A look at Jewish, Israeli themes at 2021 St. Louis International Film festival


This year’s films with Jewish or Israeli themes at the St. Louis International Film Festival include (clockwise from top left): “I Am Here,” “Ahed’s Knee,” “We Burn Like This,” and “Neighbours.”

Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

The 30th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival will feature several Israeli and Jewish-interest films, in a mix of in-person and virtual screenings, plus a special event. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to attend and COVID procedures will be in place.  All the in-person screenings and the special event listed below take place at the Tivoli Theater, 6350 Delmar Blvd. in University City.

Special Event

A Tribute to Mary Strauss, with a screening of “Sunset Boulevard”

Mary Strauss

Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. Tivoli Theater, $25

The festival will honor local Jewish philanthropist Mary Strauss, whose many accomplishments include restoring the Fox Theatre and helping found SLIFF, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The award presentation will be followed by a screening of her favorite film, “Sunset Boulevard.”

Narrative films

“Neighbours” (“Nachbarn”)

Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 4 p.m.

Switzerland, narrative, in Kurdish, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles

See review below.

“Ahed’s Knee” (“Ha’berech”)

Friday, Nov. 19, at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 21, at 3:30 p.m.

Israel, narrative, drama, in French, German and Hebrew with English subtitles

In Israeli writer/director Nadav Lapid’s drama, the jury prize winner at Cannes, a film director travels to small desert town in Israel for a showing of one of his films but is taken aback when he is asked to sign a government document restricting what he can say. The young woman asking him to sign is embarrassed by the censorship but insists, which prompts a searing critique, in a scene that can be hard to watch. The Israel-born auteur Lapid has long had a fraught relationship with the country of his birth, but those feelings are expressed more directly here, although softened in the end, in this gripping, thought-provoking drama.

“We Burn Like This”

Virtual Only, Available starting on Nov. 4

USA, narrative, drama, in English

A young woman who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors in Billings, Mont., finds a new understanding of their experience when she encounters hate first-hand.


“I Am Here”

Monday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m.

South Africa, documentary, English, Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles

Holocaust-denier protests in Australia prompts a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor in South Africa to finally tell the amazing story of her survival and what she witnessed first-hand, while expressing both an irrepressible hope and even a compassion for those who deny the past.

“My So-Called Selfish Life”

Virtual Only, Available On Nov. 4

USA, documentary, English

A documentary about women choosing to be childless, from feminist Jewish filmmaker, Therese Shechter, past winner of the Best Film award at the Jewish Women’s Film Festival, NCJW/NY for her documentary “I Was a Teenaged Feminist.”

Short films (All Virtual Only)

All virtual only, available on Nov. 4

Doc Short: This Is Our Youth has one Israeli film – “The Promise”

Narrative Shorts: Animation 1 has two Israeli films – “Black Slide” & “Hypo-gravitation”

Narrative Shorts: Animation 2 has one Israeli film – “Baggage”

Narrative Shorts: Comedy 2 has one Israeli film – “While We Stayed Home”

Narrative Shorts: Experimental has one Israeli film – “In Her Image”

Narrative Shorts: Drama 3 has one U.S. film with Jewish themes – “Yasha’s Tapochki”

St. Louis International Film Festival

WHEN: Nov. 4-21

WHERE: In-person film screenings mainly at the Tivoli Theatre, with a few events at additional locations, as well as virtual screenings

HOW MUCH: Tickets for screenings, in-person or virtual, are $15, $11 for Cinema St. Louis members. Passes are also available. For tickets, passes, program and more information, visit the SLIFF website www.cinemastlouis.org/sliff/festival-home.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS: SLIFF will require masks and proof of vaccination at in-person screenings. No concessions will be available at any of the venues to ensure audience members remain masked throughout films.