The 32nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) Celebrates the Power of Film Nov. 9-19, 2023 at The Hi-Pointe Theatre
Cinema St. Louis (CSL) is thrilled to unveil the 32nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF), set to captivate audiences from November 9th to 19th at the historic Hi-Pointe Theatre, CSL’s new forever home, as well as at multiple venues across the city including the Alamo Drafthouse, Webster University, Washington University and more.
Highlights of this year’s fest include:
- SLIFF’s Opening Night Party on 11/9 at the Hi-Pointe, where the fest will celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop in St. Louis, as explored through both film and music
- Signe Baumane on hand to accept this year’s Women in Film Award at a showing of her newest film, “My Love Affair with Marriage” on 11/11
- La Passion de Dodin Bouffant” (Taste of Things), Cannes award winner for director Trần Anh Hùng, starring Juliette Binoche, Pierre Gagnaire, Jan Hammenecker, and Benoît Magimel, serves as France’s official submission for Best International Feature for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024 and will screen on 11/12 at the Hi-Pointe Theatre
- Director Alexander Payne to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, while showcasing not only his newest film on 11/14, “The Holdovers,” but also his modern classic, “The Descendants,” on 11/15
- A screening of The TIFF 2023 People’s Choice Award winner, “American Fiction,” on 11/17, directed and written by Cord Jefferson, co-starring St. Louis’s favorite son, Sterling K. Brown.
- Highlighting the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, SLIFF’s QFest Spotlight Film, “All of Us Strangers,” from Searchlight Pictures, the critically acclaimed romantic drama written and directed by Andrew Haigh, starring Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy, will close the festival on 11/19
- The festival will culminate on Sunday, November 19th, with the much-anticipated Awards Party, featuring an insightful conversation with Reginald Hudlin, during which he will be bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The festival kicks off on Thursday, November 9th, celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop with a tribute to the Hi-Pointe Cafe's pivotal role in shaping hip-hop's history, showcasing the city's significant influence in its evolution. Attendees will be treated to a cocktail reception, engaging conversations, and a special screening of the 1990 film, "House Party," directed by East St. Louis’ own, Reginald Hudlin.
CSL’s Executive Director, Bree Maniscalco, shared, "As we celebrate our first festival at the Hi-Pointe Theatre, we wanted to pay tribute to the Hi-Pointe neighborhood and honor those who made Hip-Hop what it is today. Mondays at the Hi-Pointe Cafe holds a special place in many people’s hearts, and we’re looking to bring it back to kick things off in style for this year’s Fest.”
This year's festival promises a variety of exclusive events, screenings, enlightening post-film Q&A sessions, and illuminating masterclasses dedicated to addressing industry-relevant topics. SLIFF received an impressive 2,419 submissions, marking the festival's 32nd anniversary with record-breaking enthusiasm. SLIFF's dedicated team of programmers, hailing from diverse backgrounds, meticulously curated a selection of 278 remarkable films that underscore the transformative power of cinema.
The lineup includes 54 captivating narrative features, 52 thought-provoking documentary features, and an astounding 172 short films, all part of its prestigious Oscar-qualifying annual Shorts Competition. These films delve deep into a spectrum of compelling themes, ranging from art, the environment, human rights, and racial equity, to name just a few. What's more, they authentically represent perspectives from 32 countries, encompassing an astounding 39 native languages, ensuring that SLIFF remains a truly international celebration of storytelling through film.
SLIFF serves as a cinematic beacon, illuminating the big screen with a diverse array of films that might otherwise remain hidden gems, waiting to be discovered by local audiences. As the festival unfolds, St. Louis becomes a vibrant hub for filmmakers from far and wide, with many making their inaugural visit to the city. In this dynamic atmosphere, the city buzzes with the infectious energy and passion that only the power of film can generate.
- Documentary Spotlight: Sponsored by Mary and Leon Strauss, this spotlight will screen 130 films, including “Sorry/Not Sorry,” an examination of Louis C.K.’s, comeback and the unseen effects of this on the women who spoke publicly about the sexual harassment accusations in 2017; “Chasing Chasing Amy,” the complex legacy of Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy (1997, also screening at SLIFF) on LGBTQ+ people and its life-saving impact on director Sav Rodgers; “We Dare to Dream,” follows athletes on their journey to become part of the refugee Olympic team; “Nathan-ism,” a tender portrayal of an artist's distinctive viewpoint on his war assignment, coupled with his impassioned yearning for self-expression.; and “Omoiyari,” follows Kishi Bashi when a media interview links the Muslim ban and the immigration crisis at the USA-Mexico border with the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
- French Language Spotlight: Sponsored by the Jane M. and Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, this spotlight will feature 16 feature and short films celebrating St. Louis’ Gallic heritage and France’s cinematic legacy. Leading the spotlight is “La Passion de Dodin Bouffant” (Taste of Things), Cannes award winner for director Trần Anh Hùng, starring Juliette Binoche, Pierre Gagnaire, Jan Hammenecker, and Benoît Magimel, serves as France’s official submission for Best International Feature for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
- New Filmmakers Forum: SLIFF's longest-running juried award, highlighting first-time narrative feature filmmakers whose works truly stand out.
- Oscar-Qualifying Shorts Competition: SLIFF is one of 63 Oscar-accredited short film competitions worldwide, making filmmakers who win a “Best of” at SLIFF, eligible for an Academy Award nomination.
- Across 11 documentary shorts programs, audiences will witness the global impact of art, the nuances of the Black experience, the damage done by society's broken systems, the power of indigenous lands, the thrill of high-stakes sports, the state of the average workday, the importance of sustainability, the plight of immigrants worldwide, the spectrum of sexuality, the reality of living with disabilities, and the untold stories of remarkable St. Louisans.
