The 23rd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) will be held Nov. 13-23. SLIFF will screen 389 films: 89 narrative features, 76 documentary features, and 224 shorts. The films will be shown in the following venues: Plaza Frontenac, Tivoli Theatre, Brown Hall at Washington University, Winifred Moore Auditorium at Webster University and Stage at KDHX. Cinema St. Louis also presents the Children’s Film Showcase, which features free family films. This year’s selections are “Amka and the Three Golden Rules,” “Belle and Sebastian,” “The Boxcar Children,” “Patema Inverted,” “Sounder,” and “Windstorm.” All family films are shown at Brown Hall at Washington University. The following film descriptions are reprinted from the Cinema St. Louis Whitaker International Film Festival website.
Belle and Sebastian
Sun, Nov. 23 at 2:30pm
Based on a beloved 1960s French TV series featuring resourceful young Sebastian and the giant mountain sheepdog he calls Belle, this new film is set during World War II in the snowy Alps of occupied France. Sebastian is a lonely boy who dreams of the day his mother will return from America – the place that his adoptive grandfather tells him she’s gone. He finds needed companionship with “the beast” that local farmers are convinced is killing their sheep – an enormous sheepdog that quickly proves anything but dangerous, instead becoming the boy’s best friend and protector. With Nazis rooting out the Resistance fighters helping Jewish refugees cross the border to Switzerland, Belle and Sebastian soon prove their courage to the skeptical villagers.
The Boxcar Children
Sat, Nov. 22 at 2:00pm
Based on the first book of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s extraordinarily popular series – with more than 50 million books sold worldwide – “The Boxcar Children” is a computer-animated tale of family togetherness that relates the touching story of the four Alden siblings. Frightened by the prospect of living with a supposedly cruel grandfather they’ve never met, the children take to the road in 1920s America after they are orphaned. Arriving in a small town, the children discover an old abandoned red boxcar in the woods, and they decide to improvise a home. For a while, the plucky, resourceful children make a happy life for themselves, but when one of them becomes sick, the Alden sibs must risk discovery and the loss of their secret home by taking their sister to the doctor. The film features the voice talents of Zachary Gordon (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”), Martin Sheen, J.K. Simmons, and D.B. Sweeney.
Sun, Nov. 23 at 12:00pm
“Patema Inverted,” from “Time of Eve” director Yasuhiro Yoshiura, is a perspective-twisting sci-fi adventure about two kids separated by opposite gravities. Patema lives in an underground world of tunnels, the long-abandoned ruins of a giant industrial complex. One day when she is exploring in a forbidden zone, she tumbles headlong into a void and out into the wide-open world above the surface — a place in which Patema risks “falling up” into the sky and being lost forever. Student Age lives on this surface world, a totalitarian society whose compliant population has been brainwashed against the “sinners who fell into the sky.” When Age spies Patema hanging upside-down from a tree, he pulls her down to safety. The pair then sets out to evade the leaders of Age’s world and discover the secret that keeps their worlds apart.
Fri, Nov. 21 at 7:30pm
Fourteen-year-old Mika is looking forward to the best time of the year — summer camp — but when she fails to pass her end-of-year exams, she’s instead exiled to her grandmother’s stables in the country to study. Although she knows nothing about horses and has never ridden, Mika quickly realizes she has a special bond with animals — especially with the wild stallion Windstorm. When she discovers that Windstorm is supposed to be sold to a butcher, Mika hatches a plan to rescue the stallion’s life. With the help of stable boy Sam and his grandfather, a former trainer at her grandmother’s stable, Mika learns to ride with the goal of winning a prestigious jumping competition with Windstorm. Because her protective grandmother has forbidden Mika to have any contact with the wild horse, she’s forced to train in secret. Still more challenging, the novice rider must defeat an outstanding equestrian who intensely dislikes her. But Mika is undeterred: Only by proving Windstorm’s worth can his life be saved.
Sat, Nov 22 at 4:30pm
As part of its Race in America programming, SLIFF offers a classic family film about the black experience. Based on the 1970 Newbery Medal-winning novel by William H. Armstrong, “Sounder” recounts the struggles of the Morgans, a loving and strong family of African-American sharecroppers in Louisiana in the midst of the Great Depression. The Morgans face a crisis when the father (Paul Winfield) is convicted of a petty crime — for taking food to feed his needy family — and sent to a prison camp. The mother (Cicely Tyson) eventually sends her 11-year-old son (Kevin Hooks) to visit his father at the camp, and the trip becomes an eventful odyssey. Nominated for four Oscars — including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay — “Sounder” offers sympathetic, accessible insight into African Americans’ history and experience.
Amka and the Three Golden Rules
Sat, Nov. 22 at 12:00pm
The tragic loss of his parents has made Amka, a sweet Mongolian boy, the sole provider for his family. A diligent worker, Amka wakes up early to get water for his little sister and collects plastic bottles to earn money, even though his wastrel older brother wastes it by getting drunk every night. Given the responsibility he’s forced to carry on his small shoulders, Amka understandably finds it hard to resist indulging in some costly pleasures when he finds a gold coin and sells it at the local store. Shirking his chores, he buys some stylish clothes and spends all day playing pay-by-the-hour video games. Worse, when his money runs out, Amka borrows more from his friends. Now faced with debts he can’t repay, Amka flees to the countryside, where his wise uncle exposes him to the old ways of life and teaches him a valuable lesson about responsibility.