SLIFF 2012 Day 3 – THE HOLE with Joe Dante, A FIERCE GREEN FIRE and More
Day three of the 21st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival promises more great films and an appearance at the Hi-Pointe by director Joe Dante. And there are still 8 days to go!
SLIFF’s main venues are the the Hi-Pointe Theatre, Tivoli Theatre, Plaza Frontenac Cinema, Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium, Washington University’s Brown Hall Auditorium and the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, IL
The entire schedule for the 21st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival be found HERE.
Here is what will be screening at The 21st Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival today, Saturday, November 10th
Director Jennifer Lynch
Seeking Asian Female is a funny, eccentric modern love story about Steven, an aging white man with ‘yellow fever’ who is obsessed with marrying an Asian woman, and Sandy, the young Chinese bride he finds online. Debbie Lum, a Chinese-American filmmaker (and former St. Louisan), at first simply documents Steven’s search for an Asian bride, but as events unfold, she becomes an inextricable part of the story. Narrating with skepticism and humor, Lum follows the process from Steven’s initial failed attempts to find a mate, through Sandy”s hesitant arrival in America, to the first-year anniversary of their fraught, precarious union. As Lum is increasingly pressed into reluctant service as translator and marriage counselor, Seeking Asian Female turns ever quirkier and more intimately personal, becoming a film about not just cultural differences and the eternal battle of the sexes but also the catalyzing role of the documentary filmmaker
With director/subject Lum.
BALLPLAYER: PELOTERO plays at 3:30pm at the Tivoli Theatre
Narrated by John Leguizamo, this compelling documentary – which premiered at Tribeca – offers a gritty look inside the recruitment of top-talent baseball players from the Dominican Republic. Miguel Angel Sana and Jean Carlos Batista are among 100,000 teenagers vying for a handful of coveted contracts with baseball teams. As they turn 16 years old and become eligible to sign, each must navigate a fiercely competitive system if they are to lift their families out of poverty and achieve their dream of playing Major League Baseball. The film – co-directed by Jonathan Paley, a Washington U. graduate – takes viewers inside this never-before-seen world for an intense look at the cost of the American dream. Kenneth Turan of the LA Times says “Ballplayer is an eye-opening look at a flawed, potentially exploitative system and how it is being gamed from all sides of the table.”
With co-director Paley.
SPANISH LAKE (work in progress) plays at 6:00pm at the Tivoli Theatre
Director Andrew Morton, who grew up in Spanish Lake in the 1980s, returns to his hometown to examine its storied past, troubled present, and uncertain future. In 2008, the township in North St. Louis County was cited as No. 6 on Forbes list of America’s Fastest-Dying Towns. Why? Two words: white flight. A devastating epidemic in the St. Louis in the 1960s and ’70s, white flight continues today, as Spanish Lake’s example demonstrates: In recent years, to escape integration, suburban whites are either returning to the cities they once fled or moving to more distant exurban enclaves. This cycle raises questions for not just St. Louis but also the nation at large: How far have we come in terms of racial equality? Is racism an inherent and irreparable human flaw? Spanish Lake asks these provocative questions of both experts and former and current Spanish Lake residents, providing some surprising answers.
With director Morton and producer Matthew Jordan Smith.
CASTING BY plays at 8:30pm at the Tivoli Theatre
Focusing on filmmaking’s unsung heroes – casting directors – Casting By takes viewers on a fast-paced journey through the last half-century of Hollywood history and offers an entirely new perspective. Pioneers such as Marion Dougherty and Lynn Stalmaster were iconoclasts whose exquisite taste and gut instincts helped to usher in the New Hollywood. Thanks to the influence of the new medium of television, they broke away from the traditional typecasting of Hollywood and brought unconventional actors such as James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, Bette Midler, and Gene Hackman to the screen. SLIFF alum Donahue (Guest of Cindy Sherman) combines interviews with actors and directors – including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and John Travolta – with archival material to shine a revealing spotlight on Hollywood’s most unheralded profession.
