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“Procession" by Robert Greene
“Procession” by Robert Greene

The 30th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) will be held November 4-21, 2021 in a hybrid format — with virtual screenings along with in-person screenings on all three screens of the Tivoli Theatre from November 4-14 and November 18-21.

SLIFF begins on November 4 with a powerful new Missouri-based documentary, “Procession,” which is directed by Robert Greene, the filmmaker-in-chief at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri. In the film, six men from Kansas City, Mo. — all survivors of childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy — come together to direct a drama-therapy-inspired experiment designed to collectively work through their trauma. Greene, who will receive SLIFF’s Contemporary Cinema Award, and many of the film’s subjects will attend the screening to participate in a compelling post-film Q&A.

On the festival’s final day, SLIFF offers a Tribute to Mary Strauss, which includes a screening of Mary’s favorite film, “Sunset Boulevard.” Mary has played an absolutely essential role in Cinema St. Louis’ evolution, and we’re delighted to honor her with a Lifetime Achievement Award during our 30th edition.

The festival will also honor two other filmmakers: Documentarian and native St. Louis Nina Gilden Seavey, who will present a free special-event program called “My Fugitive” at the fest, will receive the Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award; and documentarian Deborah Riley Draper, whose film “Twenty Pearls: The Story of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority” screens at SLIFF, will receive the Women in Film Award.

The festival will screen more than 400 shorts and features, and the 2021 SLIFF offers an especially impressive array of the year’s most heralded films, including selections from such destination fests as Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Hot Docs, Tribeca, Cannes, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York.

Among the most enticing English-language studio films are Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” (winner of the People’s Choice Award at Toronto), Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” (with Joaquin Phoenix), Michael Pearce’s “Encounter” (with Riz Ahmed and Octavia Spencer), Stephen Karam’s “The Humans” (with Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen Yeun, and Amy Schumer), Clint Bentley’s “Jockey” (with Clifton Collins and Molly Parker), Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard” (with Will Smith), and Eva Husson’s “Mothering Sunday” (with Colin Firth and Olivia Colman).

Major international titles include “A Chiara” from Jonas Carpignano, “Ahed’s Knee” from Nadav Lapid, “France” from Bruno Dumont (“Slack Bay”), “A Hero” from Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”), “Hit the Road” from Panah Panahi, “Memoria” from Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Tropical Malady”), “One Second” from Zhang Yimou (“House of Flying Daggers”), “Paris, 13th District” from Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”), “Petite Maman” from Céline Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”), “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” from Ryūsuke Hamaguchi (“Happy Hour”), and “The Worst Person in the World” from Joachim Trier (“Oslo, August 31st”). SLIFF also offers a pair of films from Radu Jude (“Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” and “Uppercase Print”) and a trio of works by Hong Sangsoo (“In Front of Your Face,” “Introduction,” and “The Woman Who Ran”).

Significant documentaries include Joshua Altman & Bing Liu’s “All These Sons,” John Maggio’s “A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks,” Rex Miller & Sam Pollard’s “Citizen Ashe,” Andrea Arnold’s “Cow,” Mobolaji Olambiwonnu’s “Ferguson Rises,” Brandon Kramer’s “The First Step,” Matthew Heineman’s “The First Wave,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee,” Julie Cohen and Betty West’s “Julia,” Peggy Callahan & Louie Psihoyos’ “Mission: Joy,” Max Lowe’s “Torn,” Debbie Lum’s “Try Harder!,” and Emily and Sarah Kunstler’s “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.”

Other highlights of this year’s SLIFF include The Divided City program focusing on the racial divide in St. Louis and other U.S. cities; the Human Rights Spotlight selection of documentaries focusing on human-rights issues in the U.S. and the world; Race in America: The Black Experience program and Show-Me Cinema with films made in St. Louis and Missouri or by current and former St. Louisans and Missourians.hree shorts programs, and four special events.

In addition to the Tivoli Theatre , other in-person screenings will take place at Washington University’s Brown Hall Auditorium (on the weekends of Nov. 5-6, 12-14, and 19-21) and Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium (on the evenings of Nov. 5-14).

In addition, the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library Auditorium will serve as the in-person venue for six Golden Anniversaries screenings of films from 1971. Those screenings will be held on the afternoons of Nov. 6-7, 13-14, and 20-21.

Finally, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis will partner with SLIFF on two in-person screenings on the evenings of Nov. 4 and 11.

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