants. When Amy, his beloved bride-to-be, learns of his antics on the news, she calls the whole thing off. Heartbroken, Sean goes on a roller-coaster journey of self-discovery and writes an album for Amy in an attempt to redeem himself and win her back. With the help (and hindrance) of his drunkenly rowdy misfit mates, Sean must learn to deal with love, loss, and some unexpected turns of fate. “Song for Amy” won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival.
With director Begg and producer Fiona Graham.
The Soul of Flies
By turns comic, poignant, absurd, and profoundly moving, “The Soul of Flies” tells the story of the two sons of Evaristo de la Sierra. The brothers have never met their father and are unaware of each other’s existence, but when Evaristo sends them a letter inviting them to his funeral, the two meet at a train station – though the train hasn’t gone by in years – and set off on a strange odyssey through a barren landscape. Along a path of memories, fables, and dreams, they encounter a startling array of weird and wonderful characters – a suicidal narcoleptic, a man angrily opposed to funerals, a pack of thieving musicians, a young woman in love with the spring – who collectively guide the brothers in their unusual journey.
Stand Up Guys
Actor/director/producer Fisher Stevens (“Short Circuit,” “The Cove”) brings together Academy Award® winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin in a tough but touching action comedy about a trio of retired gangsters who reunite for one epic last night. Val (Al Pacino) is released from prison after serving 28 years for refusing to give up one of his close criminal associates. Best friend Doc (Christopher Walken) is there to pick him up, and the two soon reteam with another old pal, Hirsch (Alan Arkin). Their bond is as strong as ever, and the three decide to make a hilariously valiant effort to compensate for the decades of crime, drugs, and sex they’ve missed. Despite their age, the trio’s capacity for mayhem remains very much alive, but one of the friends is keeping a dangerous secret: He’s been put in an impossible quandary by a former mob boss, and his time is running out.