With director Tom Donahue and cinematographer Peter Bolte.
STREET DOGS OF SOUTH CENTRAL
STREET DOGS OF SOUTH CENTRAL plays at 1:15pm at the Tivoli Theatre
Street Dogs of South Central depicts the everyday struggles of life in the inner city for man’s best friend. Scavenging through trash cans for food, sleeping in abandoned buildings, and navigating city traffic are all part of these homeless dogs’ daily lives. Lacking the love and care they so desperately need from humans, they are forced to rely on their animal instincts for survival in an entirely manmade world. Narrated by Queen Latifah, the film follows the story of Elsie, a mother struggling to raise her litter of puppies in a harsh urban environment. Every day, Elsie and her brood travel the streets of South Central LA in search of food and shelter. Street Dogs of South Central movingly captures the challenging conditions in which these canines live and reveals how the dogs adapt with their innate abilities.
With director Marin and Randy Grim of Stray Rescue.
ESCAPE FIRE plays at 3:45pm at the Tivoli Theatre
Escape Fire tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: What can be done to save our broken medical system? The film examines the powerful forces trying to maintain the status quo in a medical industry designed more for quick fixes than for prevention and more concerned with profits than with patients. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. Escape Fire follows dramatic human stories and profiles leaders fighting to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the U.S. military. The New York Times writes that the documentary “turns an unwieldy, Medusa-headed topic into a convincingly humane argument for change. – Advocating freedom from a system that doesn’t want you to die and doesn’t want you to get well, this hard-hitting film leaves us finally more hopeful than despairing.”
LINOTYPE: THE FILM
LINOTYPE: THE FILM plays at 6:00pm at the Tivoli Theatre
LINOTYPE: THE FILM recounts the fascinating history of the Linotype type casting machine. Called the Eighth Wonder of the World by Thomas Edison, the Linotype revolutionized printing and society, vastly expanding newspapers and transforming the communication of information. The Linotype remained state-of-the-art for nearly a century, from its invention in 1884 to the 1960s, but it was finally superseded by new technologies, and the machines were scrapped by the thousands. Today, very few are still in existence, and the highly skilled operators are in a battle against time: If their specialized knowledge and abilities are not passed along to a new generation, the machine will die completely. Profiling the small but dedicated group of operators who want to save the Linotype from the scrap yard, the film explores whether the machine should continue to have a place in today’s computerized world or should be relegated to the museum.
TIME ZERO plays at 8:15pm at the Tivoli Theatre
Polaroid stopped making instant film in 2008, and they ceased production of instant cameras the year before. Those two announcements signaled the end of an era – and the end of an art form. Polaroid artists around the world were in mourning, trying to ration their dwindling supplies of instant film to prolong the inevitable demise of their passion (and, for many, their livelihood). TIME ZERO – produced, directed, and shot by an award-winning Polaroid photographer and first-time filmmaker – tells the story of the last year of Polaroid film in three acts: Act I introduces the magic of Polaroid through the perspective of Polaroid artists and former employees of the corporation. Act II begins with the discontinuation of instant film and covers the grassroots movement to keep it alive. And Act III centers on the so-called Impossible Project’s quest to reinvent instant film.
With director Grant Hamilton.
TEDDY BEAR plays at 1:00pm at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema
This offbeat character study follows Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder, as he looks for love. Still living with his controlling mother in a suburb of Copenhagen, Dennis has never had a girlfriend. When his uncle marries a woman from Thailand, he’s inspired to try his own luck on a trip to Pattaya. Because he knows that his mother would never accept another woman in his life, Dennis tells her that he is going to Germany for a competition. When he arrives in hectic Pattaya, however, Dennis experiences severe cultural shock: The frank, forward attitudes of Thai girls fail to match his hopelessly naïve view of love. Just as Dennis is losing hope, he unexpectedly meets the woman of his dreams – but now he must confront his mother. TEDDY BEAR won the Best Director World Cinema Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
LA SIRGA plays at 3:00pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
Alice is helpless: War memories invade her mind like threatening thunder. Uprooted by the armed conflict, she tries to reshape her life in La Sirga, a decadent hostel on the shores of a great lake in the highlands of the Andes. There, on a swampy and murky beach, she attempts to settle down, but her fears and the threat of war resurface to threaten Alice again. “Impeccably elegant and quietly devastating,” writes the Hollywood Reporter. “Vega’s mastery of old-school art-house technique is impressive” LA SIRGA won both the Special Jury Prize for the Director and the award for Best Cinematography at the 2012 Lima American Film Festival.
