Blogging RIIFF: Pre-Festival Madness

The first in a series of blogs from the 12th Annual Rhode Island International Film Festival.

A still from "How to Be" screening at this year's RIIFF.
A still from "How to Be" screening at this year's RIIFF.

This past Sunday afternoon, the Rhode Island International Film Festival headquarters, located in the Columbus Theater in Providence, was eerily quiet. The phone wasn’t ringing; the hallway was vacant. Interns and staff members cast suspicious glances to one another from their desks; no one dared to mention the unusual silence.

For the past three weeks, the phones have been ringing constantly. Impatient filmmakers calling from Australia needing to know when their film was playing so travel plans could be completed; disappointed filmmakers, who had recently received rejection letters, wanting to gain a better understanding as to why their film didn’t make the final cut into this year’s festival. And of course, there have been the regular calls from the local members of the Rhode Island community, wanting to know what to expect at the 12th Annual Rhode Island International Film Festival, which runs August 5th-10th.

Way beyond the tiny state of Rhode Island, filmmakers are buzzing about RIIFF, as it has received a tremendous amount of attention and recognition due to its affiliation with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. As of 2002, AMPAS elected the festival as a qualifier for the Short Films category for the Annual Academy Awards. Rhode Island is just one out of 61 festivals worldwide to receive this impressive honor. Filmmakers traveling from 53 countries around the globe will be visiting Rhode Island to see their film up on the big screen throughout the next week. Many films are not just North American premieres, (there are approximately 41) but world premieres as well (58).

This year, RIIFF will screen 289 new films (shorts, features, documentaries, animations) selected from over 3,000 film submissions. There is one particular film which is already creating amazing buzz: How to Be starring Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen in the forthcoming Twilight films and Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Rebecca Pidgeon (State and Main, The Heist, Redbelt).

Today, the calm before the storm is old news; the winds have shifted back into the weekday mode. A young, Irish filmmaker stands awkwardly in the corner of the office, ignoring the inquisitive stares of all the female staff members. Having arrived in Providence just yesterday, he seeks registration information regarding the Opening Night Ceremony at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

A litter of boxes has transformed the hallway into an obstacle course; some of the return labels read familiar addresses, others are locations from overseas. Within the triple duck-tapped boxes are those films screening in the 2008 festival, specially formatted (35 mm, DVD, Digi-Beta, etc.) for the particular venue they will be shown in. Cinemas are not only in Providence, but scattered throughout the Ocean State, so that the entire Rhode Island community has a shared opportunity to be involved with RIIFF.

Not surprisingly, all phones flash “low battery,” as they have been in use since the first person arrived at the building early this morning. After the Sunday Providence Journal released an impressive article on the Rhode Island International Film Festival, it seems everybody wants to be a part of the action happening in Rhode Island over the next week, be it their very first experience, or 12th. Either way, a sensational line-up of independent films are to follow.

The next blog will include celebrity listings and include film titles readers should look out for at the festival.

Related Links:

Rhode Island International Film Festival: and also see screening information for How to Be. Or check out the How to Be website.

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