This summer has been unruly, with days swinging from blisteringly hot to torrentially rainy. During the second week of August, when everyone else is asking themselves, Will the weather hold so I can make it to the beach?, put something fun and interesting on the calendar instead — catch dozens of new films, including several world premieres, at the Rhode Island International Film Festival!
The Rhode Island International Film Festival (often called RIIFF) is a juried competition showcase for international independent filmmakers and their work. The largest film festival in New England, it is a qualifier for the Academy Awards (short film and documentary), the BAFTAs (documentary), and the Canadian Screen Awards – all of which add up to some particularly prestigious presentations. Now in its 27th year, RIIFF will be held August 7 through 13 at locations throughout Rhode Island.
Debuting in 1996, RIIFF is one of several events developed by Flickers, an arts non-profit that supports and promotes the film arts in Rhode Island and throughout New England. Over the decades, RIIFF has screened 6,139 independent films and videos out of 81,805 entries. Of those screened films, over 1,200 were locally produced. In 2022, the festival presented 383 films representing works that were shot and produced in 106 countries.
Audiences at RIIFF enjoy a wide range of cinema: short films to feature length; family-friendly animations, serious documentaries, chilling horror and sci-fi pieces, and everything in between; plus, the exploration of LGBTQ+ identities, BIPOC experiences, and films from dozens of countries across the world. Screenings are in one of two styles, either a series of shorts around one theme (think connective ideas like “lives in transit” or “how we see ourselves”) or a short and feature-length shown back-to-back. Attendees can choose to purchase either a festival pass or tickets to individual screenings, allowing for flexibility.
Beyond the diversity of stories and perspectives presented at RIIFF, another wonderful aspect of the festival is the opportunity to hear from the creators themselves. Filmmakers, producers, and cast members often attend RIIFF, so not only can you stick around for a post-viewing Q&A, but there’s a chance you could be sitting next to them at another screening, too.
While “international” may be a part of the festival’s name, there’s also a strong emphasis on promoting Rhode Island. At the beginning of the festival, filmmakers receive hospitality packages that include maps, special offers at restaurants, and passes to local attractions. In addition to viewings and networking, they are provided opportunities to hear about film development and production in Rhode Island, with the hope that they’ll bring future projects to the state. On-site screenings take place at a variety of locations, including AS220, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Providence Innovation District Park (that’s the one near the new pedestrian bridge), allowing attendees the chance to experience different parts of the local arts scene. Filmmakers and creators fly in from across the globe to experience what locals can access via a relatively short drive.
The Opening Night Gala, featuring long and short form festival highlights, will take place at PPAC on Tuesday, August 8, and the local shorts night – a highlight for local filmmakers, co-sponsored by Motif – will take place (outdoors, weather permitting) at Revival Brewing in PVD on Wednesday, August 9 at sunset.
Interested in attending this year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival? Visit Flickers’ website film-festival.org to learn more about screenings, tickets, passes, and more. Out of town that week in August, but curious about other Rhode Island film experiences? Flickers produces a number of other, smaller film festivals throughout the year, including the Vortex Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Film Festival every October and Ciné Québec every March and November. Details about all that – and more! – can also be found on Flickers’ site.
Jennifer M. Wilson has worked in Providence’s arts and humanities sector for over 12 years, including at the Rhode Island Historical Society, Trinity Rep, and Gallery Night Providence.