For the 10th consecutive year, Southeast New England (SENE) Film, Music and Arts Festival will entertain Rhode Islanders with its assortment of creative productions. SENE will start April 24 and run through the 28th, taking place across the state in various venues. The five venues for this year’s festival are Columbus Theatre and Rhodywood Studios in Providence, Warwick Center for the Arts, The Arctic Playhouse in West Warwick and Jamestown Arts Center. The festival includes feature films, many short films, artwork and live music. It’s all put together with the help of their small army of enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom have been with SENE since it was founded.
SENE is an RI-based nonprofit organization founded by Phil Capobres and Don Farias. The main goal of the festival is to screen a variety of different films and display some of the region’s best artwork for local Rhode Islanders to enjoy. Each film is personally screened by one of the founders, and they select the features best suitable for their audience. Don Farias described the screening process: “The quality of the submissions this year was the best we’ve ever had. Many of our films have won awards at other festivals. While it made our programming decisions difficult, we are able to present great screenings for our audience.”
SENE offers a large variety of films, including comedies, science fiction shorts, horror shorts, LGBT films, international films and award-winning feature films. No matter who you are and what your film preference is, SENE will have something for you.
Farias is excited for the festival to kick off. “SENE 10 is a celebration for everyone involved. Many of our volunteers have been with us for 10 years. This year, we are at five venues across the state, screening 140 films, showcasing two art exhibits and featuring four or five musical performances. It’s our biggest festival to-date.”
SENE has grown significantly over the past 10 years, but even in their growth they have tried to stay true to their foundations. “Phil Capobres and I still want SENE to have a family-like friendly feel to it, just like in year one. We are proud of our commitment to art and music over the years in addition to film,” said Farias.
Despite trying to stick to their roots, external factors have challenged SENE and other film festivals. Online streaming has become a huge part of our current society and could potentially undermine the festival’s purpose. Farias is still confident, however, that SENE cannot be replaced. “Festivals are still helpful because they review hundreds and sometimes thousands of films before selecting the best of their submissions for the festival screenings. Obviously, festival awards can offer exposure, but a selection in itself is a badge of honor. Attending filmmakers meet other professionals who can help their careers. By watching other films and networking, they learn what others have done to be successful. At SENE, we bring together filmmakers, artists and musicians because they all have skills that are necessary in almost every movie.”
Networking is not only a huge benefit for filmmakers, but also for members of the audience, bringing people together on a personal level as well as a creative level. Farias makes sure the festival offers opportunities for artists to make connections. “They naturally meet each other at the screenings, but we have a few events that bring everyone together. Our annual Limelight Awards party during the week at the Warwick Center for the Arts offers a relaxing opportunity to mingle and get to know each other. We have a filmmaker brunch on the weekend and after-parties where everyone can enjoy the festival and learn about all the films. Over the years, a few filmmakers ended up working together after meeting at SENE.”
SENE works as an outlet to bring people together from all parts of the world. With submissions coming from nearly 35 countries across the globe, international films at SENE make the festival extremely diverse. According to Farias, “We believe that we offer something for everyone. We choose the best films regardless of where they come from, but we have always received very strong international film submissions. We have many partners in other countries who send us their best films.”
Audiences have the opportunity to view the screenings as the locations for venues are stretched out to cover the entire state and are available to all of Southern New England. Rhode Island has relatively few film and art festivals, so SENE finds it imperative to bring these features to everyone. “Being able to bring films to Jamestown, Warwick and West Warwick allows us to introduce independent films to people who may not have as much exposure to the beauty of short films and independently produced documentaries and features,” said Farias. “We want to make it as easy as possible for Southern New Englanders to watch these films.”
All five venues are excellent settings to display all kinds of works and Farias is glad they offer some versatility. “Two of our venues are art galleries, which allow us to showcase the work of musicians, artists and filmmakers at the same time.”
None of this would be possible, of course, without the work of SENE’s dedicated volunteers. Farias said, “We could not put on this festival without the help of our volunteers. They allow us to be at many venues and have multiple screenings at the same time. Many of our volunteers are able to watch the films after collecting tickets and handing out Audience Award ballots. It’s a win-win: we have all the help we need and the volunteers are able to enjoy the films and meet the filmmakers and actors.”
SENE has put on great festivals in the past and their 10th edition is likely to be among the best. “Filmmakers and actors work hard on these films and the quality is easy to see. A lot of our audience returns year after year and they expect a certain level of quality at the SENE Festival. The bar is set high and we strive to surpass their expectations each year,” Farias concludes, before running off to fine tune some part of the sprawling festival’s plans.