20 Years of SLIFF: St. Louis' largest annual film festival premiered in 1992 with 25 films. It returns this year with more than 400.

20 Years of SLIFF: St. Louis' largest annual film festival premiered in 1992 with 25 films. It returns this year with more than 400.
Simple Simon (I rymden finns inga känslor).

Forget autumn in New York – November's a magical time to be right here in St. Louis, especially if you're a movie-lover. The city's coated in a blanket of crisp leaves, until they're picked up by that perpetual cool autumn breeze that also makes for perfect sweater weather — that season in the Midwest when reasonable conditions punctuate the space between 100 and -20 degree temperatures for a few fleeting weeks. It all feels quite romantic — cinematic, even. What better way to usher in the beginning of Oscar season than with such picturesque scenes and a few hundred films? Cinema St. Louis has the latter all queued up, with its annual St. Louis International Film Festival, now in its 20th year. The festival, which takes place from November 10 to 20, plays host to more than 400 feature, documentary and short films, many of which wouldn't appear in St. Louis on the big screen otherwise. With so many enticing options, it's difficult to narrow down to the must-sees. After all, finances and time constraints make it impossible to see all of them. To help you sort through the overwhelming selection, we've highlighted a few especially gripping films guaranteed to make you feel something – whether it's joy, despair, motivation or simply love for the medium and the city that fosters it.


Give a Damn?
Noon, Saturday, November 12, at Washington University's Brown Auditorium
As decent people, we'd like to think we all give a damn about Africa's poverty. But this country — hell, this city — has plenty of problems of its own, so why should we give a damn about the problems of a far-flung continent so far removed from our day-to-day lives? And with that question, a trio of friends — including a "God will provide" Christian fundamentalist and a "fuck that shit" atheist — set out, Africa-bound, from St. Louis (but not before plenty of pensive shots taken around the Arch and Saint Louis Bread Co.). They pledge to live on $1.25 a day (not counting transportation), like an estimated 20 percent of the world's population does. Along the way they meet with scholars, activists and pastors who provide some sociological context before they finally live among the people themselves: walking feces-strewn streets, eating dirt, partaking in ebullient church services and experiencing a horrifying event that shakes the project to its core. It's a call to action, and one that viewers will want to answer.
Kristie McClanahan


Wish Me Away
2:30 p.m. Sunday, November 13, at the Tivoli Theatre
Wish Me Away explores Chely Wright's evolution from closeted country singer to out and active LGBT spokeswoman. Wright put her Nashville ambitions above all from a young age, learning to pray for the strength to hide her sexuality for fear that her fans (who adored her but were largely steeped in a culture of homophobia) would abandon and alienate her. Wright played it straight, living in secret with her lover throughout much of the '90s. Meanwhile, hits such as "Single White Female" and "Shut Up and Drive" climbed the country charts, focusing more and more attention on her personal life. Decades of self-hate and one suicide attempt later, Wright decides to come out — to her abusive mother, her small hometown, her fans and the LGBT community — via the release of a tell-all memoir, a heart-baring new album and a massive talk-show tour. The film documents her story as well as this process, complete with intimate moments from her video diary and recordings of conversations with her previously homophobic but now wholly supportive father.
Chrissy Wilmes


Simple Simon
(I rymden finns inga känslor)

3:30 Sunday, November 13, and 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, November 15, at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
Simple Simon, Sweden's entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2010 Oscars, explains its main plot point with an introduction between characters: "I'm Simon; I'm Asperger's." The title character deals with his syndrome by imposing a strictly regimented schedule upon himself and his brother, Sam — showers timed to the minute, tacos every Friday. His rigid demands drive away Sam's girlfriend, setting Simon off on a mission to find his brother's perfect match. With Simon as narrator, the film is respectfully approached through the lens of the technically driven Asperger's mind. He tries to impose logic upon the world's inherent chaos, breaking down when his equations for love and happiness fail to add up correctly. Of the fictional films that deal with similar disabilities — What's Eating Gilbert Grape and The Other Sister immediately come to mind — Simple Simon is one of few that offer an inside view of the topic.
Ryan Wasoba


You've Been Trumped
6:45 p.m. Monday, November 14, at the Tivoli Theatre
Just in case you're not sure who the protagonists and the antagonists are in the documentary You've Been Trumped, all you need to do is listen to the music: gently tinkling notes for the residents of Aberdeenshire, in northeast Scotland, who are watching their land be bulldozed into a golf-course development by Donald Trump's corporation (its appearance is marked by luxury SUVs crawling over virgin soil to the beat of ominous thuds). Aberdeenshire's topography is one of dunes, wetlands and scrubby, windswept shores, and it plays an integral part in its history of generations of ploughmen and fishermen. The houses are modest; Trump calls them "slums" and "pigstys" and "disgusting" eyesores that guests at his resort shouldn't have to look at. Though it lopes along at times, You've Been Trumped is a compelling look at the students, scientists, artists and the homeowners who are facing down police, developers, politicians and the megalomanic land-grabbing American himself in an attempt to preserve their beloved homeland.
—Kristie McClanahan


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