Documentary

Saadiq Mohhamed and Sa'ad Hussein are two Somali soccer stars that have started a new life in St. Louis after leaving their war-torn home. They are pictured here working with children at a St. Louis soccer park.
J.R. Biersmith

There was a point late into the filming of “Men in the Arena” that director and St. Louis native J.R. Biersmith realized his relationship with the documentary’s subjects was fundamentally altered. A journalist by trade, this was a different challenge than he was used to — but then again, everything in Somalia, where Biersmith had traveled to shoot the documentary about the national soccer team, was a challenge unlike anything he was used to.

Judi Hampton joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

When it premiered in 1987, the 14-hour documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” was the definitive story of the civil rights movement from 1954 to the mid-1980s.

Nearly 30 years later, the documentary series is making a resurgence due, in part, to the efforts of Judi Hampton, whose late brother, Henry Hampton, produced “Eyes on the Prize.” The Hamptons grew up in St. Louis and Judi Hampton continues to live in the area part time.

William J. Clinton Presidential Library

This year’s Sundance Film Festival premiered a documentary about someone St. Louisans know and love: the incomparable Maya Angelou. The film is titled “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” and will have its St. Louis premiere on Thursday, March 24 at the Missouri History Museum, as part of Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive’s Henry Hampton Film Series.  It is the first documentary to be made about Angelou’s life.

Images from St. Louis International Film Festival

This year St. Louis Public Radio is reviewing films from The St. Louis International Film Festival that relate to prominent issues facing our city.

In this installment, St. Louis Public Radio looks at films that offer a multitude of perspectives on race as it affects culture on a local, national and international scale: "Four Way Stop," "Goodbye Theresienstadt," "Finding Bosnia," "My Friend Victoria," "Korla!" and "Aram, Aram."

Radioactive waste, racial injustice, murder mysteries and selling drugs on the internet are all topics for the screen in this year’s Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival. According to festival Executive Director Cliff Froehlich, the two-week long run of screenings will be unlike previous efforts.

“It’s fairly overwhelming I have to admit. This is the largest festival we’ve ever mounted,” said Froehlich.

(Screen captures/press kits/ compiled by Kelsey Proud/St. Louis Public Radio)

It’s been a good year for documentary films focused on issues in St. Louis and for local filmmakers. “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” about the urban housing complex of the 1950s and 60s; “Brick by Chance and Fortune,” which looks at St. Louis’ architectural heritage; “The Gray Seasons,” about a four-year span with the Saint Louis University women’s basketball team; and "Give a Damn?," the story of three St. Louisians who explore the issue of poverty across three continents; have all been popular at film festivals in 2011.

As part of St. Louis Public Radio’s series, “A Good Year”, Bill Raack spoke with Cliff Froehlich, the executive director of Cinema St. Louis. Here's a summary of their conversation: 

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

On Wednesday, students at the City Academy, a private school in north St. Louis, will have a chance to view a civil rights documentary shot and edited by their schoolmates.