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Review: The 15th Annual Rhode Island Film Festival

Super shorts and more
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  August 3, 2011

HONORABLE Sorvino will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival is holding its 15th annual presentation August 9-14. There are 18 world premieres and 21 North American premieres being screened among the 195 films, mostly shorts. Also included are 23 narrative features, 35 feature-length documentaries, and 20 animations.

"Six Packs" of tickets to most of the screenings (at URI's Paff Theatre, and the RISD Auditorium) are $40. The schedule and more details are at

The RIIFF is the only New England film festival whose short films qualify for Academy Award consideration. This year, a record 4537 submissions were received from more than 60 countries.

A sidebar program is the Providence Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival (August 11-14), held mainly at the Bell Street Chapel. ScriptBizz.11, a daylong screenwriting workshop, will take place on August 10. Nightly post-film filmmakers parties, as well as morning coffee talks, will be held at local restaurants. Networking among filmmakers and actors is also a significant part of the festival — about 250 of them attended last year.

Celebrities to be seen around town this year include Paul Sorvino, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other RIIFF events are the October 20-23 Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival and the 2nd Annual Flickers North Country Film Festival, with a date to be announced.

Ringmastering all of this activity — as he has since 1982 as founder of Flickers, the Newport film society — is RIIFF executive director George T. Marshall. He keeps a low profile — he's difficult to find on the festival website and isn't mentioned in the announcement press release, though he also handles programming, along with J. Scott Oberacker and Richard Corso.

With submissions climbing toward 5000, the selection process is quite time-consuming. That's especially so since Marshall insists that each potential selection be seen by at least three screeners, of which the festival has about 150 around the world.

"I have judges in France and Morocco, in New Zealand and Sydney, Australia," he says. "People who have played with the festival, filmmakers who worked with us in the past, producers, talent, people we've gotten to know over the past 15 years. Plus everyday people in the community of arts watch the films."

Submissions for the next festival start pouring in immediately after each one ends. Sometimes they arrive in wholesale quantities, such as the 150 this year from the University of Southern California film program, of which Marshall is a graduate.

Some of this year's programs are thematic packages, such as "Reel Love Shorts," "Cinema Ooh La Lah" (a collection of French films), and a comedy showcase.

But sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.

"Say we had films dealing with death or aging or nursing homes, that by the time you finish you were enlightened but you won't come back," Marshall says. "We try to balance those films, so at least when the thing's over you don't feel like you've been beaten up. I've had packages here like that in the past. That's part of our learning curve."

So "a very heavy feature," for example, would likely be paired with some light shorts.

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Related: Review: The Princess and the Frog, Review: A Single Man, Review: Meredith Monk: Inner Voice, More more >
  Topics: Features , Movies, Rhode Island, Paul Sorvino,  More more >
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