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The Monthly Column on Film and Media Arts
for the
New England Entertainment Digest

By George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive Director/CEO


(July 2006) Most people have no idea how long it takes to plan and run an artistic event; whether it’s a concert, stage play or even a film festival. It’s not a cakewalk.

Filmmakers can definitely appreciate the work it takes as running a film festival actually is a year round proposition. The Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), for which I play a bit of a role in developing, began receiving entries within the first month after the 2005 festival ended. As of this writing, the entries total more than 1,800 and are expected to close at or near 1,900.


Entries have come from all over the world: Finland, Iceland, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam, Russia, and even Siberia. This actually translates to 62 countries and 34 states in the continental US. RIIFF is unique among fests in New England in that about 90% of the event is made up from these entries; and not culled from other festivals. The balance of the festival comes from either films that are curated, or from industry professionals who contact our offices.

I like to say it began as a dream: to create in Rhode Island an event that for the first time underscored film as an art form. The first discussions began in 1994 and took place all over the state with arts and business leaders to make this dream a reality. By 1996, the first prototype was ready to launch - a series of films from the archives of the Quebec Consulate General-Boston and the former Union Saint Jean Baptiste. The location was humble: the Woonsocket Library and two senior hi-rises. It proved an exceptional test run and laid the foundation for what was to come. In 1997, the Stadium Theatre Foundation secured rights to acquire Woonsocket’s faded and long-closed movie palace. After being approached by former Mayor Francis Lanctot, the decision was made to officially launch the Rhode Island International Film Festival at the Stadium. The Festival was tied to the Jubilé Franco Américain, an award-winning cultural event that showcased the best of Franco-American culture. The first Rhode Island International Film Festival was born.

It is now ten years later and RIIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States. It is also widely recognized as New England’s largest annual film event. Out of over 2,500 film festivals worldwide, RIIFF is one of only 47 that has an award affiliation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars). In nine years, 11 films that had their premiere at the festival have been nominated for Academy Awards and four have won. RIIFF is also the only film festival in the United States that nominates music score and composers for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (aka - the Grammys). It has been listed as one of the “Top 12 Film Festivals” in the US by Travel Smart; cited as one of the “Best Short and International Film Festivals,” by film guru, Chris Gore; and called one of the “Top 20 Film Festivals Worth the Submission,” by Moviemaker magazine - RIIFF has a solid international reputation which could explain the record number of submissions. In short, the Rhode Island International Film Festival has become a world-class event.

This year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival™, (RIIFF) will take place August 8-13, 2006. It features screenings, filmmaking workshops, meet-and-greet industry events and seminars.

Aiming to promote Rhode Island as a filmmaking location and to celebrate the independent filmmaking spirit, RIIFF also hosts a number of high-profile premières and provides a showcase for international features, documentaries, and shorts. It accepts films of any type, in any genres.


Rhode Island native Bobby Farrelly was so impressed with the festival's debut that he held the world premiere of his next film - There's Something About Mary - at the 1998 event.

But that’s another story for another article.

The festival is dedicated to the creation of opportunities for "artistic interaction and exchange among independent filmmakers, directors, producers, distributors, backers and the film-going community". It is a safe haven for all independent filmmakers - a place where they can hide from all the MI3’s, overblown CGI effects and high concept reinterpretations of classic films.

In 2005, RIIFF screened over 272 titles in six days to appreciative crowds of over 21,000 people; rather impressive numbers for any event; and there were eight sell-outs. RIIFF showcased 45 World Premieres and 38 United States Premieres.

Plans for the Festival constantly evolve throughout the year; then get locked in place by late June. This allows for a bit more than a month to market the event and additionally filmmakers have enough time to plan their schedules to attend. Given past records, this normally translates to over 200 filmmakers attending, along with cast and crew.

For its Tenth Anniversary, the staff and Board of the Festival wanted to do something special. This included the introduction of new programming to build anticipation for the main event in August. The “Roving Eye Documentary Film Festival” was launched in April, screening 25 films. These screenings were presented across Rhode Island and were free to the general public. What they illustrated was a clear demand and appreciative audience for the films. Year-round screenings are now being planned based on the success of the event. RIIFF also created the “Vortex Sci-Fi & Fantasy Film Festival” with plans for a launch in early fall.

And there is more. Much more.


