Film

Movies Galore and Gore and More: SENE and Vortex provide on-screen thrills this month

October will see the return of New England’s SENE Fest to RI for its 14th iteration, across the multiple screening rooms of The Artists’ Exchange in Cranston from Oct 13 – 15.

Post-COVID, it’s extra exciting to consider having a bunch of filmmakers and film appreciators sit together and share a screening experience, and that’s where SENE really distinguishes itself — there’s an atmosphere of gentle but still excited community around the event, where many filmmaking collaborations have been born. While music is a traditional component of SENE, this year, “We had so many great submissions we wanted to screen, we decided to focus on the film aspect,” says co-founder Don Farias. Art by members of the Artists’ Exchange will still be available for viewing and purchasing.

SENE opens with the debut of feature-length Stay with Me by local ex-pat Marty Lang on Thursday night. The drama poignantly explores emotional obsession and mental illness. But it is mostly a festival of shorts, and that’s a good thing. Shorts are where enterprising filmmakers still get to break rules, defy expectations, subvert formulas and maybe throw in a twist or make you think about something in a whole new way. They’re the guerilla attacks of the film world — and if you don’t like the feel of one, another will be along shortly to give you a whole new experience. A curated shorts program is also difficult to find in other modern media (unless you consider the YouTube algorithm “curation.”)

This year’s curation includes a locals night, LGBTQ screening, comedy shorts, animated films, documentary shorts, sci-fi shorts, ever popular horror shorts and a free showing of shorts from the film program at Bishop Hendricken High School. In total, 115 films will be shown, with filmmakers from around the world in attendance. Screenings take place in two buildings at the Artists’ Exchange, 82 Rolfe Square, Cranston. Full schedule for Oct 13 – 15 is available at senefest.com.

Entering the Vortex

The Vortex Film Festival, Oct 15 – 23, is a production of Flickers, the same folks who produce the Oscar-nominating RI International Film Festival. It’s been going on for 20 years, in one form or another, and creates a platform for horror, fantasy and science fiction films, both features and shorts. Films are selected by Shawn Drywa and Shawn Quirk from international submissions, and they skew toward horror. “I’m an all around sci-fi and fantasy film nerd,” says Drywa, “But I do lean toward horror. Back in the day, I would go to the video store a few times a week and rent all the great not-so-great horror movies, as one did back then.”

Drywa was involved in the origin of the festival, when it was called the RI International Horror Film Fest and he was an intern at RIIFF, in the year 2000. After his internship, he wanted to stay involved in the world of horror films and stayed involved until “life happened,” and he went off to have a job and a family. A few years ago, he returned to help produce what is now called the Vortex Film Fest, and is thrilled to see it emerge from COVID.

The festival will include six or seven filmmakers doing talkbacks, including some from as far as Italy and Australia. There will also be Lovecraft walking tours of Providence conducted by the RI Historical Society.

Screenings will take place at Johnson & Wales and AS220’s Black Box Theatre, both in downcity PVD. Details and schedule at film-festival.org

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