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The 23rd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) will be held Nov. 13-22. The festival will screen 389 films, 89 narrative features, 76 documentary features and 224 shorts at six different venues across the city. This year’s festival has 239 screenings/programs, with 69 countries represented. The festival will also host more than 125 filmmakers and related guests, including honorees Doug Pray (Contemporary Cinema Award), Katie Mustard (Women in Film Award), and Timothy J. Sexton (Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award). Below is list few of a few featured films at the festival that have a connection to the LGBT community:

 

Alex & Ali

Malachi Leopold, U.S./Turkey, 2014, 88 min.

Tuesday, Nov. 18, 9:35 p.m.

The Tivoli Theater

 

Alex, a former Peace Corps volunteer, spent a decade living in Iran. While there, he met and fell in love with Ali, an Iranian whom Alex considers his soulmate. When the Islamic revolution erupted in the late 1970s, Alex was forced to leave both Iran and Ali, but the two men kept their relationship through letters, phone calls and emails. In May 2012, when the two finally have the opportunity to meet again, filmmaker and human-rights advocate Malachi Leopold follows his uncle Alex to Istanbul, where he and Ali reunite for the first time in 35 years, hoping to rekindle their relationship. But their best-laid plans are turned upside down, revealing emotionally painful twists and turns that transform their lives forever. In the Chicago Tribune, Nina Metz writes that the film “left me wrecked. I can’t remember the last time I had to pause a screener to collect myself. Deeply emotional, the film itself generates a slew of ethical questions. Which makes it intellectually involving as well. Most documentaries contend with ethical issues; all of that is heightened in ‘Alex & Ali.'”

 

Cupcakes

Eytan Fox, Israel, 2013, 92 min. (Hebrew, French & English)

Friday, Nov. 21, 2:10 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 23, 9:15 p.m.

Plaza Frontenac

 

Set in contemporary Tel Aviv, “Cupcakes” is the latest film from acclaimed gay Israeli director Eytan Fox (“Yossi & Jagger,” “The Bubble”). Six diverse best friends gather to watch the wildly popular UniverSong competition. Appalled by the Israeli submission, the group larkishly decides to create its own entry, recording the song on a mobile phone. Unbeknownst to them, the performance is seen by the UniverSong judges and selected as Israel’s entry for the next year’s competition. With a soundtrack provided by Babydaddy of the Scissor Sisters, this hilarious comedy is a refreshing ode to music and friendship. Variety describes this cinematic confection as “endearingly goofy with its ‘dare to be yourself’ moral and ’70s- tinged aesthetic.”

 

 

The Homestretch

Kirsten Kelly & Anne de Mare, U.S., 2014, 90 min.

Friday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m.

Washington University

 

“The Homestretch” follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these smart, ambitious teenagers — Roque, Kasey, and Anthony — will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, these teens take the audience on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film connects us deeply with larger issues of poverty, race, juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBTQ rights. With co-director de Mare and Diedra Thomas-Murray, M.S.W., L.M.S.W., St. Louis Public Schools homeless coordinator and foster-care liaison.

 

An Honest Liar

Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein, U.S., 2014, 93 min.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.

Webster University

 

For the last half-century, James “The Amazing” Randi has entertained millions of people around the world with his remarkable feats of magic, escape, and trickery. But Randi was enraged when saw his beloved magician’s tricks being used by faith healers, fortune tellers, and psychics to steal money and destroy lives, and he’s dedicated his life to exposing those frauds. Perpetrating a series of unparalleled investigations and elaborate hoaxes, Randi has fooled scientists, the media, and a gullible public, but always with a deeper goal of demonstrating the importance of evidence and the dangers of magical thinking. His work exposing faith healers won him the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1987. When dealing with a master deceiver, however, the truth can often be hard to find: The film also follows Randi and his partner through a dramatic — and potentially devastating — twist in their own lives. With appearances by Adam Savage, Penn & Teller, Bill Nye, and Alice Cooper, “An Honest Liar” is an exciting and thought-provoking film: a detective story, a biography, and a bit of a magic act itself.

