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ON THE LAM Shepard and Bell in Hit and Run.

The 16th annual Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) will screen its top choices, presenting more than 200 films — mostly shorts but also feature-length narratives and documentaries — which were culled from a record 4700 submissions from 32 states and 51 countries. From August 7 to 12, 28 world premieres and 26 North American premieres will be shown.

There are more than 7000 film festivals around the world, and RIIFF is one of only 75 accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival for the Academy Award for Short Films. Last year five works received Oscar nominations and two won: The Shore, directed by Terry George, and William Joyce's The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

In addition to the screenings, RIIFF presents the RI Film Forum, a region-wide workshop focused on bringing film productions to the state; the ScriptBiz Screenwriting Workshop; a walking tour of film locations in Providence; plus filmmaker symposiums and networking events.

The 2012 RIIFF also includes a return of the Providence Underground Film Festival; the 13th annual GLBT Film Festival; and a panel discussion on the art of film music, with composer Klaus Badelt (Pirates of the Caribbean).

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Flickers, the Newport film society that began the festival. "We started Flickers because we couldn't find art and foreign films in our area — they were all in Boston and New York," explains George T. Marshall, Flickers' founder and executive director of RIIFF. "As we started getting involved with the films we were bringing in, that's when the independent film movement started taking off. Over the years we started adapting to it and it became more and more of our focus."

At other times during the year, Flickers sponsors the RI International Horror Film Festival (in October); the Providence Children's Film Festival (February); the 7DayPSA competition, which makes public service announcements for nonprofit organizations; and the summertime KidsEye filmmaking camps for youngsters. And classic and foreign films that were presented in Flickers' early years will be shown at libraries around the state.

The Opening Night Premiere and Gala Celebration at the Vets will showcase short films, surveying the breadth of selections; the Sunday closing presentation at Providence Place Cinemas will present the feature Hit and Run. Directed by David Palmer and Dax Shepard, it's a romantic action comedy in which a former getaway driver (Shepard) breaks out of the Witness Protection Program so he can drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to LA, where her dream job is awaiting. On his trail are the Feds (led by Tom Arnold) and his former co-criminals (led by Bradley Cooper).

Marshall says that submissions always seem to reflect contemporary conditions off the screen, such as the global economy. "So this year, for example, we've gotten a lot of political films," he notes. "I try honestly to stay out of things that are too much like a diatribe, because that's not what we're about. You're not coming into a theater at our festival to be preached to. That's not entertainment. If you want to do that, then turn on the television."

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Related: Photos: The RIIFF Oscar Night at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium, Review: Red Cliff, Review: The Strip, More more >
  Topics: Features , Movies, film, RIIFF
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