The mission of Cinema St. Louis is to promote the art of cinema and to expand the variety and availability of cinema experiences by presenting the St. Louis International Film Festival, screenings, programs, and educational opportunities.
The St. Louis International Film Festival Inc. was established in 1992 for the purpose of producing, promoting, and presenting annual film events to advance film as an art form in St. Louis. In the first year of the Festival, 25 films were shown during the last week of April. Under the direction of Festival co-founder Barbara S. Jones, the tradition of a daring and eclectic array of American and foreign films began. First-year attendance was estimated at 4,500, and critics were surprised and impressed at the level of sophistication achieved during the first year of the event.
The second year, the Festival incorporated as a Missouri not-for-profit organization. The number of films grew to 33, and attendance grew by 20 percent. By the third year, the Festival had expanded into a 10-day event at three theaters, and 11 film directors attended their St. Louis premieres, greeting festival-goers and fielding questions from the audience abouttheir art. Filmmaker attendance has been an important aspect of the St. Louis International Film Festival since its inception, furthering part of the Festival’s mission as a forum for young filmmakers to show and discuss their films. The third year also saw the founding of Cinema/St. Louis, now known as Friends of the St. Louis International Film Festival , the membership society of the Festival, which contributes financially and provides critical volunteer support. By its fourth year, the Festival had become a St. Louis tradition eagerly anticipated by film audiences. The Festival moved from April to November and grew to include the St. Louis premieres of more than 50 films. Two annual awards were initiated: the juried Fox Theatre First Feature Award and the Audience Choice Award. The fourth year also saw the debut of the Spring Sampler, an April event that included 10 screenings and several visiting filmmakers.
Growth of the Festival has continued to be tremendous in recent years. The St. Louis International Film Festival has ambitiously challenged itself to grow with special-interest sidebars, including the popular New Filmmakers Forum, introduced in 1996. By 1997, attendance at the Festival had topped more than 10,000. Twenty-eight guest filmmakers attended, and a special feature included an opening weekend Star Tribute to screen legend Tony Curtis at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, where the Distinguished Hollywood Film Artist Award was presented. In 1998, Delcia Corlew was named the Festival’s managing director, and the offices moved to its current headquarters in St. Louis’ Central West End. The Seventh Annual Festival in 1998 included a very special sidebar titled “A Separate Cinema,” which featured films dating from 1915-1965 featuring all-black casts for African-American audiences. A poster exhibition and seminars accompanied the sidebar screenings. Films by and about African-Americans remain an important component of the Festival, which strives for inclusiveness by featuring films that address issues of race, age, ethnicity and sexual identity.
In 1999 and 2000, the Festival continued to expand the range of its offerings, especially in the areas of documentary and short films. The number of awards the Festival presents has also grown; in 2000, they included the Emerson Electric Audience Choice Award, the Leon Award for Best Documentary, the Interfaith Award, the Fox Theatre Emerging Filmmaker Award, the Best of Fest Short Film Award, and the Emerging Actor Award. Cliff Froehlich was named Executive Director in 2001 and remained in that position until his departure in April of 2003. Under Cliff’s leadership, the festival enjoyed continued success and several consecutive years of shattered box office records. His greatest legacies will be our greatly expanded community education outreach programming and instituting a name change for the organization.
In 2003 the organization officially changed its name to Cinema St. Louis in order to more fully reflect the wide range of programming we do throughout the year. Cliff returned to Cinema St. Louis in early 2006 and became the organization’s Executive Director once again. The Festival staff now consists of Executive Director Cliff Froehlich, Artistic Director Chris Clark and Operations Supervisor Brian Spath. Under their leadership, the Festival will continue to increase its year-round presence with screenings, special events, and educational outreach.
Cinema St. Louis is a not-for-profit organization that emphasizes film as an art form. Its mission is to enhance cultural diversity by bringing American independent productions, horizon-expanding international films and high-quality studio films to audiences before their commercial release. The Festival is especially concerned with providing filmgoers the opportunity to see works that would otherwise never screen in St. Louis. The St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) is one of the largest and highest-profile international film festivals in the Midwest.
Now in its 17th year, SLIFF is presented by the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis, which also annually produces the locally focused St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase and the CinemaSpoke screenwriting competition. This year's event will be held Nov. 13-23 at the Tivoli Theatre, Plaza Frontenac Cinemas and Webster University. SLIFF showcases the best in cutting-edge features and shorts from around the globe. The majority of the films screened - many of them critically lauded award-winners - will receive their only St. Louis exposure at the festival. The 2007 fest featured more than 260 films in 112 programs: 66 features (including more than 43 international films), 24 documentary programs, and 171 shorts.
SLIFF spotlights the finest filmmakers in the world, whether fresh talent, emerging artists largely unknown outside their native countries, or directors of long-established reputation. SLIFF prides itself on identifying up-and-coming filmmakers, but the fest also offers high-profile films that garner Oscar nominations. Programming is organized into thematic sidebars. Sidebars in 2007 included the Leon and Mary Strauss Documentary Sidebar; International Film Sidebar (with special focuses on Croatia, France, and China); Family Film Sidebar; Cinema for Students, presented by the St. Louis Rams; Anheuser-Busch African/African-American Sidebar; American Independent Sidebar; Hollywood Spotlight; Whitaker Foundation Cinema St. Louis Sidebar; Women in Film Sidebar; Vital Voice Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Sidebar presented by Here! Films; AtomFilms Short Subject Sidebar; Animation Sidebar; Midwest Music Silent Film Sidebar; Art and Music Sidebar; Asian Sidebar; Eastern European Sidebar; Interfaith Sidebar; True/False Sidebar; Global Lens; and AFI Project: 20/20. The juried InBaseline New Filmmakers Forum (NFF) annually features five movies by promising first-time directors, who accompany their work. Craig Brewer is NFF's most notable alum. His "The Poor & the Hungry" appeared at the 2002 SLIFF, and in 2005, Brewer's "Hustle & Flow" debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving adulatory notices. In 2007, the NFF jury was headed by Scott Foundas, film editor for the LA Weekly and film critic for Variety. Previous NFF jury heads include Salon's Stephanie Zacharek and Charles Taylor, and New York Magazine's David Edelstein. Prominent filmmakers add glamour and star power to SLIFF.
Past honorees and guests include Oscar-winning actor Kevin Kline; four-time Oscar nominee Marsha Mason, legendary documentarians Ken Burns ("The Civil War," "Baseball," "Jazz"), Albert Maysles ("Gimme Shelter," "Grey Gardens"), and two-time Oscar nominee Alex Gibney ("Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room," "Taxi to the Dark Side"); the family of 12-time Oscar-nominated documentarian Charles Guggenheim; actor-comedian Cedric the Entertainer; Oscar-winning writer-director Bill Condon ("Chicago," "Kinsey"); actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis; director Terry Zwigoff ("Crumb," "Ghost World," "Bad Santa"); actor Tony Curtis; former Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti; and writer-directors Bob Gale ("Back to the Future"), George Hickenlooper ("Factory Girl"), Ken Kwapis ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants"), and James Gunn ("Slither"), all native St. Louisans.