Cinema St. Louis Announces Lineup for 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, Held Virtually Nov. 5-22, 2020

The 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF), an annual presentation of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis (CSL), continues to provide the opportunity for St. Louis filmgoers to view the finest in world cinema — international films, documentaries, American indies, and shorts that can only be seen at the festival.

Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, SLIFF will be presented virtually in 2020. To provide maximum access, the fest is extending its run by a week to 18 days: Nov. 5-22. CSL is partnering with Eventive, which also handles our ticketing, to present the virtual festival.

This year’s festival kicks off with a free opening-night special event featuring the documentary short “8:46” — which records a powerful performance by comedian Dave Chappelle in response to the killing of George Floyd — and a livestreamed conversation with Dave Chappelle and the film’s Oscar-winning directors, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.

Although many elements of this year’s SLIFF will remain familiar to audience members, the fest is obviously not unspooling in its usual fashion. Here are the key elements of the virtual festival:

  • Program Availability: The majority of SLIFF’s lineup of features and shorts programs will be available to view on demand anytime from Nov. 5-22. Eighteen films will have a more limited window of availability (e.g., 24 hours, 48 hour, 7 days) and have a defined date range for access.
  • Watch Window: Once a ticket-holder begins watching a program, access to it remains available for 48 hours. (The one exception is the film “The Dark Divide,” which has a watch window of 8 hours.)
  • Livestreams: Special Events (opening-night event, closing-night awards presentation, New Filmmakers Forum roundtable, and master classes) will be offered as livestreams at specific times/dates.
  • Q&As: Although no guests can attend the festival, recorded Q&As with filmmakers and/or documentary subjects will accompany many of the programs.

The fest schedule, ticket and pass information, and a complete list of films (with descriptions) are available at the Cinema St. Louis website:

For more information, the public should visit or call 314-289-4150.

Program Overview

SLIFF’s stellar lineup features a constellation of cinema’s brightest lights:

  • The Divided City: SLIFF’s The Divided City program focuses on the racial divide in St. Louis and other U.S. cities. The program also offers an international perspective with “Lost Lives” and “Mayor.” The program is supported by The Divided City: An Urban Humanities Initiative, an initiative of Washington U.’s Center for the Humanities that addresses one of the most persistent and vexing issues in urban studies: segregation.
  • Free Programs: SLIFF continues its tradition of offering a large selection of free events to maximize its outreach into the community and to make the festival affordable to all. In addition, for the 17th year, we present the Georgia Frontiere Cinema for Students Program, which provides free screenings to St. Louis-area schools. Among this year’s 57 free programs are the following: all programs in The Divided City, Environmental Focus, and Human Rights Spotlight; 17 of the 21 programs in Race in America: The Black Experience; three special-event livestreams; six master classes (and four film supplements to those classes); 12 documentary-shorts programs; and two family-film shorts programs.
  • Georgia Frontiere Cinema for Students Program: SLIFF offers free screenings for children and teens from participating St. Louis-area schools. This year’s selections include shorts, documentary features, narrative features, and shorts programs.
  • Human Rights Spotlight: This selection of documentaries focuses on human-rights issues in the U.S. and the world.
  • Master Classes: SLIFF provides six free master classes, including screenwriting with Oscar and Emmy nominee Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March,” “House of Cards”) and directing with Emmy winner Ken Kwapis (“The Office,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”).

Master Class Directing with Ken Kwapis Nov 14 at 1:00pm

Ken Kwapis, who grew up in Belleville, Ill., and attended Saint Louis University High, is a former Cinema St. Louis Award winner. This master class on directing will draw on material from his terrific new book, “But What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: Lessons from a Life Behind the Camera.”

  • New Filmmakers Forum: The New Filmmakers Forum (NFF), a juried competition of works by first-time feature filmmakers, is an annual highlight of SLIFF.  The films’ Q&As and an NFF roundtable are moderated by the Missouri Film Office’s Andrea Sporcic Klund. The NFF Emerging Filmmaker Award — nicknamed the Bobbie in honor of the late Bobbie Lautenschlager, NFF’s longtime curator — is presented at SLIFF’s Closing-Night Awards Presentation.
  • Race in America: The Black Experience: Because the events in Ferguson continue to resonate in St. Louis and the country, SLIFF again offers a large number of programs organized under the title Race in America: The Black Experience.  To maximize accessibility and promote dialogue, 17 of the 21 programs in Race in America are offered for free, including the opening-night special event featuring the short “8:46” and a livestreamed conversation with comedian Dave Chappelle and directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.
  • Show-Me Cinema: Films made in St. Louis and Missouri or by current and former St. Louisans and Missourians are an annual focus of SLIFF. This year’s lineup of Show-Me Cinema is especially strong, featuring 19 films and seven shorts programs.
  • SLIFF/Kids Family Films: Cinema St. Louis presents a selection of five family programs, including two free collections of shorts.

Ticket & Pass Info

Ticket Prices

Individual tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for Cinema St. Louis members and students with valid and current photo IDs. (There will be a credit-card/handling fee of $1.50 for all tickets.) To obtain a student discount code, contact Brian Spath ( and provide an image of a currently valid student ID.

In addition to paid shows, SLIFF offers 57 free programs.

Pass Prices

Three forms of passes are available:

  • 5-Film Passes are $45, $35 for CSL members. (There will be a credit-card/handling fee of $3.34 for the $45 pass and $2.83 for the $35 member pass.)
  • 10-Film Passes are $85, $75 for CSL members. (There will be a credit-card/handling fee of $5.40 for the $85 pass and $4.89 for the $75 member pass.)
  • All-Access Passes are $150, $125 for CSL members. (There will be a credit-card/handling fee of $8.74 for the $150 pass and $7.46 for the $125 member pass.)


Title Sponsor: Whitaker Foundation

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

Presenting Partners: Center for the Humanities at Washington University, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, The Divided City, Eventive, Film & Media Archive at Washington University Libraries,  Society for Scientific Study of Sexuality, St. Louis Public Radio, TV5Monde, Webster University Film Series

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