Like a carefully cultivated culinary banquet, the 5th Annual Riverside Saginaw Film Festival promises to offer patrons a smorgasbord of varied cinematic fare, pulling together over 34 narrative features to meet the tastes of divergent palates. Running from Wednesday, November 2nd through Sunday, November 6th, all films will be shown at Saginaw's historic Temple Theatre, located at 203 N. Washington in downtown Saginaw.
Of particular interest is a block of several Made in Michigan filmsslated to be showcased, beginning with Lily's Mom. Directed by Edmund Messina and produced with the staff of the East Lansing Michigan Headache Clinic, this drama centers around the difficulties faced by a woman battling depressing and crippling migraines, and won an award in the Dramatic Feature category, making it the official choice of the Indie Gathering International Film Festival.
Other Michigan made films include Fairview St., which chronicles an ex-con paroled after serving four years in prison, only to return home ready to start new with his young wife and face allegations in a new murder unbeknownst to him; The Key, a tale of a woman growing up without a father who receives a midnight phone call on her 18th birthday from a man who may or may not be her real Dad; The End of Art, which centers upon a struggling artist and stay-at-home Dad who teams up with a demented insurance salesman on a half-baked double indemnity scheme; and Waiter From Hell, a unique look at encounters with the worst waiter anyone could imagine.
Additionally, The Riverside will host its first Saginaw 72 Filmmaking Contest, showing the works of filmmakers of all ages & skills competing to see who can make the best short film in 72 hours. Teams scripted, shot, edited, and submitted their films all within a 3 day time frame from Sept. 30 - Oct. 2nd of this year, with each entry given a specific theme, genre, and a few plot details and lines of dialogue just before the start time to insure all entries are made 'on the fly'.
Writer & arts supporter Janet Martineau has been involved with the Riverside since its inception and is enthusiastic about the way in which the Festival has evolved over the past five years. “Actually, I think every year has had its own personality,” she reflects, “along with its own special moments, films, and guests. The festival evolves in and of itself in what I consider a marvelous and unplanned way. Partly this has to do with our board members, who see within and develop special events once we select our core films. I love this process of seeing what we can pull out of the bag each year.”
Notable special cinematic events at Riverside will include a guest appearance by writer/director Amy Weber, who will talk about her made-in-Michigan film Annabelle and Bear, the tale of a burly biker who finds himself suddenly having to meet and then raise his 2-year old daughter and was a winner at the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival, the East Lansing Film Festival, and others. Weber will talk about her movie after its 7:30 PM Saturday showing.
Another innovative approach this year ill include a Community Art Project revolving around the showing of Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Noted director Werner Herzog gained exclusive access to the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art created by man, which is still in pristine condition dating back 30,000 years. If patrons stop by the elevator area before and after the two showings of 'Cave', they can add their handprint or an ancient pictorial symbol to this community artwork in progress - very similar to those shown in the film. Acrylic paint and clean-up materials will be provided, as well as assistance.
Two other 'Made-in Michigan' films that excite organizers are Myth of the American Sleepover and the documentary Where Soldiers Come From, telling the story of upper peninsula Michiganders who served in Afghanistan.
What attributes about Riverside impress Martineau the most in terms of how this festival distinguishes itself from other film festivals that have surfaced throughout the state?
“Oh, this is embarrassing,” she notes. “I spend so much time overseeing Saginaw's own film festival that I never get to take in what the others are doing - let alone attend any. I suspect we are not that different from the others. All of us seek to show independent films, foreign films and documentaries, along with Michigan-made films that never stand a chance of showing at the local commercial theatres. It truly is amazing what is out there. Our film selection committee starts out with a huge list and then keeps narrowing it down.”
Has Janet noticed any changes in the level of talent that has submitted work to the festival since as recently as last year?
“I look at Anabelle and Bear, Myth of the American Sleepover, and Where Soldiers Come From, that are made-in-Michigan films that have won awards and or played festivals in Cannes, Traverse City, South by Southwest, and Detroit Windsor International. We've not had that impressive a trio of Michigan product ever.”
“Just reading a synopsis about each of them should intrigue our audience,” she continues. “Yes, we all truly love the international aspect to the films we show, but it's nice to have a down home aspect, too.”
And what about this latest presentation of work featured this year excites or impresses her the most?
“First, I look at Of Gods and Men, a Cannes Film Festival winner, based upon a true story about Christian monks living in harmony amid Muslins; Buck, a Sundance winner about a real-life horse whisperer; The Interrupters, which follows former gang members seeking to bring peace to Chicago. And then there is the comedy Win Win, just because it stars Paul Giamatti.”
“We have a wonderful, quirky, and varied lot all with great stories to tell. And that is the hallmark of our film festival - the movies and documentaries all tell great human stories.”
On final note, for the sheer joy of it, the committee of Riverside decided to also book the classic contemporary film, In a League of Their Own, “since it does have Madonna and a Michigan link,” notes Martineau. “This has been a hot year for baseball thanks to the Tigers and we always like to book a classic or two. One of our Board Members, Kimberly White, decided to run with it, and we have booked Mary Moore, now 79, but an actual Michigan-dwelling player with that World War II league of women players who will attend the festival and speak. She played second base for the Springfield Sallies and Battle Creek Belles and will talk about her career. She also had a cameo in 'League' and in 1988 was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The Great Lakes Loons will participate and any softball or baseball players attending one of its showings in team uniforms will be admitted free, from Little League players to the Saginaw Old Golds.”
Tickets for the 5th Annual Saginaw Riverside Film Festival are only $6.00 for general admission, which includes a $1.00 Temple restoration fee; or only $40.00 for a festival pass if purchased by November 2nd; or $45.00 for a festival pass during the run of the festival, which includes a $5.00 Temple restoration fee
For a complete listing and schedule of films please go to www.riversidesaginawfilmfestival.org.