Film fest features Glenn McCoy, other metro-east connections

Brian Kowalski, right, appears in “Cronies,” which will be shown at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Brian Kowalski, right, appears in “Cronies,” which will be shown at the St. Louis International Film Festival.

Besides Alex Winter’s trio of programs, highlights of this year’s Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival include a presentation by BND cartoonist Glenn McCoy and several locally made films.

From Thursday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 15, the 24th annual SLIFF will screen an unprecedented 447 films — 97 narrative features, 86 documentary features, and 264 shorts. The fest also will feature 67 free programs.

The festival will open on Thursday with Winter’s documentary “Deep Web,” which gives the inside story of one of the most important and riveting digital crime sagas of the century — the arrest of Ross William Ulbricht, creator and operator of online black market Silk Road.

Cartoonist/animator Glenn McCoy, of Swansea, will take the audience behind the scenes of animation in a special program, “One in a Minion.” The provocative newspaper editorial cartoonist, creator of the syndicated daily comic strip “The Duplex” and, with his brother, the one-panel cartoon “The Flying McCoys,” is also a designer, writer and director of animation for several TV and feature studios.

He has worked as a storyboard artist and idea man for Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures’ hugely popular “Despicable Me,” “Despicable Me 2,” and “Minions.”

He has directed “One in a Minion,” a short that will be shown before the animated comedy feature, “The Secret Life of Pets,” to be released July 8, 2016.

In the free program at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at Washington University’s Brown Hall Auditorium, he will present and discuss assorted character designs, concept art and storyboard sequences on which he has worked.

McCoy will also show a sampling of finished movie animation, including a pilot he wrote and directed for Fox television, an excerpt from a pilot he created for Disney TV, a short Flash animation he directed for Illumination, a clip from a TV show he helped develop for Nick at Night, and a few shorts in pitch form.

Among the films with local connections are:

▪  “Cronies,” which stars Belleville native Brian Kowalski, will make its local debut after a successful showing at the Sundance Film Festival and other film fests. Shot in St. Louis, it was produced by Spike Lee and written and directed by Michael J. Larnell.

Cast and crew members will take part in a Q&A session after the free showing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at Washington University’s Brown Hall Auditorium.

Louis (George Sample III) and Jack (Zurich Buckner) were best childhood friends, but their present-day relationship is challenged by Louis’ new friendships and family priorities, which collide with Jack’s loud and aggressive behavior. The growing rift between them becomes unavoidable when Jack unexpectedly meets Louis’ new friend, the white Andrew (Kowalski), and Jack realizes that their plans don’t include him.

Refusing to accept his exclusion, Jack forces himself into Louis and Andrew’s lives for the day, derailing their plans and needling their friendship. Louis’ frustration boils over when Jack tells Andrew a dark secret about their childhood.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “There’s a current of palpable emotion coursing beneath the surface of ‘Cronies,’ a low-budget, black-and-white indie that explores the shifting affinities and alliances among three young men on a lazy summer day in St. Louis.”

▪  “Sleep with Me,” directed by Brian Jun of Alton, was shot in the St. Louis area. The dark suburban drama explores themes of sex, infidelity and black-market drug use in a story about a young couple unsuccessfully striving to start a family. Veteran character actor Raymond J. Barry (“Justified”) plays an overbearing father.

Jun, whose film “Steel City” was selected for Sundance competition, filmed “Joint Body” in Madison and Jersey counties. The film will be shown at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Plaza Frontenac.

▪  “The Champions,” a documentary about animal-welfare advocates, including Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mark Beuhrle, a St. Louis native, and Ledy VanKavage of Collinsville. This film follows up on six pit-bull dogs rescued from an illegal dog-fighting ring.

The film, directed by Darcy Dennett, features an introduction by David Backes, captain of the St. Louis Blues, a co-producer. Admission is free, and the film will be shown at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov 8, at the Tivoli Theatre.

▪  “The Safe Side of the Fence” is a documentary directed by Anthony West regarding Mallinckrodt Chemical Co.’s involvement in uranium production during World War II and 70 years later, the never-ending challenge of nuclear waste in St. Louis. It will be shown for free on at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov 11, at St. Louis University.

▪  “A Spark of Nerve,” a documentary about four trauma patients given hope by Dr. Susan E. Mackinnon, a plastic surgeon at Washington University School of Medicine. Mackinnon’s pioneering work in peripheral-nerve-transfer surgery is restoring movement to limbs that many doctors believed were permanently paralyzed. The film will be shown at 5:05 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, at Tivoli Theatre.

▪  “Four Way Stop” is a St. Louis-shot drama about a 17-year-old inner-city African American who is desperately trying to improve his life, but lacks essential support from his family. Directed by Efi da Silva, the film will be shown on at 9:35 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at the Tivoli Theatre and 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at Webster University’s Moore Auditorium, part of the New Filmmakers Forum.

In a special event, SLIFF will host U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Sunday, Nov. 8, at a free screening of a documentary on his life and career at Washington University’s Brown Hall Auditorium. “Get in the Way: The Journey of John Lewis,” directed by Webster University alumnus Kathleen Dowdey, is the first biographical film about the respected legislator and elder statesman. He continues to practice nonviolence in his unwavering fight for justice.

Lewis was a young student who co-led peaceful protesters seeking voting rights for African Americans in the South in the historic Selma march in 1965, known as Bloody Sunday and a turning point in the civil-rights movement.

Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis. The film will screen again for free at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Missouri History Museum.

Films not marked free will cost $12 admission.

Other prominent films at SLIFF include studio ‘buzz’ movies “The 33,” “Anomalisa,” “Brooklyn,” “Carol,” “I Saw the Light,” “Krisha,” “The Lady in the Van,” “Legend,” “Love the Coopers,” “Remember,” “Son of Saul” and “Youth.”

In Cinema St. Louis’ continuing response to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, SLIFF again will feature a stream of programming entitled “Race in America: The Black Experience.” To maximize outreach, about half of those programs are free.

The fest schedule, ticket and venue information, and a complete list of films, with descriptions, are available at the Cinema St. Louis Web site (www.cinemastlouis.org).

For more information, visit www.cinemastlouis.org or call 314-289-4150.