- This year’s selection of narrative short films strives to highlight the vast array of global voices in contemporary cinema. Twenty languages are represented, and over half come from female filmmakers. Three highlights of the fifteen total programs are “Beyond Pedro,” a slate of shorts from emergent Spanish filmmakers, “Pan-Asia Stories,” and “Joy in Latinx Representation.” Elsewhere, adventurous genre fans will find new kinds of horror with “A New Kind of Blood” and eye-popping, mind-bending animation from around the world with “Transmission.” Of course, area films and filmmakers are well represented in the narrative shorts selections, with two programs featuring the best of the 2023 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, held by Cinema St. Louis this past summer.
- QFest Spotlight: A collection of films that spotlight the lives of LGBTQ people while celebrating queer culture. Films include “All of Us Strangers,” from Searchlight Pictures, the critically acclaimed romantic drama written and directed by Andrew Haigh, loosely based on the 1987 novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada. The film stars Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy; “Glitter & Doom,” a fantastical summer romance musical told with the iconic tunes of legendary American Folk music duo the Indigo Girls; and “Housekeeping for Beginners,” the Official submission of North Macedonia for the Best International Feature Film category of the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
- Race in America Spotlight: For the last 10 years, SLIFF’s Race In America programming has reflected the frustrations of African Americans in response to the events in Ferguson. While this mission continues, the Spotlight will also draw attention to building community, fostering dialogue, and creating a platform for real societal change. To maximize these objectives, all of the 14 programs are offered for free thanks to support from the Trio Foundation of St. Louis. Films include “The Space Race,” which explores the experiences of the first Black astronauts through decades of archive film and interviews in a reflective illumination on the burden of breaking barriers; “Razing Liberty Square,” chronicling residents who fight to save their community from climate gentrification; “Ellis,” the first feature-length documentary about Ellis Marsalis Jr. and the Marsalis Music Family. This screening will pay tribute to the late St. Louis Post-Dispatch Theater Critic (former film critic), Calvin Wilson, with a portion of ticket proceeds donated to his alma mater, Northwest High School’s Performing Arts department; “Black Barbie,” the story behind the first Black Barbie; and “Kenyatta Do Not Wait Your Turn,” from Al Roker, an inspiring film that follows a self-described "poor, gay, Black man from North Philly" on his historic run for the U.S. Senate.
- Studio Spotlight: Star-filled highlights include “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” an American drama film, written and directed by Raven Jackson, starring Charleen McClure, Moses Ingram, Reginald Helms Jr., Zainab Jah, Sheila Atim, and Chris Chalk; “American Fiction,” an American satirical comedy-drama film directed and written by Cord Jefferson based on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett, starring Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Sterling K. Brown, Myra Lucretia Taylor, John Ortiz, Issa Rae, and Adam Brody; “The Holdovers,” an American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne, starring Paul Giamatti, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and Dominic Sessa; “Maxine’s Baby,” a documentary about Tyler Perry; and “Taste of Things,” (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant), directed by Trần Anh Hùng, starring Juliette Binoche, Pierre Gagnaire, Jan Hammenecker, and Benoît Magimel, is sure to leave audiences hungry for more and serves as France’s official submission for Best International Feature for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
SLIFF is pleased to honor the following for their incredible contributions to film:
- Reginald Hudlin, a distinguished American film screenwriter, director, producer, and accomplished comic-book writer, hails from the vibrant cultural tapestry of East St. Louis. His cinematic repertoire boasts an impressive array of works, including notable titles such as "Marshall," "The Black Godfather," and "Sydney," each contributing to his renowned status in the industry. On the closing night of the SLIFF, which falls on Sunday, November 19th, Hudlin will engage in an enlightening interview, offering audiences a captivating insight into his illustrious career, and he will be bestowed with a highly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, an accolade reflecting his enduring influence.
- Alexander Payne, a luminary in American cinema, is a prominent film director, screenwriter, and producer celebrated for his illustrious career, including directorial gems such as "Sideways," "Election," and "Nebraska," each a testament to his mastery of the craft. On Tuesday, November 14th, at the Hi-Pointe Theatre, audiences will have the rare opportunity to delve into the creative genius of Payne with his latest cinematic creation, "The Holdovers." This screening is an occasion to honor Payne with a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. On Wednesday, November 15th, at the Hi-Pointe Theatre following a screening of his 2011 cinematic masterpiece, "The Descendants," Payne will engage in an enlightening conversation, led by former CSL Executive Director Cliff Froehlich. In a poignant gesture of solidarity, a portion of the ticket sales from this screening will be donated to the Hawaii People's Fund, an organization dedicated to offering direct aid in the aftermath of Maui's wildfire devastation.
- Signe Baumane, an extraordinary talent from Latvia now rooted in the creative hub of Brooklyn, Baumane emerges as a multifaceted powerhouse in independent filmmaking, artistry, writing, and animation. With an illustrious career, she has crafted 16 acclaimed animated shorts that have earned her numerous awards and accolades, solidifying her place as a luminary in the field. Her groundbreaking animated feature debut, "Rocks in My Pockets," impressed SLIFF audiences in the past, and audiences this year will be entertained by her latest cinematic offering, "My Love Affair with Marriage." Her film will screen at the Hi-Pointe Theatre on Saturday, November 11th, where she will be honored with the prestigious Women In Film Award, a testament to her unwavering dedication and the inspiring stories she brings to life through her craft.
Tickets will go on sale mid-October, first to CSL Members. Not a member? Join today.
Partner with Cinema St. Louis as a SLIFF sponsor for incredible benefits, including exposure through press partners, recognition through printed and digital advertising (reaching upwards of 30,000), and more.
To learn more, contact Bree Maniscalco at 314-200-5698.