• “Stars Under the Stars,” outdoor screenings in downtown Providence at the Bank of America Skating Rink; running July through August and presented in collaboration with Providence’s acclaimed “Waterfire.”

• RIIFF will once again be honoring outstanding filmmaking artists. Awards to be given at this year's festival include: RIIFF HUMANITARIAN, CREATIVE VISION, CRYSTAL IMAGE, LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT. Past recipients include Kim Chan, Seymour Cassell, Blake Edwards, Patricia Neal, Rosa von Praunheim, Elaine Lorillard, Michael Showalter, Zach Braff, and Danny Trejo. (This year, RIIFF will be giving two Lifetime Achievement Awards to well-known industry legends.) Past attendees of the festival include: Stephen Collins, Julie Andrews, Andrew McCarthy, Billy Gilman, Steve Buscemi and the above mentioned artists.

• 10th anniversary retrospectives featuring works by Stu Pollard, Richard Schenkman, Eva Saks, Bo Mehrad and Q. Allan Brocka; long-term RIIFF participants.

• Festival Partnership Screenings that showcase films from New Zealand with DocNZ International and the Pan-American Film Festival from Canada.

• Expansion of statewide screening locations: Westerly (Westerly Public Library, Revival House Cinema), Kingston (Courthouse Center for the Arts), Jamestown, Newport (Jane Pickens Theater, Redwood Library), Bristol, Barrington, (Barrington Public Library), Cranston (Black Box Theater) & Pawtucket.

• Expanded Providence screening locations: Columbus Theatre Arts Center, Cable Car Cinema, URI Feinstein Campus Theatre, Providence Chamber of Commerce Theatre, Feinstein IMAX, and the Bank of America Skating Rink.

• “DOUBLEFEATURE” a unique program that combines live music with visual montages from classic films. Local performers include Nancy Nicholson, piano and Kara Lund, soprano.

• “Breakfast with the Stars;” a unique power breakfast with visiting filmmakers and their cast members providing audience members an up-close and personal experience. This special program offers intimate gatherings with industry professionals as they discuss behind-the-scenes aspects of filmmaking. It all begins on Wednesday August 9th and runs consecutive mornings (starting daily at 9:30 am) through Saturday, August 11th. The price of admission includes a continental or hot breakfast. Series passes available.

• The Opening Night Screening will be a collection of short films representing different genres as a salute to RIIFF’s affiliation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

• Salute to Rhode Island filmmaker, Michael Corrente (Federal Hill, Outside Providence, American Buffalo) with a retrospective of his work.

• Number of films to be screened: approximately 225 individual titles over six days.

• The 10th Anniversary Producers Awards to take place July 20th saluting individuals and sponsors who supported RIIFF over its first 10 years and made a difference in its growth and evolution. They include: Hon. Lincoln Almond, Former Governor, State of Rhode Island; Jon & Betty Jane Berberian, Columbus Theatre Arts Center; Bob Billington, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council; Eric Bilodeau, Cable Car Cinema; Winifred Brownell, Dean of Arts & Sciences, University of Rhode Island; Louise Champigny, USJB/Catholic Family Life; Lisa Churchville, CEO/President, NBC10; Hon. David Cicilline, Mayor of Providence; Michel Coutu, President/CEO, Brooks Pharmacy; Mark & Lynnette Daponte, Mirage Design; Michael F. Drywa, Jr., Esq., Legal Counsel; Dr. and Mrs. Gerald Lamoureux, Jubilé Franco-Américain; Hon. Francis Lanctor, Former Mayor, City of Woonsocket; Michele Palmieri Maker & Tim Gaulin, Clear Channel Communications; Don Manley, Wiggleroom Design; John Palumbo, RI Monthly; John Rule, Rule Broadcasting; Jim Vickers, Motif Magazine; Cliff Wood & Lynne McCormack, Providence Department of Arts, Culture & Tourism.

• A live performance by the Alloy Orchestra accompanying the newly restored print of the 1926 swashbuckler, "The Eagle" featuring Rudolph Valentino; to be presented by the City of Providence and NBC 10.

