Cinema St. Louis is thrilled to unveil the 32nd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF), set to captivate audiences from November 9th to 19th at the historic Hi-Pointe Theatre, CSL’s new forever home, as well as at multiple venues across the city including the Alamo Drafthouse, Webster University, Washington University and more.

CSL’s centerpiece event, is a world-class international film festival that exhibits films from around the globe and attracts between 25,000 and 31,000 patrons annually. Offering its 32nd edition in 2023, the fest presents 278 films over 11 days in November. Featured work includes shorts, documentaries, foreign-language works, American independents, restorations/revivals, and studio art-film releases.
More than 100 filmmakers, documentary subjects, scholars, and critics attend the fest, participating in post-film discussions, master classes, and seminars. In 2019, SLIFF was included among USA Today’s 10 Best Film Festivals.

Highlights of this year’s fest include:

  • SLIFF’s Opening Night Party on 11/9 at the Hi-Pointe, where the fest will celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop in St. Louis, as explored through both film and music
  • Signe Baumane on hand to accept this year’s Women in Film Award at a showing of her newest film, “My Love Affair with Marriage” on 11/11
  • La Passion de Dodin Bouffant” (Taste of Things), Cannes award winner for director Trần Anh Hùng, starring Juliette Binoche, Pierre Gagnaire, Jan Hammenecker, and Benoît Magimel, serves as France’s official submission for Best International Feature for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024 and will screen on 11/12 at the Hi-Pointe Theatre
  • Director Alexander Payne to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, while showcasing not only his newest film on 11/14“The Holdovers,” but also his modern classic, “The Descendants,” on 11/15
  • A screening of The TIFF 2023 People’s Choice Award winner, “American Fiction,” on 11/17, directed and written by Cord Jefferson, co-starring St. Louis’s favorite son, Sterling K. Brown.
  • Highlighting the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, SLIFF’s QFest Spotlight Film“All of Us Strangers,” from Searchlight Pictures, the critically acclaimed romantic drama written and directed by Andrew Haigh, starring Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy, will close the festival on 11/19
  • The festival will culminate on Sunday, November 19th, with the much-anticipated Awards Party, featuring an insightful conversation with Reginald Hudlin, during which he will be bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Reginald Hudlin

The festival kicks off on Thursday, November 9th, celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop with a tribute to the Hi-Pointe Cafe’s pivotal role in shaping hip-hop’s history, showcasing the city’s significant influence in its evolution. Attendees will be treated to a cocktail reception, engaging conversations, and a special screening of the 1990 film, “House Party,” directed by East St. Louis’ own, Reginald Hudlin.

CSL’s Executive Director, Bree Maniscalco, shared, “As we celebrate our first festival at the Hi-Pointe Theatre, we wanted to pay tribute to the H-Pointe neighborhood and honor those who made Hip-Hop what it is today. Mondays at the Hi-Pointe Cafe holds a special place in many people’s hearts, and we’re looking to bring it back to kick things off in style for this year’s Fest.”

This year’s festival promises a variety of exclusive events, screenings, enlightening post-film Q&A sessions, and illuminating masterclasses dedicated to addressing industry-relevant topics. SLIFF received an impressive 2,419 submissions, marking the festival’s 32nd anniversary with record-breaking enthusiasm. SLIFF’s dedicated team of programmers, hailing from diverse backgrounds, meticulously curated a selection of 278 remarkable films that underscore the transformative power of cinema.

The lineup includes 54 captivating narrative features, 52 thought-provoking documentary features, and an astounding 172 short films, all part of its prestigious Oscar-qualifying annual Shorts Competition. These films delve deep into a spectrum of compelling themes, ranging from art, the environment, human rights, and racial equity, to name just a few. What’s more, they authentically represent perspectives from 32 countries, encompassing an astounding 39 native languages, ensuring that SLIFF remains a truly international celebration of storytelling through film.

The Holdovers


SLIFF serves as a cinematic beacon, illuminating the big screen with a diverse array of films that might otherwise remain hidden gems, waiting to be discovered by local audiences. As the festival unfolds, St. Louis becomes a vibrant hub for filmmakers from far and wide, with many making their inaugural visit to the city. In this dynamic atmosphere, the city buzzes with the infectious energy and passion that only the power of film can generate.