 

 

The Imitation Game

Morten Tyldum, U.K., 2014, 113 min.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 5 p.m.

The Tivoli Theatre

 

In “The Imitation Game,” Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock”) stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist, and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code. After his code-breaking work helped the Allies win World War II, Turing then went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester. Despite those accomplishments, Turing was prosecuted by the U.K. government in 1952 for homosexual acts that the country at that time deemed illegal. The fine cast also includes Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, and Charles Dance. Describing the film as “engrossing, nicely textured and sadly tragic,” the Hollywood Reporter singles out the lead for particular praise: “Dominating it all is Cumberbatch, whose charisma — tellingly modulated — and naturalistic array of eccentricities, Sherlockian talent at indicating a mind never at rest, and knack for simultaneously portraying physical oddness and attractiveness combine to create an entirely credible portrait of genius at work.” Sponsored by Jon Mendelson Realtors

 

 

In the Turn Erica Tremblay,

U.S., 2014, 103 min.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 4:30 p.m.

The Tivoli Theater

 

“In the Turn” follows 10-year-old Crystal, a transgender girl in rural Canada, as she navigates a difficult and complicated environment. Tormented at school by teachers and peers alike, she faces daily assaults in the form of insults and physical altercations, and the pain she endures takes a toll on not only her self-esteem but also the emotional stability of her family. Struggling against the challenges of prejudice, hatred, and ignorance, Crystal at last opens up her world when her mother discovers the Vagine Regime, a queer collective of roller-derby players — a community comprising people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and identities. The Vagine Regime is not only accepting of Crystal, but they actively support her journey. Instead of her usual exclusion from an athletic team, Crystal is welcomed by the Vagine Regime: She steps out of the shadows and onto the track. “In the Turn” weaves Crystal’s story into a broader narrative: the evolution of roller derby from a niche sport into a social movement with strong roots in the LGBTQ community. Shown with Dylan (Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, U.S. 2014, 9 min.), a hybrid of documentary and narrative in which a trans man talks about his past relationships and transitioning. With director Rohrbaugh.

 

 

Limited Partnership

Thomas G. Miller, U.S., 2014, 76 min.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 5 p.m.

Washington University/Brown (Free)

 

“Limited Partnership” chronicles the love story between Filipino- American Richard Adams and Australian Tony Sullivan, who in 1975 became one of the first same-sex couples in the world to be legally married. After applying for a green card for Tony based on their marriage, the couple received a denial letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that stated, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” Outraged by the letter and intent on preventing Tony’s impending deportation, the couple sued the U.S. government, filing the first federal lawsuit seeking equal treatment for a same-sex marriage in U.S. history. Richard and Tony’s tenacious story of love, marriage, and immigration equality is as precedent setting as it is little known. With subject Sullivan. Shown with Under Ground (Sha Huang, U.S./China, 2014, 15 min., Chinese & English), in which talented young busker Xuan creates a life in New York City with another Chinese girl but remains apprehensive about revealing her relationship to family.

 

 

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

Michele Josue, U.S., 2013, 89 min.

Sunday, Nov. 23, 3:05 p.m.,

The Tivoli Theatre

 

On Oct. 7, 1998, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay. Fifteen years later, Michele Josue, a close friend of Matt’s, revisits the shocking and horrifying case with never-before-seen photos, rare video footage, and brand-new interviews. Shepard’s all-too- brief life is celebrated and remembered through the vivid emotional testimonies of those who knew him best. Meanwhile, new revelations emerge in one of the most notorious hate crimes in U.S. history, leading to a searing, poignant, and multilayered biographical and sociological portrait. In the end, the notion of forgiveness — embodied in the moving and courageous final act of Shepard’s parents — takes on truly heroic proportions.