• ScriptBiz™ Scriptwriting & Pitch Seminar, an annual RIIFF event, 8/7

• Three “Between Takes Afternoon Industry Forums”, 8/9-8/11

• The Festival runs a number of sidebars, these include the KidsEye™ International Film Festival, expanded to four morning screenings; the New England Student Film Festival; the Providence Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Providence Film Festival, providing a focus on local & regional filmmakers; The World Panorama Festival of International Films; the Providence Jewish Film Festival; and The Jubilé Franco-Americain, focusing on films from Canada and France
RIIFF continues its efforts to make local audiences aware of all the positive changes that have taken place at the Columbus Theatre over the past several years. RIIFF created the “Friends of the Columbus Theatre Arts Center,” (this functions through the non-profit arm of the Flickers Arts Collaborative, which produces RIIFF), and is designed to raise needed grant funding and contributions.

Since RIIFF has been at the Columbus, the theater has blossomed into a neighborhood arts center. RIIFF has played an important role in its transformation and will continue to support the renovation of this beautiful and unique cultural jewel. Please note that to date RIIFF and its “Friends of the Columbus Theatre Arts Center” have donated approximately $50,000 for improvements at the theater: from upgrading the sound, projection and lighting systems, providing and installing seating in the balcony, installing 35mm equipment in the second floor Cinemathéque; restoring the appearance of the second floor dance studio, to putting rugs down in the upstairs lobby and even light bulbs on the marquee.


So what will be playing at the Festival? Here’s a sampling; but it’s only a snapshot of all the films that will be shown. Read on:

Director Roger Allers, Walt Disney Animation
Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale about a poor young girl whose burning desire to find comfort and happiness comes to life through the magic of rich hand-drawn Disney animation in this powerful and inventive short film directed by Roger Allers (“The Lion King”). Desperate to keep warm, the girl lights the matches she sells, and envisions a very different life for herself in the fiery flames filled with images of loving relatives, bountiful food, and a place to call home. Set to the music of composer Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 in D Major (Third Movement: Noturno (Andante), in an exciting new recording by the six-time Grammy Award-winning Emerson String Quartet, the film tells a captivating and emotional tale.

Director Jay Craven
"Disappearances" is a Prohibition-era whiskey-running adventure, comedy and drama, based on the award-winning novel by Howard Frank Mosher. It tells the story of Quebec Bill Bonhomme, a hardy schemer and dreamer, who, desperate to raise money to preserve his endangered herd through an unusually long winter, resorts to whiskey-smuggling, a traditional family occupation. Quebec Bill takes his son, Wild Bill, on the journey. Also, Henry Coville, an inscrutable whiskey smuggler and Rat Kinneson, Quebec Bill's perpetually disconsolate hired man. Together, they cross the border into vast reaches of Canadian wilderness for an unforgettable four days 'full of terror, full of wonder.'

BOY CULTURE, (Feature)
Director Q. Allan Brocka
X marks the spot where body, mind and heart meet in Boy Culture, Q. Allan Brocka's bold, sexy and intelligent follow-up to “Eating Out” (an audience favorite at the RIIFF 2004 Festival).
A tale of lust and liberation among Seattle's young and hip queer set, the film focuses on a trio of sexy roommates headed by X (Derek Magyar), a high-end escort who keeps his client list trimmed to a manageable 12 well-off gentlemen. He is a 'hooker with morals' who has never had a sexual relationship without being financially compensated for it.

Based on Matthew Rettenmund's critically acclaimed novel of the same title, “Boy Culture” is a bold step forward for Brocka (who is also a RIIFF Board member!) and a refreshingly honest and insightful examination of the process of breaking down the walls we build around us so we can take the leap of faith that love demands.

TEMPESTA (Feature)
Director Tim Disney, United Kingdom
( North American Premiere)
Featuring Paul Guilfoyle (LA Confidential, Crime Scene Investigation), Rutger Hauer (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Blade Runner), Malcolm McDowell (Hidalgo, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead)
American art appraiser, Patrick Donovan, is sent to Venice to authenticate three classical paintings belonging to the famous Galleria dell’Accademia. Arriving during heavy rains, he finds the Galleria besieged by floods and closed to the public. With the floodwaters rapidly rising, he examines two Bellinis and confirms that they are indeed authentic but before he can get to Giorgione’s The Tempest it is stolen. Police and media interest is high and Donovan unwittingly finds himself at the center of the investigation.

