Film Folk Recommend

We asked a few big-name film supporters, makers and lovers around the state which films they’d recommend people visiting our fine state watch to learn a little bit about Little Rhody. So if you’re planning to visit for the RI International Film Festival, consider watching these films your homework before you arrive.

Gary Glassman, Executive Producer/Director, Providence Pictures,

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US so this will be a small list of films – from high culture to very low – that will help illuminate the home we affectionately call Rogue Island.

Steven Spielberg, in Amistad, takes 18th century homes on Benefit Street and our State House, add dirt and more manure than usual, and you’ve got the US Capitol Building in Washington DC.

The Farrelly Brothers use Providence as launching pad for their comic masterpiece Something About Mary comic and their dumber Dumb and Dumber.

Providence has a supporting role, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Boston’s Hamlet, in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Thankfully the days of RI mobsters as lethal numbskulls wreaking havoc on the street are over. Most now have jobs with the State.

Finally, you should know that one of the world’s leading documentary television companies has called Rhode Island home for over twenty years. Check out Providence Pictures! And enjoy RIIFF – it’s definitely an example of the best we have to offer the world.

Richard Griffin is the head of Scorpio Film, which boasts 16 films in its canon.

Complex World (1992); Dir: Jim Wolpaw. It was filmed at the original Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel and gives a perfect look at the beautiful freakshow that Providence used to be in the mid to late ’80s, before the city was overrun by money grubbing, soulless yuppies and hipsters who have turned the once-beautiful city into a haven for overpriced toasted cheese sandwiches and ugly condos for the disgustingly rich.

Toni Pennacchia is an avid supporter of film. She’s a DJ, creative director of MergingArts Productions and organizer of film festivals in RI and beyond. 

High Society, back in 1956, was a musical comedy remake of the The Philadelphia Story with Newport as a backdrop that is treated almost as a character. Apparently, the filmmakers took advantage of filming around the Newport Jazz Festival.

One of the main subjects in Murderball, from 2005, is Joe Soares, who lived in Providence. The film featured his career as a wheelchair rugby champion and his coaching of the rival Canadian team.

Breakfast With Curtis (, from 2012, directed by Providence-based Laura Colella (, was filmed in the Mount Hope neighborhood of Providence. Its action centers on two neighboring houses with one full of freewheeling bohemians and the other the home of an introverted teenager named Curtis and his family.

The 2018 coming of age film, Measure of a Man, was primarily shot at a camp in North Kingstown, which is a major part of the story loosely based on Robert Lipsyte’s semi-autobiographical 1977 young-adult novel One Fat Summer.

And for the documentary buffs among you, plenty have been made about Rhode Island. You Must Be This Tall is about Rocky Point, the late amusement park, the loss of which is still lamented by the kids who grew up having nightmares about the haunted house (pro tip: if you go to the former site and peer through the brush, you’ll find the steps that led to the attraction). If you’ve ever wondered why RI fire codes are so strict, watch 41, which documents the catastrophic Station fire that happened in 2003. Buddy follows the career of the late Buddy Cianci, the guy Rhode Islanders both love and love to hate. Happy Endings? explores the massage parlor industry that turned into a sex for money business that was legal because of a loophole in our laws. That “happy ending” loophole has since been closed. Sorry, tourists. If you’re coming for RIIFF, you would have just missed Jazz Fest and Folk Fest, but you can feel like you were there with the documentaries Festival and Jazz on a Summer’s Day. If you love lighthouses, Rhode Island has plenty of them, and long ago a famous woman lighthouse keeper kept ships off the rocks. Watch Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light ( to learn her story. And you can’t leave town without trying a burger and cheese fries from Haven Brothers. Learn all about the nation’s first food truck by watching the film The Original Food Truck: Haven Brothers, Legacy of the American Diner (

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