THE GOOD SON
THE GOOD SON plays at 5:00pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
After an unlucky and scandalous movie premiere, spoiled and vain actress Leila escapes to the family summerhouse by the lake with her two sons, Ilmari and Unto. The peaceful holiday is disrupted when Leila invites some friends over for a rowdy weekend. After the party, Leila asks the charismatic and unpredictable writer Aimo to stay for a few days. The 19-year-old Ilmari has an uncomfortably close relationship with his mother, at times acting as her personal bodyguard, and he becomes hostile to Aimo with violent consequences. Variety praises THE GOOD SON for “nimbly traversing an unpredictable arc from in-joke biz satire to darker terrain.” The film won the Gold Hugo for the New Directors Competition at the 2011 Chicago International Film Festival.
A TRIP plays at 7:00pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
Ziva, Andrej, and Gregor have been best friends since high school, but their lives are now heading in different directions: Soldier Gregor is embarking on a mission to Afghanistan; Ziva is leaving to study abroad; and gay Andrej is succumbing to a general contempt for the world. Before the three friends scatter, however, they decide to revisit their high-school days by taking a road trip to the seaside. But the journey proves more fraught than fun. After drinking heavily, Ziva and Gregor kiss each other, adding a new layer of tension to the trio’s relationship, and Andrej pokes relentless fun at Gregor’s army ideals. The conflict escalates when Živa reveals a painful secret from their past that threatens to destroy their friendship. The Slovene Film Critics Association awarded A TRIP multiple prizes, including Best Film, at the 2011 Slovene Film Festival. The film is the official Slovenian submission for the 2013 Academy Awards.
TILT plays at 9:00pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
In TILT, young love struggles to survive in at time of political upheaval, rampant corruption, and social suppression. During Bulgaria’s turbulent transition from communism to Western-style democracy, teenage daredevil Stash falls in love with the rebellious Becky, whose father is part of the local military hierarchy. When Stash and his posse of friends run into trouble with the law for selling German porno tapes, Becky’s stern father forces the boys to flee the country. After surviving a tough year in a small German town, Stash and his pals are desperate to return home. But when he finally arrives back in his native country, Stash discovers that both Bulgaria and Becky have changed in dramatic ways. TILT was Bulgaria’s 2011 Foreign Film Oscar submission.
BETTING THE FARM
BETTING THE FARM plays at 1:15pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
A group of Maine dairy farmers – dropped by their national milk company – launch a cooperatively managed milk company in a bid to save their farms. Owned by the farmers and committed to paying a sustainable price for their milk, the company offers hope for the future of small farming. But faced with slow sales and mounting bills, can the farmers hang together long enough for the gamble to pay off? BETTING THE FARM follows three frank-talking farmers – Aaron Bell, Vaughn Chase, and Richard Lary – and their families through the tumultuous first two years of MOO Milk. With intimate access to their triumphs and disappointments, the film gives audiences a rare glimpse at the real lives of American farmers at a crossroads. The Washington Post observes that the film captures the farmers’ “struggles with sensitivity and painterly beauty, including a Greek chorus of cows that observes the action with serene implacability.”
TATSUMI plays at 4:30pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
This adult animated film celebrates the life and work of renowned Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. In postwar occupied Japan, young Tatsumi’s passion for comics becomes a means of supporting his poor family. Already published as a teenager, the talented artist finds even greater inspiration after meeting his idol, famous animator Osamu Tezuka. Despite his success, Tatsumi begins to question why Japanese comics should cater to children with cute and whimsical tales and drawings, and in 1957 he coins the term “gekiga” (dramatic pictures) and redefines the manga landscape by encouraging an alternative genre for adults. Realistic and disquieting, Tatsumi’s work begins to grapple with the darker aspects of life. TATSUMI won the Asia/Africa Award for Best Film at the 2011 Dubai International Film Festival.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK plays at 6:30pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
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.
