Commencing its seventh season and beginning a four-day run from Thursday, November 7th through Sunday November 10th, the annual Riverside Saginaw Film Festival has matured into a welcomed showcase for Independent, Foreign, Short & Documentary films that span the globe and are rarely shown on screens in the Great Lakes Bay area that tend to cater to mainstream Hollywood releases.
Due to the commitment of festival organizers and sponsors, the 2013 Riverside Film Festival will present well over 2-dozen feature films, documentaries, shorts, and a pair of innovative film contests with a local focus, along with Lunafest - a traveling assortment of award-winning short films created by, for and about women. This array of contemporary cutting-edge cinema will be shown on screens at the following venues: The Court Theatre (1216 Court St), Pit & Balcony (805 N. Hamilton St.); The Saginaw Club at 219 N. Washington Ave; First Congregational Church (403 S. Jefferson) and Hoyt Library (505 Janes.)
Additionally, 2013 will mark the debut of The Riverside Film Festival Orchestra, who will stage a special performance the Wednesday night prior to the Festival at the First Congregational Church Sanctuary. According to festival originator & organizer Irene Hensinger, “Hopefully the orchestra will be performing with us every year; and to kick things off, they will be showcasing movie theme music under the direction of Dave Valasek, the director of The Saginaw City Band. David put together a 40-piece orchestra and they will perform everything from John Williams' scores to old Dimitri Tomkin treatments from the old Spaghetti Western films,” explains Hensinger.
The cinematic line-up for this year's festival contains a broad range of topical material researched and culled by the Riverside Film Festival Board from other festivals around the globe ranging from Cannes to Tribecca; with a strong emphasis on quality films that otherwise would not be shown in this area as they should.
When asked what films stand out from the fold this year, Hensinger points to several. “Amour is the story of an aging French couple and what happens when one of them gets Alzheimer's. A promise is made not to put the other in a home and the film articulates how they struggle with that promise and is incredibly gripping and engaging.”
“And then we have a wonderful film called Quartet about some aging musical stars in a retirement home for musicians. There's a wonderful surprise at the end because everybody except the main actors are in fact real retired musical performers; and at the end of the film as the credits are shown, we get to see them in their prime.”
“Another film we will be screening is entitled 56, which is an amazing documentary. Many years ago the filmmaker interviewed a group of 7-year olds in England, then talked to them at the ages of 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 and now 56. It traces the arc of what their dreams were and how they turned out in life.”
Another exciting documentary that will makes its area debut is Plimpton - an expansive biography consisting of interviews with the late author, Paris Review founder, and Man of Letters George Plimpton. Consisting largely of interviews that he gave prior to his death 10 years ago, Plimpton was a close friend of Saginaw culture icon Dave Oppermann, as both shared a passion and fondness for firework displays. Oppermann will give a pre-film introduction to this documentary and then handle a Question & Answer session at Pit & Balcony on Friday, November 8th and Saturday, November 9th at 2:00 PM.
Hensinger is also excited about Riverside's Short Film program, which features works from all over the country and is a juried type of competition. These films will be showed at Hoyt Library and the festival has received approximately 20 films from all over the world.
Another engaging musical work that will be showcased is 20 Feet From Stardom, a documentary about female back-up singers during the Rock & Roll / Motown era of the 1960s and '70s. “We're hoping to have some of the Motown singers come to town for a discussion, but are not sure if we can confirm them yet,” notes Hensinger.
With the wealth of quality material out there, Hensinger says that one of the key challenges for the festival committee is paring down the screening finalists. “We have a number of limited slots and go through many rounds of drafting nominations for the films that we screen,” she explains. “This year we had to eliminate 11 finalists, but we strive to get a variety of films with a strong mix of documentaries that are uplifting, fun, and thought-provoking.”
Here's a closer look at more of the films that will be featured at the 2013 Riverside Saginaw Film Festival:
Amour * 2012 * 2 Hr 7 min - PG 13 * Drama from Germany
Georges & Anne in their eighties are cultivated and retired music teachers. One day Anne has an attack and couple's bond of love is severely tested.