  • ●  Documentary Spotlight: Sponsored by Mary and Leon Strauss, this spotlight will screen 130 films, including “Sorry/Not Sorry,” an examination of Louis C.K.’s, comeback and the unseen effects of this on the women who spoke publicly about the sexual harassment accusations in 2017; “Chasing Chasing Amy,” the complex legacy of Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy (1997, also screening at SLIFF) on LGBTQ+ people and its life-saving impact on director Sav Rodgers; “We Dare to Dream,” follows athletes on their journey to become part of the refugee Olympic team; “Nathan-ism,” a tender portrayal of an artist’s distinctive viewpoint on his war assignment, coupled with his impassioned yearning for self-expression.; and “Omoiyari,” follows Kishi Bashi when a media interview links the Muslim ban and the immigration crisis at the USA-Mexico border with the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
  • ●  French Language Spotlight: Sponsored by the Jane M. and Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, this spotlight will feature 16 feature and short films celebrating St. Louis’ Gallic heritage and France’s cinematic legacy. Leading the spotlight is “La Passion de Dodin Bouffant” (Taste of Things), Cannes award winner for director Trần Anh Hùng, starring Juliette Binoche, Pierre Gagnaire, Jan Hammenecker, and Benoît Magimel, serves as France’s official submission for Best International Feature for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
  • ●  New Filmmakers Forum: SLIFF’s longest-running juried award, highlighting first-time narrative feature filmmakers whose works truly stand out.
  • ●  Oscar-Qualifying Shorts Competition: SLIFF is one of 63 Oscar-accredited short film competitions worldwide, making filmmakers who win a “Best of” at SLIFF, eligible for an Academy Award nomination.
    • ○  Across 11 documentary shorts programs, audiences will witness the global impact of art, the nuances of the Black experience, the damage done by society’s broken systems, the power of indigenous lands, the thrill of high-stakes sports, the state of the average workday, the importance of sustainability, the plight of immigrants worldwide, the spectrum of sexuality, the reality of living with disabilities, and the untold stories of remarkable St. Louisans.
    • ○  This year’s selection of narrative short films strives to highlight the vast array of global voices in contemporary cinema. Twenty languages are represented, and over half come from female filmmakers. Three highlights of the fifteen total programs are “Beyond Pedro,” a slate of shorts from emergent Spanish filmmakers, “Pan-Asia Stories,” and “Joy in Latinx Representation.” Elsewhere, adventurous genre fans will find new kinds of horror with “A New Kind of Blood” and eye-popping, mind-bending animation from around the world with “Transmission.” Of course, area films and filmmakers are well represented in the narrative shorts selections, with two programs featuring the best of the 2023 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, held by Cinema St. Louis this past summer.

Paul Mescal, Andrew Scott in “All of Us Strangers”
  • ●  QFest Spotlight: A collection of films that spotlight the lives of LGBTQ people while celebrating queer culture. Films include “All of Us Strangers,” from Searchlight Pictures, the critically acclaimed romantic drama written and directed by Andrew Haigh, loosely based on the 1987 novel Strangers by Taichi Yamada. The film stars Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy; “Glitter & Doom,” a fantastical summer romance musical told with the iconic tunes of legendary American Folk music duo the Indigo Girls; and “Housekeeping for Beginners,” the Official submission of North Macedonia for the Best International Feature Film category of the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
  • ●  Race in America Spotlight: For the last 10 years, SLIFF’s Race In America programming has reflected the frustrations of African Americans in response to the events in Ferguson. While this mission continues, the Spotlight will also draw attention to building community, fostering dialogue, and creating a platform for real societal change. To maximize these objectives, all of the 14 programs are offered for free thanks to support from the Trio Foundation of St. Louis. Films include “The Space Race,” which explores the experiences of the first Black astronauts through decades of archive film and interviews in a reflective illumination on the burden of breaking barriers; “Razing Liberty Square,” chronicling residents who fight to save their community from climate gentrification; “Ellis,” the first feature-length documentary about Ellis Marsalis Jr. and the Marsalis Music Family. This screening will pay tribute to the late St. Louis Post-Dispatch Theater Critic (former film critic), Calvin Wilson, with a portion of ticket proceeds donated to his alma mater, Northwest High School’s Performing Arts department; “Black Barbie,” the story behind the first Black Barbie; and “Kenyatta Do Not Wait Your Turn,” from Al Roker, an inspiring film that follows a self-described “poor, gay, Black man from North Philly” on his historic run for the U.S. Senate.

● Studio Spotlight: Star-filled highlights include “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” an American drama film, written and directed by Raven Jackson, starring Charleen McClure, Moses Ingram, Reginald Helms Jr., Zainab Jah, Sheila Atim, and Chris Chalk; “American Fiction,” an American satirical comedy-drama film directed and written by Cord Jefferson based on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett, starring Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Sterling K. Brown, Myra Lucretia Taylor, John Ortiz, Issa Rae, and Adam Brody; “The Holdovers,” an American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne, starring Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Dominic Sessa; “Maxine’s Baby,” a documentary about Tyler Perry; and “Taste of Things,” (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant), directed by Trần Anh Hùng, starring Juliette Binoche, Pierre Gagnaire, Jan Hammenecker, and Benoît Magimel, is sure to leave audiences hungry for more and serves as France’s official submission for Best International Feature for the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.

