SLIFF 2010 Preview | Justin Tucker

One of the main events at this year’s festival will be when Stacy Keach will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

My birthday falls in late October, which always serves as a reminder that the St. Louis International Film Festival is just around the corner. Since I am too old for parties, presents and the like, I instead treat myself by taking in a few films that the festival has to offer.
This year’s festival has a little something for everyone. If you are in the mood for a good laugh, be sure to catch The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek (11/13 Tivoli 2 p.m.). This mock documentary directed by Grace A. Burns (really directed by Wendy Jo Cohen) tells the story of the cursed 13th Rhode Island regiment, led by the gay opium-smoking Col. Jonathan Franklin Hale, whose efforts to save the Union have been erased from history. With the help of a Chinese launderer, a nerdy escaped slave with a knack for inventions, and a one-armed prostitute seeking revenge on her pimp who is fighting for the South, the outnumbered 13th Rhode Island defeated the Confederacy at Pussy Willow Creek, forever preserving the Union and the extending freedom for all. A send up of The Civil War and other films by Ken Burns, Pussy Willow Creek makes funny use of photographs, letters, songs and talking heads to help narrate one of the most cleverly constructed mock docs in some time. The film is in competition for the festival’s New Filmmakers Forum and director Cohen will be in attendance at the screening.
For the inner outcast in all of us, there is Herpes Boy (11/19 Hi-Pointe 9:30 p.m.), a comedy based on the web series of the same name. It focuses on Rudolph (Byron Lane, who also wrote the script), who has grown a deep distaste for people after a lifetime of being teased for his birthmark on his upper lip. Coming from a highly dysfunctional family doesn’t help him, either. He finds solace in making vlogs on the internet, where he has a small but dedicated following of fans. His aspiring actress cousin tries to steal the show from Rudolph by appearing in his vlogs and starts calling him Herpes Boy; the two inadvertently become internet celebrities, further embarrassing Rudolph. Though there are some derivative elements, there is enough wackiness and laughter to go around. Beth Grant (Donnie Darko, No Country for Old Men) is especially hilarious as Rudolph’s zany mother. Herpes Boy won the Comedy Vanguard Award at the Austin Film Festival as well as Best Humor Film at Comic Con 2010. Director Nathaniel Atcheson will be in attendance.
If you’re in the mood for a more dramatic flair, you can find it with The Harimaya Bridge (11/20 Frontenac 1 p.m.; 11/21 Frontenac 1 p.m.). Following the death of his estranged son who emigrated to Japan, Daniel (Ben Guillory) decides to go there to take back some of his son’s artwork. Daniel has little regard for the Japanese, feeling they were responsible for taking his father’s life during World War II, and felt betrayed when his son moved to Japan. Once in Japan, he discovers his son was a very talented person who touched the lives of many people. This engrossing film, though at times overly hammy, explores the effects of racism and makes a plea for cultural understanding. The film features Peter Coyote and Danny Glover, who also produced the movie, in small roles. Director Aaron Woolfolk won the Best First Time Narrative Feature Award for Directing at the 2010 Los Angeles Pan African Film and Arts Festival.
One of the main events at this year’s festival will be when Stacy Keach will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. As a compliment, the festival will screen Walter Hill’s 1980 classic The Long Riders (11/14 Winifred Moore 8 p.m.). Keach stars as outlaw Frank James in one of the most entertaining and enduring westerns of the revisionist era. Along with his brother James, who stars as Jesse James, the film follows the mythical exploits of the James-Younger Gang, including the ill-fated robbery attempt at the First National Bank of Northfield up to the betrayal of Jesse at the hands of his fellow gang members. The film is most notable for featuring real-life siblings in its cast. David, Keith and Robert Carradine star as the Youngers; Dennis and Randy Quaid as the Millers; and Christopher and Nicholas Guest as the Fords. Both Keach brothers, who co-wrote and co-produced the film, will be in attendance.
This year’s lineup of films, events and people will ensure this will be one of the best film festivals this town has seen yet. St. Louis is very lucky to have such a wonderful group of volunteers and sponsors to put on one the area’s elite events. | Justin Tucker

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