Film festivals have a palpable air of exclusivity to them, don’t they? The Venice Film festivals, Cannes and the Sundance Festival are wrapped in the prestige of being the awards of human artistic pursuit celebrated by the people we’ve labeled tastemakers. But what do those laurels on film posters actually mean and how do they get there? And how do we mere mortals get involved? One way we can help emerging filmmakers (while enjoying ourselves immensely) is by supporting local film festivals. Rhode Island boasts a great number of festivals for our size, and film buffs wait eagerly to attend the Southeast New England Film, Music & Arts Festival (SENE) this month.
Embarking on its eighth year, SENE is dedicated to giving life to independent cinema, music and art. The festival starts on the evening of April 19, treating audiences to four days of film (more than 100 films) between six venues in Providence, East Greenwich and Warwick. Because of its inclusive mission, the majority of submissions received by SENE either focus on art as a topic or are pieces that are experimental and artsy in nature, which co-founders and Phil Capobres and Don Farias like to showcase along with entertaining films that appeal to more mainstream tastes. The line-up is sure to please with a variety of categories curated into 19 unique viewing opportunities, and at least four different social events. At least one filmmaker per viewing will be present for a Q&A, and chances are high of spotting future collaborations being born. “We’ve actually had filmmakers meet at our festival and go on to do projects together,” says Capobres with not-so-subtle glee. With 33 short films submitted from local filmmakers we hope that this is the case. Last year Motif reviewed Frank Hall Green’s Wildlike for SENE, a movie that later went onto theatrical distribution. Alec Asten, (The Curse of Micah Rood) recently let Capobres know that receiving the “best local film” award from SENE in 2008 inspired him to keep submitting his work to festivals. The SENE award was the first of many consequent movie laurels awarded to the film.
The two founders are life-long film lovers who wanted to create a festival that focuses on independent film, that occurs in the off season and that includes other artistic mediums and organizations. “Everyone who runs the festivals are film lovers, and music lovers and art lovers; all of us go out to those events so we thought we would put them all in one festival.”
This year the Warwick Art Museum is involved with SENE through an exhibit of mixed-media art titled “Creative Fusion,” which opens on April 21. Speaking to Capobres one gets the sense that SENE is run by some very friendly people who care about the arts in Rhode Island; the way it is put together, the involvement of musicians (“we have more musicians inquiring about playing than we have space to showcase them”), promoting movie makers and visual artists. This year marks the third year involving the Warwick Museum, the eighth year of working with the Columbus Theatre (where the majority of the films are shown) and the first year branching into East Greenwich.
The two men watch, rate and discuss every film that comes in (550 submissions this year, about 30% feature films 70% short films) on a volunteer basis. With neither of the founders filmmakers themselves, the results are films that are great from the audience’s perspective.
The opening party at the Arctic Play House on April 19 is a themed extravaganza with live music by Grant Maloy Smith, followed by a short documentary about the making of his album and culminating in the viewing of eight music videos. One of these is the official video for Kingsley Flood, a band that played at the main stage at Newport Folk Festival in 2013. The film is produced by John Dorn and made to accompany their song “To the Wolves.” The opening night is unique, with most other activities being a bit more diverse. “We will try to do counter programming, so we’ll have a documentary program opposite a short film program so people can go to either one,” Phil explains. This applies specifically to the two locations in East Greenwich, the Odeum and the Varnum Memorial Armory. They will simultaneously show short film and documentary shorts at 6:30pm, and comedy and sci-fi shorts at 8:30pm on April 22, respectively. One of the films in the sci-fi offerings, Zero, was produced with the help of Ridley Scott, a fact that might evoke dormant geeky longing.
Film die-hards can set aside the last day of the festival for a full day of viewings at the Columbus Theatre. Two screens will show an incredibly rich and diverse range of movies between Noon and 8:30pm, culminating in the award ceremony and closing party at 10pm.
SENE Festival; April 19-23, full schedule at senefest.com