St. Louis International Film Festival artistic director Chris Clark’s office walls in Grand Center are crowded with film posters. Marketing materials are stacked neatly on the front of his desk. In the final push before the festival’s opening night, Clark is confident that the entries this year deliver on its very clear mission.
“What we look for is the best, newest, freshest stories told from unique perspectives,” he said.
For more than a quarter century the St. Louis International Film Festival has brought documentaries, studio features, and locally produced movies to silver screens throughout the city. This year's event stays true to that formula. Entries include major studio productions and independent documentaries shot on a shoestring. There are films from halfway around the world and films shot just across the river.
The festival opens with “Bad Grandmas,” featuring local actors Sally Eaton and Susie Wall, the Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson and Pam Greer.
The film’s dark comedy is both riotous and poignant and sets up a festival that’s not just for cinema devotees, Clark said.
“Motion pictures, the flickers — whatever you want to call it — if you like going to the theater and sitting down with strangers and watching something projected over your head with sights and sounds that tells a story," he said, "then this is the place for you!”
This year’s stories come through issue-based films tackle race, sexuality and environmental crises. International films hail from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. One entry, “Tanna” is a luscious Australian film centered around a love story, warring groups, and a volcano god. It was nominated for a 2017 Academy Award. But it’s not something you’re likely to see outside the festival.
The festival also includes several master classes on the art of filmmaking. Greer makes a second appearance as the festival’s Women in Film Award honoree. She’ll be interviewed before the festival screening her 1997 film “Jackie Brown,” in which she plays a woman caught between a gun runner and the cops.
The festival closes with “Darkest Hour.” It stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill on the eve of World War II. There’s already buzz that Oldman will receive a best actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the English prime minister.
Although Clark is proud of the heavy hitters he’s able to book, he sees the festival as a way to give people the chance to expand their movie-watching palate. There are more than 150 films selected from about 2,000 entries.
“Go see something you want to see, then go challenge yourself, there are so many choices,” Clark said.
If you go:
What: St. Louis International Film Festival.
When: Nov. 2-12
Where: Theaters at Webster University, Plaza Frontenac, Tivoli Theater, .ZACK, Washington University, Missouri History Museum.
Tickets: Cinema St. Louis