A total of 64 countries will be represented in this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival. Presented by Cinema St. Louis, the 26th annual event takes place Nov. 2 to Nov. 12, and will screen 372 films: 82 narrative features, 63 documentaries and 227 shorts.
The festival will kick off Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Tivoli Theatre with the world premiere of “Bad Grandmas,” a St. Louis-shot comedy by co-writer/director Srikant Chellappa and co-writer Jack Snyder. Starring the late Florence Henderson (“The Brady Bunch”) in her final role and the legendary Pam Grier (“Jackie Brown”), “Bad Grandmas” recounts the misadventures of senior citizens Mimi (Henderson), Coralee (Grier), Bobbi (Susie Wall), and Virginia (Sally Eaton). The friends’ quiet life is upended when Bobbi’s son-in-law, Jim (David Wassilak), cons her and she loses her house. Mimi, the unofficial leader of the group, decides to take matters into her own hands, but things spin out of control, and Jim is inadvertently killed. It isn’t long before local detective Randy McLemore (Randall Batinkoff) begins to investigate. Adding further complication — and danger — is Jim’s criminal associate Harry Lovelace (Judge Reinhold of “Beverly Hills Cop”), who’s on the hunt to collect the money his partner owes him. The situation appears grim, but these bad grandmas are no ordinary women. Scenes from the film were shot on location in Fenton and the Metro East. Three of the lead actresses, including Grier, will attend the 8 p.m. screening. A 6:30 p.m. reception precedes the film.
Grier will also get her own turn in the spotlight as part of SLIFF’s Tribute to Pam Grier. On Friday, Nov. 3, at The Tivoli, there will be a screening of Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” which itself serves as a loving homage to the actress. A faithful adaptation of the 1992 Elmore Leonard crime novel “Rum Punch,” “Jackie Brown” details the efforts of aging, luckless stewardess Jackie (Grier) as she attempts to wriggle free from her uncomfortable position between gun runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), for whom she moonlights as a money mule carrying cash from Mexico to LA, and ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton), who catches her in mid-transport. With the help of her smitten bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), Jackie endeavors not only to escape both the jail term threatened by Ray and the sure death for potential betrayal promised by Ordell but also to steal $500,000. The screening begins at 8 p.m.
In addition, as part of the fest’s ongoing response to the Ferguson uprising and the protests of recent months, SLIFF again will feature a major stream of programming entitled Race in America: The Black Experience, and offer a second edition of Mean Streets: Viewing the Divided City Through the Lens of Film and Television, which addresses the persistent issue of segregation.
Other highlights include the screening buzz films and Oscar contenders such as “The Ballad of Lefty Brown,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Darkest Hour,” “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” “Last Flag Flying,” “The Leisure Seeker,” “My Friend Dahmer,” “Thoroughbreds,” and “Walking Out.”
This year’s Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival schedule, ticket and venue information, and a complete list of films (with descriptions) are available at the Cinema St. Louis website, cinemastlouis.org.