Blogging RIIFF: Drawing Crowds in the Ocean State

The Rhode Island International Film Festival draws crowds for a variety of shorts, docs and features.

A still from "Accelerating America" at the Rhode Island International Film Festival 2008.
A still from "Accelerating America" at the Rhode Island International Film Festival 2008.

Tuesday night, the Providence Performing Arts Center showcased an extraordinary selection of shorts, which made up the Opening Night screening for the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Audience members included a mixture of celebrities – Dan Butler, as well as John Ratzenberger who entertained the audience as the evening’s MC, filmmakers, members of local nonprofit organizations, and naturally, independent film enthusiasts. The PPAC is a 3,000-seat venue, which was just short of a full house; not bad for a fairly young film festival.

Audience members were shocked by The Next Floor, a Canadian film that focuses on a luxurious banquet being held for 11 carnivorous guests. A lighter number was the American short, The Drummer (see the trailer)about a 40 year-old single dude (Dave) without a job who disappoints one person after the next. Things seem pretty unhopeful, until Dave is suddenly offered a drumming gig for a preppy wedding party in Connecticut. Hoping to do something right (for once), Dave arrives an hour early, only to find the rest of the band never shows. Things do fall into place for this drummer boy, though as he lands a future job and friends who share his musical passion.

Following the screenings, a gala post-party was held in the venue’s grand lobby. Filmmakers and audience members were able to meet fellow artists, whose films they would be seeing throughout the next five days. The adrenaline of the crowd channeled the success of the entire evening.

Wednesday night at 7 pm, the Columbus Andrews Theater drew a huge crowd, as the evening’s feature was The Village Barbershop (see the trailer), directed by Chris Ford. John Ratzenberger plays Art Leroldi, Reno’s last “man’s man” barbershop. After losing his hair cutting partner, Art is faced with an option he doesn’t want to subject himself to – hiring a woman in the shop. Showing up outside the venue to get his picture taken with John, was the mayor of Providence himself, David Cicilline, who also stayed to watch the film.

Thursday was another big night at the Columbus Theater. Pond Hockey (see the trailer) attracted hockey fans young and old at its 5:15 pm show time. Based in Minnesota, the documentary captures interviews with some of hockey’s most reputable players, sports journalists, and loyal fans. While the film wrapped up inside, another large crowd (over 500 people) anxiously formed outside the venue’s doors to see Accelerating America. Also a documentary, focuses on The Urban Collaborative Middle School, a local school here in Providence. Founded by Principle Robert DeBlois, the film demonstrates an average day for this extraordinary man, who is physically limited as a quadriplegic. Standing in the ticket line were members of the school’s staff and students, (some of which were featured in the film.) Timothy Hotchner, the director of the film, originally became involved with UCAP while he was a student at Brown University. He completed the film after he had moved out of the Ocean State.

Tonight will be another great turn out for the festival. Feature doc Garrison Keillor: The Man On The Radio With the Red Shoes plays at 7 pm at Cinemateque, upstairs of the Columbus Andrews Theater. The film has already received four raving stars by Michael Janusonis, film reviewer for the Providence Journal. Also playing at Columbus tonight is How to Be, a UK film starring Robert Pattinson. It will be playing at 9:15 pm.

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The Village Barbershop:
Pond Hockey:

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