Angel's Share * 2013 * 1 Hr 46 min. * Unrated * UK
This winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival centers around Robbie, a broke new father with a good heart who is in serious trouble with the law. When holding his newborn son, he vows to give him a better life. A judge rants him community service instead of jail, where he meets Rhino, Albert and Mo, former petty criminals also down on their luck. This film forges an innovative look at issues of class and culture between the haves and have-nots.
Beyond the Hills * 2013 * 2 Hr 35 min. * Unrated * Romania
In an isolated Orthodox convent in Romania Alina and Voichita - two friends since meeting at an orphanage - reunite with one wanting to go back to Germany and the other wishing to stay at the convent. Alina challenges the priest and an exorcism is performed making Voichita question her choices. This humbling movie deals with superstitions, possession, and redemption.
Bless Me Ultima * 2013 * 1 hr 46 min * PG-13 * USA
This adaptation of Rudolfo Anayas controversial novel about a young boy and the enigmatic healer who opens his eyes to the wonders of the spiritual realm in New Mexico in the early 1940s is an offbeat slice of Americana that will intrigue thoughtful moviegoers. As Ultima inspires Antonio to question authority and see the world from a new perspective, the young boy witnesses a series of seemingly impossible events that a profound impact on his concepts of divinity and fate.
Frances Ha * 2013 * 1 Hr 26 min. * R * Comedy * Netherlands
Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has in life, but lives with unaccountable joy and lightness. This smart, wry and surprisingly tender film offers fresh light about standing at the crossroads of adulthood.
Girl Rising * 2013 * 1 Hr 41 min. * PG-13 * Documentary * USA
10x10 is a social action organization seeking educational equality for underprivileged girls across the globe. The film tells the moving stories of several of these girls, with help from some of the most recognizable female voices of today.
Kon Tiki * 2013 * 1 Hr 41 min. * PG-13 * Drama * USA
Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific ocean in a balsa wood raft in 1947, together with five men this film tells about his ship the Kon-Tiki and the origin of his idea and events surrounding the group's voyage. This widescreen man against nature epic is beautifully shot and boasting seamless, stunning visual effects.
Liberal Arts * 2012 * 1 Hr 37 min. * PG-13 * Comedy * Ireland
Newly single and uninspired by his job in college admissions, the introverted Jesse Fisher accepts an invitation to speak at his alma mater for his favorite professor's retirement dinner. There he meets Zibby in this insightful, touching and amusing three-generational study.
Lore * 2012 * 1 Hr 48 min. * Unrated * Drama * Australia
Left to fend for themselves after their SS officer father and mother, a staunch Nazi believer, are interred by the victorious Allies at the end of World War II, five German children undertake a harrowing journey that exposes them to the reality and consequences of their parents' actions.
Much Ado About Nothing * 2013 * 1 Hr 49 min. * PG 13 * Comedy * Ireland
Shakespeare's classic comedy is given a contemporary spin and the magic holds from beginning to end.
Nicky's Family * 2013 * 1 Hr 66 min. * Unrated * Documentary * Czech Republic
The story of Sir Nicholas Winton, a young Englishman who organized the rescue of 669 Jewish Czech and Slovak children just before the outbreak of World War II. A great true story and a great man come together in this heart-warmer of a documentary.
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga * 2013 * 1 Hr 34 min. * Documentary * Germany
This documentary about the indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga is astounding. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Aakhtia at the river Yenisei. This film follows one of the Siberian trappers through all four seasons of the year to tell the story of a culture virtually untouched by modernity.
For more information on the 7th Annual Riverside Film Festival you can visit their website at riversidesaginawfilmfestival.org. The cost is only $6.00 for single admission and $40.00 for a festival pass if purchased prior to the festival; and $45.00 for a festival pass if purchased during the run of the festival.