What follows is a highly stylized and complex web of mystery, intrigue and betrayal which unfolds against the ghostly backdrop of the Venetian waterways. Donovan determines to uncover the truth behind the disappearing painting but soon finds himself at the mercy of a corrupt art collector, a petty thief and, ultimately, a deadly seductress.

Director W.C. Rogers, USA
Bode Miller is among the world's fastest skiers and is arguably the very best American to hit the slopes and a challenge to the great legends of the sport. His style is wild and untamed, as was his childhood on a 450-acre homestead near Fanconia, New Hampshire. This film chronicles Miller's meteoric rise in the realm of the Alpine ski race – a path beset with major injuries and alternative training methods – en route to the top of World Championship and Olympic competition.

Director Bill Haney, U S A, Netherlands
Weaving together natural history and biography, 'A Life Among Whales' is a fascinating exploration into the life and work of whale biologist and activist Roger Payne. Payne’s controversial discovery in the early 1970s that whales sing “songs” helped ignite the modern day environmental movement. His pioneering spirit has consistently advanced the boundaries of science and activism over the last four decades.

With beautiful and haunting images, 'A Life Among Whales' follows one scientist’s dedication to saving the whales and forces us to question our stewardship of the Earth and our co-existence with some of its most intriguing creatures.

Director Steve Palackdharry, Germany, France, U S A
JOURNEY TO JUSTICE tells the story of Howard Triest, a German Jew who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 when he was 16 years old, returned as an American soldier and then served as an interpreter during the Nuremberg Trial. He came face-to-face with imprisoned Nazi leaders who were co-responsible for the death of six million Jews, including Howard’s parents at Auschwitz. At Nuremberg, Howard felt transformed, from victim to victor, and was able to reclaim parts of his German identity. The documentary also tells the story of how Margot, Howard's younger sister, was rescued from a detention camp in southern France just before her parents' deportation. Margot then saved ten other children from the Nazis in her subsequent escape to Switzerland.

DUTCH BIRD (Live Action Short)
Director Kirk Weddell, United Kingdom
A touching comedy starring David Kelly (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) about an Irish pigeon racer who gets involved in an international drug trafficking plot. The story with a twist in its tale looks at ethics and the nature of friendship.

THE SHOVEL (Live Action Short)
Director Nick Childs, USA
Featuring David Strathairn and Tim Guinee
When weekender Paul Mullin discovers his neighbor digging a hole in the middle of the night, he writes it off simply as a bizarre encounter... until the neighbor and his cheating wife both disappear. Worried he's stumbled onto more than he bargained for Paul calls on the local sheriff to help unearth the truth. And finds out that, in this small town, some secrets are better left buried.

FOSTER (Live Action Short)
Director Jonathan Newman, United Kingdom
(Official Opening Night & North American Premiere)
The film begins as 7 yr old Zachary walks us through his daily routine. He shows us his room, the foster home, and talks us through, in a very adult way, the ins and outs of being a ‘man’. “Everyman,” he tells us, “must have one nice outfit”.

Simultaneously, a story unravels with an older man, though at this stage we do not know who this man is. His daily routine does, indeed, seem to reflect young Zach’s daily routine. Could this be Zach as an adult? Or is it the man that will become Zach’s foster Dad?

LITTLE VICTIIM (Live Action Short)
Director Dean Ronalds, USA
Featuring Robert Wagner and Lori Singer
When a suave Howard and his dumb founded girlfriend Tracy meets Duane and his mother Irene in a Parking Garage, they have no idea how good the good news is and the dark surprise Duane and Irene brought back with them in the trunk.

Intrigued? Then mark your calendar!

The Rhode Island International Film Festival runs Aug. 8 to 13th; most tickets, other than special events, are $10. The Festival Web site is www.rifilmfest.org and the phone is (401) 861-4445. The Festival is based at the historic Columbus Theatre Arts Center, 270 Broadway, Providence, RI

About the Author:
George T. Marshall is the Producing Director of the Rhode Island-based Flickers Arts Collaborative, the creators of the annual Rhode Island International Film Festival for which he also serves as Executive Director. He teaches film and communications at Rhode Island College and speech communications and documentary film at Roger Williams University. He is a director, writer, producer of commercials and industrials for numerous business clients in the region and will be presenting his current research paper “Teaching and the Blogosphere” at the Annual Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in August. He can be reached at flicksart@aol.com