Alexander Payne: © Aristidis Vafeiadakis via ZUMA Wire)


SLIFF is pleased to honor the following for their incredible contributions to film:
● Reginald Hudlin, a distinguished American film screenwriter, director, producer, and accomplished comic-book writer, hails from the vibrant cultural tapestry of East St. Louis. His cinematic repertoire boasts an impressive array of works, including notable titles such as “Marshall,” “The Black Godfather,” and “Sidney,” each contributing to his renowned status in the industry. On the closing night of the SLIFF, which falls on Sunday, November 19thHudlin will engage in an enlightening interview, offering audiences a captivating insight into his illustrious career, and he will be bestowed with a highly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, an accolade reflecting his enduring influence.

● Alexander Payne, a luminary in American cinema, is a prominent film director, screenwriter, and producer celebrated for his illustrious career, including directorial gems such as “Sideways,” “Election,” and “Nebraska,” each a testament to his mastery of the craft. On Tuesday, November 14th, at the Hi-Pointe Theatre, audiences will have the rare opportunity to delve into the creative genius of Payne with his latest cinematic creation, “The Holdovers.” This screening is an occasion to honor Payne with a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. On Wednesday, November 15th, at the Hi-Pointe Theatre following a screening of his 2011 cinematic masterpiece, “The Descendants,” Payne will engage in an enlightening conversation, led by former CSL Executive Director Cliff Froehlich. In a poignant gesture of solidarity, a portion of the ticket sales from this screening will be donated to the Hawaii People’s Fund, an organization dedicated to offering direct aid in the aftermath of Maui’s wildfire devastation.

● Signe Baumane, an extraordinary talent from Latvia now rooted in the creative hub of Brooklyn, Baumane emerges as a multifaceted powerhouse in independent filmmaking, artistry, writing, and animation. With an illustrious career, she has crafted 16 acclaimed animated shorts that have earned her numerous awards and accolades, solidifying her place as a luminary in the field. Her groundbreaking animated feature debut, “Rocks in My Pockets,”

impressed SLIFF audiences in the past, and audiences this year will be entertained by her latest cinematic offering, “My Love Affair with Marriage.” Her film will screen at the Hi-Pointe Theatre on Saturday, November 11th, where she will be honored with the prestigious Women In Film Award, a testament to her unwavering dedication and the inspiring stories she brings to life through her craft.

American Fiction


Tickets are now on sale:

  • ●  All Access Pass (admits two): $500 / CSL Members $400
  • ●  VIP Pass (admits one): $350 / CSL Members $300
  • ●  20-Film Pass: $250 / CSL Members $200
  • ●  10-Film Pass: $130 / CSL Members $100
  • ●  6-Film Pass: $80 / CSL Members $60

Not a CSL Annual Member? In addition to discounts at SLIFF, members receive year-round benefits, sure to please every type of movie lover. Learn more and become a member here:


The festival will showcase films and special events across multiple centrally-located venues throughout the St. Louis area:

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, located at 3700 Forest Park Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63108 Arkadin Cinema & Bar, located at 5228 Gravois Ave, St. Louis, MO 63116 Contemporary Art Museum, located at 3750 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108 The Foundry Art Center, located at 520 N Main Center, St Charles, MO 63301 Hi-Pointe Theatre, located at 1005 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, MO 63117

Hi-Pointe Backlot Theatre, located at 1002 Hi-Pointe Pl., St. Louis, MO 63117 St. Louis Public Central Library, located at 1301 Olive St., St. Louis, MO 63103

Washington University, Brown Hall Auditorium, located at Centennial Greenway, St. Louis, MO 63105

Webster University, Moore Auditorium, located at 470 East Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119


Title Sponsor: Whitaker Foundation

Sustaining Sponsors: Albrecht Family Foundation, Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation, Coolfire Studios, Jane M. & Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, Ward & Carol Klein, Nancy & Ken Kranzberg, Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Division of Tourism, Missouri Film Office, National Endowment for the Arts, Regional Arts Commission, Mary Strauss, Trio Foundation of St. Louis, William A. Kerr Foundation

Presenting Partners: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Arkadin Cinema & Bar, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Eventive, Film & Media Archive at Washington University Libraries, Film & Media Studies Program at Washington University, Foundry Art Centre, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis Public Radio, Webster University Film Series

More information about SLIFF can be found at

By Lynn Venhaus
Congratulations to the local filmmakers who put their time, energy, money and creativity into making a local movie — 91 films were accepted this year! And a record number of women — 22 females directed movies! All these reasons to cheer.

