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Annual film festival boasts flicks from near and far, ‘something for everyone’

Conor B. Lewis (left) and Chris Clark (right) joined host Don Marsh in studio to talk aboout this year's St. Louis International Film Festival. Directors Lori Miller and Jane Giloogly joined the conversation by phone.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
Conor B. Lewis (left) and Chris Clark (right) joined host Don Marsh in studio to talk aboout this year's St. Louis International Film Festival. Directors Lori Miller and Jane Giloogly joined the conversation by phone.

The St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) is back for its 27th season – and the line-up of movies this year includes an impressive array of both local and nonlocal work.

Despite the remarkable roster, Cinema St. Louis artistic director Chris Clark told host Don Marsh on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air that attendees “do not need to be film scholars; they just need to like going to the movies.”

Clark, whose organization manages SLIFF each year, noted that there’s “literally something for everyone” at the ten-day festival, and he encouraged listeners to see the films that most excite them.

However, he also challenged attendees to push themselves by seeking out films they wouldn’t ordinarily see, calling the festival a rare opportunity for St. Louisans to experience offbeat and unusual work.

Local documentaries take center stage at SLIFF

SLIFF is consistently a hub of outstanding documentary work, and this year is no exception. In fact, Clark explained that part of Cinema St. Louis’ mission in organizing the event is to tell the types of stories featured in social justice-oriented documentaries, “particularly when they have local relevance.”

Three documentarians with local ties whose work will be featured at SLIFF also joined Friday’s conversation.

Lori Miller is the director of the new documentary “Day One,” which spotlights the Nahed Chapman New American Academy, a refugee-only St. Louis public school. Miller’s goal in directing was to combat the “negative images of immigrants out there” by creating work that “shows such a joyous, beautiful group of people.”

Though Miller admitted that the filmmaking process was often exhausting, she said that this is not atypical when a director is “making a film from the heart.”

Also joining the conversation was Conor B. Lewis, a St. Louis native whose film, “Dirty Laundry: The Asbestos Documentary,” will also show at the festival. Lewis’ film began as an investigation of mesothelioma, after the disease caused his grandmother’s death. The project developed into a larger exploration of the chemical asbestos – a primary cause of the disease – and its prevalence in American industrial life.

“[Asbestos is] truly an American problem in a lot of ways,” Lewis explained.

The panel was joined later in the hour by Jane Giloogly, director of “Where the Pavement Ends” and one of this year’s recipients of a SLIFF Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award.

Her film addresses the relationship between Giloogly’s hometown of Ferguson, Missouri and the historically-black neighboring town of Kinloch. Giloogly explained that the documentary parallels the 2014 shooting of Mike Brown with an event that occurred in 1968, in which a barrier was established between the two towns.

The guests agreed that the tools for making documentaries have become significantly more accessible in the digital filmmaking age. Clark noted that this access allows for the participation of “voices from the grassroots.”

“Anyone can afford to make one” Clark said. “Anyone can tell a story with a digital medium.”

SLIFF offers these independent filmmakers and many others “the chance to connect with a broader audience,” Lewis added.

Related Event

What: The 27th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival
When: Nov. 1 - Nov. 11, 2018
See festival schedule for times, dates and locations of specific films.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan, and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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