November 17, 2019

International film fest brings must-see films to St. Louis

The St. Louis International Film Festival is right around the corner, November 7 – 17 to be precise. For 28 years it has brought narrative and documentary films from the U.S. and around the world. Navigating the festival’s extensive list of programming can be a dizzying experience. Don’t worry bucko, this opinion writer has you covered. This semester, I’m interning for the nonprofit putting on the event, Cinema St. Louis. My position there has given me ample time to look through the schedule. Full disclosure though, I have yet to see any of these and cannot give a review. 

  1. “Other Music”

Now this is something right up my alley. A documentary about a defunct hipster record shop in New York City. Other Music existed from 1995 to 2016 and in that time it expanded the musical minds of The National, TV on the Radio, Interpol, Vampire Weekend, and those wacky boys in Animal Collective. All of these bands are featured as talking heads in this film, with additional contributions from Jason Schwartzman and Benicio Del Toro. It’s a lineup sure to turn the strongest poptimist into a vinyl snob.

Sunday, Nov. 10, 6:30 p.m., The Stage at KDHX

  1. “Send Me to the Clouds”

This Chinese dramedy deals with “leftover women,” those older than 26 and unmarried in mainland China. The protagonist is stuck writing a businessman’s biography while dealing with her dysfunctional family, misogynistic co-workers, and oh yeah, she’s been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The reviews are glowing and I can’t wait to check it out. 

Sunday, Nov. 10, 8:15 p.m. @ The Tivoli Theatre

  1. “The Third Wife”

Director Ash Mayfair’s Vietnamese drama is set in the 19th century when a 14-year-old girl becomes the third wife of a wealthy landowner. That sentence alone sounds wild, but I’ll keep going. The girl, May, gets wrapped up in a love triangle between another wife and the landowner’s oldest son. The film examines the injustices of a male-dominated hierarchy. It also looks beautifully shot. There’s two showings, so get your priorities straight and buy a ticket. 

Friday, Nov. 8, 4:30 p.m., Plaza Frontenac Cinema

Saturday, Nov. 9, 8:00 p.m., Plaza Frontenac Cinema

  1. “We Believe in Dinosaurs”

This looks absolutely bonkers. It’s a documentary following a group of creationists that seek to build a “life-size” replica of Noah’s arc to prove the earth is 5,000 years old. Also, there’s some shady financing going on. It’s like “The Big Short” with more arcs. 

Friday, Nov. 8, 5:00 p.m., Tivoli Theatre, Free Admission with co-director Clayton Brown in attendance!

  1. “What We Left Unfinished”

A real film lovers flick here. “What We Left Unfinished” follows the story of five completed Afghan films that were canceled by the state and abandoned. Their content seems to skate between Bollywood and Wakaliwood, but it’s all good fun. Never commercially released, they escaped censorship and remain curious documents from fleeting liberal times in the country’s past. This is playing at Webster so stop making excuses!

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m., Webster’s Winnie Moore Auditorium 

  1. “Ximei”

If I can only make it to one film during the festival, this will be what I see. In the 1990s, the Chinese government instituted a program where rural farmers donated blood in exchange for a month’s wages. The disorganized mess resulted in more than 300,000 people contracting HIV. This documentary tells the story of Liu Ximei, an HIV positive peasant who became an activist for these people domestically and around the world. It sounds like a rough watch, but an important one. 

Saturday, Nov. 16, 3:00 p.m., Washington University’s Brown theater, free admission with co-director Gaylen Ross in attendance

That’s what I have marked on my calendar. I encourage you to check out what’s playing for yourself at cinemastlouis.org. See something weird and have an awesome SLIFF 2019.

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