Sunday night (July 30) was the 23rd Annual St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase Awards closing party, and this year, it was at Cinema St. Louis’ forever home, the Hi-Pointe Theatre.

Artistic Director Chris Clark, now in his 23rd year, announced the 14 films that move on to the 32nd Annual St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 9-19, which is quite an honor: They are:

Gorilla Tactics
  1. The Box, directed by Doveed Linder
  2. The Candy Crucible, directed by Micah Deeken
  3. Captcha, directed by Andy Compton
  4. clusterluck, directed by Cami Thomas
  5. Eliza, directed by Delisa Richardson and Dan Steadman
  6. Fortune Cookie, directed by Fu Yang
  7. Gorilla Tactics, directed by Michael Long
  8. The Highland Incident, directed by Zia Nizami
  9. Honorable, directed by Zachary Scott Clark and Mariah Richardson
  10. Nova, directed by Gabe Sheets
  11. Pretty Boy, directed by Kevin Coleman-Cohen
  12. The Queue, directed by Michael Rich
  13. These Flowers Were for You, directed by Taylor Yocom
  14. Up for Air, directed by Chase Norman

The SLIFF schedule will be released in early fall. The festival will showcase various films across multiple venues throughout the St. Louis area, including the Alamo Drafthouse and CSL’s new home, the Hi-Pointe Theatre. The festival will offer more than 250 films, including documentary and narrative features and short film programs from the widest possible range of storytellers, representing multiple countries featuring more than 25 native languages.  

For this year’s St. Louis Filmmakers’ Showcase, 20 juried awards were given out in narrative, and also 10 in documentary and experimental. (See article recap in News:

Want to give a shout-out to all, and those in attendance after being part of 17 programs over two weekends, truly inspiring.

Michael Rich

To see people thrilled about their achievements being recognized, to peg certain folks as artists to keep your eyes on, and to meet some of the filmmakers is always fun. (How such a nice person as Michael Rich can make such terrifying, dark films — his “The Queue” won horror this year, and he’s won in the past. (Side note, his film will be part of Franki Cambeletta’s Haunted Garage Horror Film Festival Oct. 5-7 at the Hi-Pointe, so will “The Candy Crucible.”).

And to follow success of people I met when I was an adjunct journalism/media instructor at STLCC-Forest Park in ’09 and see them produce passion projects — Kevin Coleman-Cohen and Mariah Richardson, is exciting.

CSL established the categories — a solid list, and last year, I lobbied for ensemble to be added (recognized more in recent years in film awards, and St. Louis Film Critics Association added it in ’22). This year, other jurors and I felt that with the increase in horror/thriller films, we needed that genre category.

Since 2009, I have served on the narrative jury a number of times,  not every year, and certainly not the four times my late son Tim Venhaus’ comedies made the cut, but a considerable amount. I am always eager to see what local folks are up to, and I can attest the quality has grown by leaps and bounds.

This year, the quality of original music was quite exceptional – a longer list of worthy nominees.

(In my opinion, the four biggest things, negatively, are: sound and lighting, quality of acting and the follow-through —  how to end a story. I, too, have seen Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” and freeze-framing the final shot isn’t always the way to go. My latest pet peeve is how fake the fake blood looks, some far better than others, but I digress.)

We are here to celebrate film and the joy involved in community.

Through the whole festival, you see a sense of community — of collaboration, of coming together to produce an original work, emphasis on original. Everybody’s got a story to tell, and how they choose to tell it is a journey unto itself.

Winners Delisa Richardson, Mia Bible, Zachary Scott Clark, Kazia Steele. Photo Provided.

Movie-making is very hard work, and if you’ve spent long hours on a movie shoot, you know it’s something to admire – stamina, resourcefulness, ability to be flexible, and the long hours trying to capture the right angle or light.

Plus it takes courage. And tapping the right people for the job.

In recent years, some actors I know through covering regional theater are in front of a camera, and that’s a fun component – seeing a new side to them. Don McClendon, you must be the champ of most films in a year. David Wassilak, living in your mom’s basement in “The Box”? Eric Dean White, I can’t unsee your image as a creep in “Finch”! Paul Cereghino, you didn’t really kill that baby chick, did you? And is that Alan Knoll as a prison warden in “Penitentia”?