 

 

Queers in the Kingdom: Let Your Light Shine

Markie Hancock, U.S., 2014, 74 min.

Saturday, Nov. 15, 2:15 p.m.

The Tivoli Theater

 

Most students on Christian college campuses were raised in evangelical homes and went regularly to church, where they were told that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender was a sin. That “lesson” was then repeated over and over by parents, Sunday-school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors. Students struggling with their sexuality on Christian campuses are thus likely to believe that being gay is the worst sin imaginable and that they are going to hell. More immediately, they fear expulsion if anyone discovers their secret. This scenario has deep roots in the evangelical movement in the U.S., where Bible-based homophobia is normative and discrimination by churches and Christian colleges is accepted. Focusing on Wheaton College, Billy Graham’s alma mater, “Queers in the Kingdom” tracks both the general evangelical history of the nation and the specific emergence of OneWheaton, a group of LGBTQ alumni and allies from the college. OneWheaton members resist the silencing and shame that has led to a suicide on campus, and they take action to support current students and each other. With director Hancock.

 

A Small Southern Enterprise (Una piccola impresa meridionale)

Rocco Papaleo, Italy, 2013, 103 min. (Italian)

Saturday, Nov. 15, 7:05 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 17, 4 p.m.

Plaza Frontenac

 

Mamma Stella is on edge. She has trouble enough with daughter Rosa Maria, who has left her husband, but now son Costantino has abandoned the priesthood. To avoid becoming the scandalous talk of the village, Stella packs her defrocked son off to a distant lighthouse owned by the family. But instead of isolating him, the lighthouse only serves as a beacon calling other misfits to gather with Constantino. Before long, all the local outcasts come together there: a vivacious retired prostitute, a pretty lesbian, Rosa Maria’s estranged husband, and even Rosa Maria herself. The group grows still larger when two eccentric construction workers, accompanied by a little girl, take up residence. Chaos initially swirls in this low-key comedy about acceptance, but the film’s unlikely band of outsiders gradually discover that unity makes strength.

 

 

When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra & the Theremin

Robert Nazar Arjoyan, U.S., 2013, 86 min. (Armenian & English)

Sunday, Nov. 23, 1 p.m.

KDHX

 

Considered one of the world’s pre-eminent thereminists, Armen Ra debuted with Antony and the Johnsons in 2001 and has since collaborated with Marc Almond, opened for Nick Cave, and performed worldwide. “When My Sorrow Died” relates the moving story of the musician’s extraordinary origins. Armen tells his life story — whose unlikely particulars are painfully true — with a sharp wit and a deep sincerity. After surviving exile from Iran and systematic bullying in his youth, Armen first captures the attention the 1980s New York underground with his stunning drag performances. But the scene also proves dangerous, and Armen’s life is threatened by drug addiction and alcoholism until the theremin eventually rescues him. The first electronic instrument ever invented, the theremin is operated without touch, and Armen manages to pull himself from a fatal downward spiral by magically coaxing ethereal music out of thin air. A mix of rare concert performances, candid interviews, and archival material, “When My Sorrow Died” celebrates Armen and his music, which alchemizes ancient sorrow into timeless beauty. With a live theremin performance.

 

Ticket Prices:

 

– Individual tickets are $12 each or $10 for Cinema St. Louis members and students with current and valid ID.

– Advance tickets for programs at the Tivoli and Plaza Frontenac are available at those box offices. Box-office hours are 5-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 2-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. No phone sales. For online ticket sales, visit tickets.landmarktheatres.com.

– Advance tickets for KDHX and Webster University are available through Brown Paper Tickets. Search by film title or SLIFF. No phone or online sales.

– Certain special programs will have a fixed $15 ticket price including Opening Night.

– For more information and a full list of all the films at the the festival this year, visit the official SLIFF website: http://cinemastlouis.org/about-festival.

 

VIA PRESS RELEASE

 

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