MORGEN plays at 9:00pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
In this sly Romanian comedy, Nelu works as a security guard at the local supermarket in a small town on the Romanian-Hungarian border, an area where many illegal emigrants try to cross to Western Europe. His days are all the same: fishing at dawn, then work, and finally home with his wife. Their main problem these days is repairing the old roof of their farmhouse. One memorable morning, Nelu finds his routine disrupted when he fishes something different out of the river: a Turkish man trying to cross the border. Nelu takes the stranger to the farmhouse and gives him some dry clothes, food, and shelter. Although unable to verbally communicate, the two somehow understand each other and form a unique bond. MORGEN was the official 2012 Romanian Oscar submission.
11 FLOWERS plays at 1:30pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
In the waning years of China’s Cultural Revolution, 11-year-old Wang Han and his family live in a tiny riverfront village in Guizhou province. Forced to relocate by the government, his father, a former actor, yearns for their old life in Beijing and works to instill a sense of art and culture in his son. Conscious of the anxious whispering of adults, who tell stories about warring gangs and police clashes, Wang and his friends still spend their days in carefree play. But when Wang has a strange encounter near the river and discovers a teenager hiding in the woods who is wanted for crimes against the state, he and his friends decide to keep the fugitive’s presence a secret. Brimming with youthful energy and featuring lovingly detailed evocations of time and place, 11 FLOWERS combines mainland China’s complex cultural history with a stirring evocation of childhood.
SONGS FOR AMY
SONGS FOR AMY plays at 4:00pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
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 Konrad Begg and producer Fiona Graham.
STARBUCK plays at 6:15pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema and at 5:30pm at the Wildey Theatre
At 42, David lives the life of an irresponsible adolescent. Coasting along with minimal effort, he maintains a complicated relationship with Valerie, a young policewoman. But David’s life is about to become much harder: Just as Valerie tells him she’s pregnant, his astonishingly fertile past resurfaces. Twenty years earlier, he began providing sperm to a clinic in exchange for money, and David now discovers that he’s the father of 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class-action lawsuit to determine the identity of their biological father, known only by the pseudonym Starbuck. This entertaining Canadian dramedy – a quirky story about family and what it really means to be a father – exhibits a winningly off-kilter humanity. STARBUCK won multiple prizes – the Golden Reel Award (for biggest box office), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Song – at Canada’s 2012 Genie Awards. Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) stars in the U.S. remake, which will also be directed by Ken Scott.
GRASSROOTS plays at 8:45pm at Plaza Frontenac Cinema – READ THE WAMG REVIEW BY DANA JUNG HERE
Stephen Gyllenhaal’s bittersweet, uplifting comedy, based on Phil Campbell’s nonfiction book Zioncheck for President, chronicles the unlikely events of Seattle’s 2001 City Council election. Political candidate Grant Cogswell (Joel David Moore) has a unique set of image problems: He’s an unemployed music critic and likes to dress up as a polar bear. But against all odds, Cogswell becomes a monomaniacal man of the people, and with former alt-journalist Campbell (Jason Biggs) as his campaign manager, he rallies an unlikely posse of misfits, slackers, and square pegs to his seemingly hopeless David-vs.-Goliath battle against a firmly entrenched incumbent (played by St. Louisan Cedric the Entertainer). Long before the Occupy Movement, Cogswell made a fervent pitch to the city’s downtrodden hipsters and idealists to stand up for what they believe in and take back their city government. The film also stars Lauren Ambrose, Tom Arnold, and Christopher McDonald.
