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Dave Chappelle “8:46”
Dave Chappelle “8:46”

Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, the 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF), will be presented virtually and extending by a week to now run 18 days from November 5-22.

This year’s festival kicks off with a free opening-night special event featuring the documentary short “8:46” — which records a powerful performance by comedian Dave Chappelle in response to the killing of George Floyd — and a livestreamed conversation with Dave Chappelle and the film’s Oscar-winning directors, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.

SLIFF’s lineup features a constellation of cinema’s brightest lights including the Divided City program focusing on the racial divide in St. Louis and other U.S. cities. The program also offers an international perspective with “Lost Lives” and “Mayor.”

In the Human Rights Spotlight the selection of documentaries focuses on human-rights issues in the U.S. and the world.

Because the events in Ferguson continue to resonate in St. Louis and the country, SLIFF again offers a large number of programs organized under the title Race in America: The Black Experience. 17 of the 21 programs in Race in America are offered for free, including the opening-night special event featuring the short “8:46” and a livestreamed conversation with comedian Dave Chappelle and directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.

Show-Me Cinema showcasing films made in St. Louis and Missouri or by current and former St. Louisans and Missourians are an annual focus of SLIFF. This year’s lineup of Show-Me Cinema is especially strong, featuring 19 films and seven shorts programs.

The New Filmmakers Forum (NFF), a juried competition of works by first-time feature filmmakers, is an also annual highlight of SLIFF. The films’ Q&As and an NFF roundtable are moderated by the Missouri Film Office’s Andrea Sporcic Klund. The NFF Emerging Filmmaker Award — nicknamed the Bobbie in honor of the late Bobbie Lautenschlager, NFF’s longtime curator — is presented at SLIFF’s Closing-Night Awards Presentation.

The festival also presents a selection of five family programs, including two free collections of shorts. SLIFF also offers free screenings for children and teens from participating St. Louis-area schools. This year’s selections include shorts, documentary features, narrative features, and shorts programs.

SLIFF will provide six free master classes, including screenwriting with Oscar and Emmy nominee Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March,” “House of Cards”) and directing with Emmy winner Ken Kwapis (“The Office,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”).

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