The 18th annual St. Louis International Film Festival, which begins Thursday, November 12 and continues through Sunday, November 22, once again will feature the St. Louis premieres of several recent music-related movies, including two that should be of particular interest to jazz fans.
The first of those two films is Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, which is based on the Documentary Channel's four-part series of the same name and will be shown at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, November 17 at the Tivoli Theatre. The film examines the contemporary jazz scene through interviews with 75 artists and live recordings culled from 25 hours of concerts, spotlighting musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Bill Frisell, Ravi Coltrane, Medeski Martin & Wood, The Bad Plus and East St. Louis native Russell Gunn.
Then on Sunday, November 21, Jazz St. Louis and SLIFF will co-sponsor a free screening of Chops starting at 6:00 p.m. at Winifred Moore Auditorium, 470 E. Lockwood Ave. on the campus of Webster University. The film tells the story of kids in an acclaimed public-school jazz program in Jacksonville, Florida, and will be followed by a discussion led by pianist Reggie Thomas, who teaches music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and serves as a judge for the Essentially Ellington festival, which is depicted in the film.
Other music-related movies in the 2009 St. Louis International Film Festival, listed here in order of their screening dates, will include:
1:00 p.m., Saturday, November 14 at the Tivoli
Branson focuses on three entertainers in "the Vegas of outstate Missouri," including Jackson Cash, "an astonishingly good Man in Black impersonator whose own troubles with addiction parallel those of his idol."
3:30 p.m., Saturday, November 14 at the Tivoli
Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie tells the "outlandish but true" story of countercultural phenomenon Wavy Gravy (a.k.a Hugh Romney), a poet and proto-performance artist who roomed with Dylan and opened Greenwich Village’s coffeehouses to folk singers; boarded the Magic Bus with Ken Kesey; founded the Hog Farm commune; and emceed Woodstock; and now works to restore the eyesight of impoverished people worldwide through the Seva Foundation.
9:15 p.m., Sunday, November 15 at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
4:30 p.m., Monday, November 16 at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
The Drummer (Zhan gu) is a Chinese drama about the son of a Hong Kong gang boss forced to flee to Taiwan, where he meets a group of Zen drummers. He joins the group and remakes his life, until twist of fate forces him to choose between loyalty to his family and his newfound faith in himself.
9:00 p.m. Thursday, November 19 at the Tivoli
Say My Name is a documentary from the Netherlands about female hip-hop performers. The film features interviews and musical performances from Remy Ma, Rah Digga, Jean Grae, Erykah Badu and Estelle, as well as pioneers MC Lyte, Roxxanne Shante and Monie Love and newcomers Chocolate Thai, Invincible and Miz Korona.
7:00 p.m. Friday, November 20 at the Tivoli
Old Dog, New Trick and The Pride of St. Louis are rock documentaries featuring St. Louis musicians who gained fame during the 1970s. Old Dog, New Trick follows Steve Scorfina, formerly of Pavlov’s Dog and REO Speedwagon, as he balances a life in antiques-dealing with a re-launched career as a blues-rock bandleader, guitarist and vocalist, while The Pride of St. Louis recycles the name of the filmed biography of Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean to tell the history of blues/rock band Mama’s Pride and its key members, singer/guitarists and brothers Pat and Danny Liston.
7:00 p.m., Friday, November 20 at Winifred Moore Auditorium
Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love features concert and behind-the-scenes footage of the African music star as he travels the world with his elaborate “Egypt” concert tour.
9:00 p.m. Friday, November 20 at Winifred Moore Auditorium
Rise Up features up and coming reggae performers Turbulence, Ice and Kemoy plus established stars Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, shot on location in the streets, back alleys and crowded dancehalls of Kingston and the countryside.
2:00 p.m. Saturday, November 21 at the Tivoli
See What I’m Saying is a documentary that follows four deaf entertainers - an actor, a comic, a rock drummer and a singer - over the course of a single year.
1:00 p.m., Sunday, November 22 at the Tivoli
The Choir was shot over four years in Leeuwkop, South Africa’s largest prison, and records "the inspiring efforts of a bank robber to transform his life – and those of his fellow inmates – through song." The documentary focuses on a 19-year-old newcomer, Jabulani, who initially resists the choirmaster’s guidance but eventually becomes a key member of the group as they compete for a victory at the National Prison Choir Competition.
For a complete festival schedule, plus ticket and venue information, visit the SLIFF Web site.
(Edited 11/3/04 to reflect the fact that Reggie Thomas, not Phil Dunlap, now will be leading the discussion after the screening of Chops.)