TALES OF THE NIGHT
TALES OF THE NIGHT plays at 2:00pm at the Hi-Pointe Theatre in 3D READ THE WAMG REVIEW BY JIM BATTS HERE
TALES OF THE NIGHT – by renowned animator Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress, Azur & Asmar) – extends the earlier shadow-puppet style of Ocelot’s “Princes and Princesses,” with black silhouetted characters set off against exquisitely detailed Day-Glo backgrounds bursting with color and kaleidoscopic patterns. The film weaves together six exotic fables that each unfold in a unique locale, including Tibet, medieval Europe, an Aztec kingdom, the African plains, and even the Land of the Dead. History blends with fairytale as viewers are whisked off to enchanted lands full of dragons, werewolves, captive princesses, sorcerers, and enormous talking bees, with each fable ending with its own ironic twist.
THE FOURTH STATE plays at 4:00pm at the Hi-Pointe Theatre
Award-winning director Dennis Gansel (Before the Fall) delivers a sharp political thriller in “The Fourth State.” In the throes of a life crisis, culture journalist Paul Jensen (Moritz Bleibtreu of Run, Lola, Run) flees Berlin to bring fresh impetus to a Russian tabloid magazine in Moscow run by his mentor, Alexei Onegin (Rade Serbedzija). Paul’s métier is gossip about the rich and famous of Russia, and he easily helps restore the magazine to its former glory and higher circulation. His life becomes one big party before he meets a beautiful Russian activist, Katja (Polish model-turned-actress Kasia Smutniak). She persuades him to run a politically motivated obituary in his magazine, an act that triggers a series of rapid-fire events in Paul’s life. Left to his own devices and on the run in the merciless Russian metropolis, Paul soon realizes that he must face his own past to uncover a political conspiracy.
THE HOLE plays at 6:30pm at the Hi-Pointe Theatre in 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 Joe Dante, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and discuss his career in a post-screening interview with Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas.
GREMLINS plays at 10:00pm at the Hi-Pointe Theatre
SLIFF offers a double dose of comic mayhem from Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Joe Dante. In the classic GREMLINS, mild-mannered bank teller Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) is given cuddly, big-eyed Gizmo as a pet for Christmas, but the Mogwai comes with three stern admonitions: no water, no food after midnight, and no bright light. When Billy accidentally violates the rules, the appalling result is an army of miniature green monsters who gleefully tear through the small town of Kingston Falls, wreaking outlandishly entertaining destruction.
GREMLINS 2 plays at Midnight at the Hi-Pointe Theatre
In Dante’s 1990 sequel, Gizmo falls into the clutches of the mad scientists at Clamp Enterprises. At the mercy of chief researcher Dr. Catheter (Christopher Lee), Gizmo attempts an escape with the aid of old friend Billy and his fiancée (Phoebe Cates).
FAMILY SHORTS plays at 12:00pm at Washington U./Brown Hall – A FREE EVENT
Eve, A 9-year-old hardened by time as a neglected foster child, is accustomed to taking life seriously. When she meets Dave, an alcoholic thirtysomething who has forgotten to grow up, she thus sees an opportunity. After Eve hatches a plan to reunite with her absent brother, the two embark on an unlikely cross-country road trip, and laid-back Dave finds himself on the run from both the cops and the robbers. With a precocious kid behind the wheel and an immature man-child navigating, Eve and Dave discover that the quickest route to their destination is through each other.
With director Cloe.
WE ARE WISCONSIN! follows the day-to-day unfolding of public outcry against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill, focusing on the human story behind a remarkable popular uprising forged on the floor of the Madison Capitol. The film offers an in-depth profile of six leading individuals central to the story: a UW-Madison student leader, a state-employee social worker, a nurse, a high-school teacher, a police officer, and an unemployed electrician. Viewing the governor’s actions as a direct attack on their livelihoods, they all meet inside the capitol over the course of what became an historic 26 days in February and March of 2011. The film amplifies why Wisconsin has become ground zero for so many disparate groups, awakening a sleeping giant of collective voices, alarmed and angry at the new corporate-funded, hyper-conservative wave of local government sweeping the country.
With director Amie Williams.