The Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) is once again hitting big screens throughout the state, and this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever. Shawn Quirk, festival organizer, says of the 316 films ready to be screened, “It’s the strongest year we’ve had.”
The festival received 6,000 film entries that were narrowed down to the planned program in an unenviable process. Quirk explans how the selection works. “We have screeners based throughout the world as well as local and national alumni filmmakers and film educators.” The films first go through a round of judging, then the highest rated films go through a second round of judging. “We look for good films and films that speak to one another,” Quirk explains. “Films that don’t get in aren’t necessarily not good enough, but we’re looking for a cohesive program of films that speak to each other in a larger narrative.”
Quirk says of the theme that emerged during the judging process, “The narrative is very humanistic. We’re dealing with some tough times, but the festival speaks to a global vision of empathy and finding common ground both locally and internationally.”
Technology, both in subject and filmmaking technique, is another strong theme that emerged in this year’s collection. “We’re seeing films from all over the world dealing wth the smart phone and making social commentary on social media’s impact on our daily lives. There’s a little bit of a backlash, but there are some good things, too.” Quirk describes as examples the film Draw Line, about a YouTube star from rural Tennessee who uses social media as an unusual opportunity to make a living; Mirror Side, a film from Romania that deals with technology’s impact on human interaction; and General Magic, a documentary on the early days of smart phone technology.
Quirk also noticed that a lot of this year’s films were shot using drones, and he was particularly drawn to an Ecuadorian film called Sun of Man shot with drones and the RED camera. “Drone cameras have a wide lens and it’s very flat,” Quirk explains. But by using a different type of camera in this film, the filmmaker gave the movie a cinematic look. “He calls [the drones] floating cameras in the movie,” Quirk says.
Quirk says that opening night of the festival shouldn’t be missed. Opening the evening of seven films is My Moon, a film from South Korea about a love triangle among the sun, moon and earth. Quirk also highlights The Christmas Gift, a Romanian film about a young boy revealing his father’s political wishes in his letter to Santa Claus.
In addition to the film programming are networking opportunities for people involved in or interested in the industry. The Film Forum, which takes place on August 8 at The Vets is a symposium for the film community. “It’s going to be a collection of local and international filmmakers discussing the industry at large,” Quirk says.
ScriptBiz is a screenwriting workshop that takes place on August 9 at The Walter Jones Library. Chris Sparling, as well as a number of filmmakers from RIIFF will be in attendance to discuss screenwriting, pitching, transitioning from being a short film-maker to a feature film-maker and adapting fiction work to a film. In addition to screenwriters and aspiring screenwriters, “It’s a great resource for film educators to get an update on the industry at large,” Quirk says.
From animation to documentary, shorts to features, there’s something for everyone at RIIFF. Don’t miss this world-class festival taking place in our backyard!
See schedule and highlighted films in our center spread. For tickets and up-to-date screening schedule, go to film-festival.org