RIIFF 2018 Highlights

RIIFF programming director Shawn Quirk guided us through a selection of features and shorts. Opening night ceremonies on August 7 feature dedication of the 2018 festival to emerita professor Winifred Brownell “who was instrumental in creating the URI film program.” Short films are the “crème de la crème” of RIIFF, Quirk said, considering the Academy Award qualifier status of the festival, and two – The Collar and Fall River – have been scheduled to screen opening night. Films are feature-length and in English unless noted.


The Collar

The Collar

The Collar, dir. Viktoria Runtsova. Russian with English subtitles. North American premiere. A 23-minute short set in 19th Century Russia, “This young woman sees this little collar in a dress shop and she buys it, and the collar starts talking to her and convincing her to buy more clothes, a downward spiral as she spends tons of money, almost a [surreal] Gogol story in a way.”


Fall River

Fall River

Fall River, dir. Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood. Short (7-minute) documentary about a family tragedy in an old Massachusetts mill town past its prime, seen from the perspective of one woman.


Tre Maison Dasan

Tre Maison Dasan

Tre Maison Dasan, dir. Denali Tiller. Rhode Island premiere. A documentary about three young boys growing up into manhood, each with a parent incarcerated in the Rhode Island state prison.


Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End

Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End

Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End, dir. Pablo Bryant. East Coast premiere. About cartoonist Dwayne Booth (“Mr. Fish”) “who is very political with his drawing” as he is torn between softening his sharp satire that is critically admired but commercially disadvantageous, an issue often raised by his supportive but exasperated wife. The cartoonist’s web site is clowncrack.com.


Back to Life: The Torin Yater-Wallace Story

Back to Life: The Torin Yater-Wallace Story

Back to Life: The Torin Yater-Wallace Story, dir. Clayton Vila. Quirk said Vila is a Block Island native who “does urban skiing, the filmmaker himself, so he skis down sidewalks.” The subject of the documentary is a freestyle skiier in his early 20s who, after youthful success in the X Games, battles personal adversity: his father is sent to prison, his mother is diagnosed with cancer, and the athlete himself contracts a life-threatening infection of his liver and gall bladder. “It’s a comeback film.”


Maximilian

Maximilian

Maximilian, dir. Nicolas Greinacher. German with English subtitles. US premiere. “A documentary from Switzerland about a child prodigy who has got an IQ of 149 and is 13 years old, so he’s already doing college calculus. It’s by one of our veteran filmmakers… It’s really about the burdens of being a prodigy, how to properly raise a child who’s really smart.”


Occupation 1968

Occupation 1968

Occupation 1968, dir. Evdokia Moskovina, Linda Dombrovszky, Magdalena Szymkow, Marie Elisa Scheidt, Stephan Komandarev. Various languages with English subtitles. North American premiere. “It’s a combination of five documentaries, done by five filmmakers from five of the Warsaw Pact countries [Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Russia]… that discuss the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968” that ended the Prague Spring. “The films are about the military members going back to where they served in Czechoslovakia and reliving the occupation from the occupiers’ point of view.” Quirk said Scheidt came from Munich to RIIFF last year: “I was talking to the filmmaker who said touring through Eastern Europe with this film has been pretty emotional.”


On Killer Robots

On Killer Robots

On Killer Robots, dir. Lorraine Nicholson. A 15-minute short dramatizes a hypothetical ethical dilemma, inspired by the real-life first known use by law enforcement of a remote-controlled robot to deliver a fatal bomb to a heavily armed, military-trained barricaded suspect who shot into a group of police officers, killing five and injuring nine.


The Other Side of Porcupine Lake

The Other Side of Porcupine Lake

The Other Side of Porcupine Lake, dir. Julian Papas. US premiere. Follows Canadian director Ingrid Veninger as she makes her sixth feature film, Porcupine Lake. “A documentary… so you see the processes of an independent film being made. It’s beautifully done and very well edited. It doesn’t play like a behind-the-scenes movie at all, it plays like a very artfully done film in itself.”


You Can Choose Your Family

You Can Choose Your Family

You Can Choose Your Family, dir. Miranda Bailey. East Coast premiere. Comedy featuring Jim Gaffigan and Anna Gunn. “Young 17 year-old boy accidentally discovers that his father has a double life. He decides to blackmail his dad because his dad wouldn’t pay for college after he got into NYU… I wouldn’t call it a dark comedy although it plays on some dark issues, but it’s really funny.”


The Maestro

The Maestro

The Maestro, dir. Adam Cushman. East Coast premiere. “A budding film composer who moves to Hollywood to study with a master teacher… right after World War II. It’s a period film.”


The Etruscan Smile

The Etruscan Smile

The Etruscan Smile, dir. Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun. The directors are Israeli filmmakers who are nominated for a short film, Quirk said. “About an older man who lives on a remote [Hebridean Scottish] island and he goes to visit his son because he needs to see a doctor for the illness that he has, in San Francisco… and his transition from a fishing village… and how he finally gets to rekindle a relationship with his son and his grandson.”


Saving My Pig

Saving My Pig

Saving My Pig (Mon Cochon et Moi), dir. Frank Dobrin. French with English subtitles. US premiere. Comedy starring Gérard Depardieu as an elderly grandfather who, with his granddaughter, runs away from Bulgaria to Turkey smuggling a pet piglet to prevent its slaughter. Depardieu is controversial and his films are banned in Ukraine because of his expatriation from France and subsequent embrace of dictator Vladimir Putin who granted him Russian residency and citizenship.


Snowbirds

Snowbirds

Snowbirds, dir. Joannie Lafrenière. French with English subtitles. “About a [French-speaking] French-Canadian vacation colony… coming from Quebec and going down to Florida for the winter. It plays off on a lot of kitsch elements… all of the Florida tropes, like pink flamingos.”

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