Establishing Shot

The Tivoli Theatre welcomes the inaugural St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase

Chris Grega's "Frank Wang: The Vengeance" is an overdubbed comedy shot in black-and-white that involves ninjas and bowling. Geoffrey Michel Bonk's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" memorably juxtaposes the Judy Garland song with some serious gore. And Aaron Crozier's "Liontown" has been accurately described by St. Louis Film Office executive director Jim Leonis as a "showstopper" -- the 10-minute musical featuring actors wearing corny animal heads has a jarring ending.

These films and about 60 other homegrown movies will be shown over the course of three days at the Tivoli Theatre as part of the first annual St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The films are split up into 13 programs containing mostly shorts (at 75 minutes, Doveed Linder's Defiance is the only true feature). Each program costs just 5 bucks to see.

In a city with a fine international film festival and the occasional big-budget feature shooting on our streets, starting a festival for local screenwriters, directors, actors and crews is a critical move.

"Going into [the showcase], I basically thought I had a handle on what was going on in this town, figuring we'd get about 30 or 40 films," says Leonis, who coordinated the event. "By the time the deadline arrived, we had about 115 films. The biggest thing that surprised me was that there was so much stuff going on in this town that I had no idea about."

Films of note in the fest include Nwofia Al Falaq's "Jihad: A Struggle Within," which has been described as "hip-hop-garde"; Darnell Singleton's "St. Lunatics: The Making of Free City," a documentary on Nelly and his compadres; Joe Leonard's "Bulletin Board," which imagines the story behind a newspaper ad placed by someone searching for the strange woman who intrigued him; Angie Ottinger's "The Donut King," shot partially at World's Fair Doughnuts on Vandeventer Avenue; William Clifton's "Satan Eats Lunch," scored with music by local punkers the Ded Bugs; Raymond Thomas' "12 Minutes," a touching short about a father meeting his son for the first time just before the older man is executed by the state; and Todd Johnson's "The Joneses," which becomes high drama, thanks to black-and-white film, spooky music and the absence of dialogue.

Many are excited about the premiere showing of Defiance, which has been three years in the making. Writer/director Linder and Hollywood cinematographer Dave Rutherford shot the Western in Defiance, Mo. Nearly 1,000 locals contributed to the project. Linder will also premiere "Strawberry Spring," a short about a serial killer that was filmed at Washington University.

The showcase includes a closing-night party at the Pageant, featuring a music-video sidebar and live performances by musicians from those videos, as well as bands that provided music for some of the films. The performers include Elvis imitator Steve Davis, the Ralph Butler Band, Just Black, the James Family and Bits N' Pieces.

Five films in the festival were submitted by high-school students, including Tristan Cook's "Oratorio of the Grotesques, Op. 7," which takes place entirely in a bathroom and has been praised lavishly by the Web's Ain't It Cool News.