This year I was introduced to Zachary Scott Clark as Boy Willie in Encore’s “The Piano Lesson,” and to see him become Muhammed Ali in “Honorable” was impressive (how intimidating to play a historical figure!), and likewise, improv comedic actor Ryan Myers in “Captcha” — is he or is he not a robot?

And to discover new talent — Kazia Steele in “Eliza,” Ramone Boyd in “Pretty Boy” and the musicians in “Somewhere in Old Missouri,” among others. And see how hard Tanner Richard Craft works making movies that say something.

Or seeing people you know as actors, Delisa Richardson, move behind the scenes as a writer and director, in “Eliza.”

Tanner Richard Craft in “Processing”

Through promoting the local arts scene, and Cinema St. Louis’ programs, I enjoy meeting these people who are letting their voices be heard, collaborating with others on a labor of love, and have a distinct point of view.

Sadly, some very good films become also-rans. Not everyone can get a trophy, and we always have a healthy discussion on why certain films receive recognition, and others don’t. We don’t name the runners-up. But we do admire many efforts that don’t make that cut — “Cheated!” was a clever original musical told in a few minutes! Attorney Ed Herman spoke the truth in the comically entertaining animated short “Ed V Bathrooms.”

Spencer Davis Milford

And some actors are quite good in films that are in the conversation but just don’t get the top vote. (Brock Russell and Spencer Davis Milford, we enjoyed you guys in the offbeat black comedy “Food Poisoning” — who knew funny and cannibalism could be in the same sentence? Likewise, two outstanding females in “Broken Vessels” — Alicia Blasingame and Cathy Vu, the dynamic duo of Chrissie Watkins and Joe Hanrahan in “Patient #47,” Rusty Schwimmer in “Penetentia,” and the list is long.

I particularly enjoy seeing different shot selection — local parks, neighborhoods, cool historic homes, use of rivers, high schools, colleges. After all, this is “St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.” Filmmakers from here who’ve moved can shoot where they are, like L.A., but it’s really fun to see different parts of the ‘Lou, or Illinois, with fresh eyes. Hmmm, that diner is in St. Charles? Is that bar in south city? In “Pretty Boy,” Kevin Coleman-Cohen used ‘underground’ downtown areas that were fascinating.

A film can be 3 minutes, like “Up for Air,” and make its point effectively, or it can be a half-hour, like “Honorable,” and deliver a sense of time and place eloquently. We know they didn’t fly to Ghana, but you understood the setting.

A nondescript apartment became a prison for someone in a mental health crisis in “Where Monsters Lurk.” And Gabe Sheets used a vintage Chevy Nova to tell a transgender teen’s story in “Nova.”

And for Fu Yang’s brilliant stop-motion animation “Fortune Cookie,” the amount of thought and effort is remarkable (won animation/experimental and best narrative under 20 minutes). The backstory told by many directors in their notes is key to understanding all that is involved.

So, the best of the best moves on, while excellent efforts may not get the SLIFF spotlight, but I hope can be seen in other ways. A film has to be seen, and felt. And sometimes, that filmmaker will come back stronger the next year.

Andy Compton, Ryan Myers, Larry Claudin and composer Austin McCutcheon. Photo provided.

I look forward to see what Andy Compton is up to next, and hope to see some shorts turned into features for ambitious filmmakers. (Scott Wisdom’s “No Rest for the Wicked” perhaps).

The narrative jury watched 59 films this year. Chris gave us a good lead time, and our panel would text each other about certain ones, sometimes we’d go back and watch one a second time to evaluate. The due diligence that I witnessed in fellow jurors Alex McPherson and Cate Marquis is a commitment we willingly take on, because it’s important.

I know the doc committee feels the same way — Carl “The Intern” Middleman, my podcast colleague, watched his slate before he left for a fishing trip to Canada. So did Aisha Sultan, whose family went on an overseas trip, back to discuss the winners. Gayle Gallagher was on hand Sunday night to talk about their decisions.

Now I need to watch the docs I missed, particularly Zia Nizami’s “The Highland Incident.” Zia is a former Belleville News-Democrat photographer that I have known for years, and I was covering metro-east news when the UFO incident was reported in 2001. It will be part of SLIFF.

Hope to see you film fans and dreamers at SLIFF in November.

And kudos to all the folks at Cinema St. Louis who work so very hard to make this annual event happen. Thanks, Bree Maniscalco, Brian Spath and of course, fearless AD Chris Clark.

The Candy Crucible. Not a Superhero or Disney Princess in sight.

Cover photo of winners Mia Bible and Zachary Scott Clark at the Hi-Pointe, July 30. Photo used with permission.