The 2022 Riverside Saginaw Fall Film Festival

Showcasing an Award-Winning Line-up of Contemporary Cinema at the Court Theatre November 10-13th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, , Culture, ,   From Issue 937   By: Robert E Martin

03rd November, 2022     0

When it began back in 2007 the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival started with a fundamental vision of showcasing the cream of the crop from high-caliber first release films that share a common thread of substance and set the bar for artistic accomplishment.

Over the past 16 years Riverside has earned a well-deserved reputation for offering audiences throughout our region the only opportunity they have for screening a broad range of current dramatic narratives, documentaries, comedies, and foreign films that have received high praise from both critics and festivals across the globe wherever they have premiered.

Set to happen Thursday through Sunday, November 10-13th, this year’s 2022 Riverside Saginaw Fall  Film Festival will be showcasing seven highly acclaimed and current new releases at Saginaw’s restored historic Court Theatre, and will also hold two other festivals in the late Spring and early Summer of 2023.

Previously the festival would screen films at several venues throughout the city, but as the Pandemic of 2020 impacted all Arts oriented activities around the globe, it also forced organizers to reconstitute and rethink the Riverside Festival as it made its return to the region in 2021.

According to Festival Director, Irene Hensinger, “Rather than stage screenings at multiple venues this year, we decided to show all the films at The Court Theatre in order to make sure proper social distancing was in place, and because of its large size was the perfect venue for this. The feedback has been very positive.”

“People like it all in one place, but it’s also easier for us to manage,” continues Hensinger. “Before when we featured multiple venues with different showtimes we were competing against ourselves, as people were running around to different locations and had difficulty catching all the films we were showcasing. The way we configure the festival now it’s possible to view everything over one long weekend; plus, when we held the festival once a year we had to showcase whatever films were out and available at that time and this way we can show more new film as they become available throughout the year, rather than having to wait.”

“It actually was quite surprising how many Independent films were made and released over the past 18 months,” notes Irene. “We are always committed to showcasing films with a local connection and this year three of our seven films are documentaries.”

“Two of these films have both received rave reviews.  One is titled Bad Axe and is a multi-award winning feature documentary that tells the story about an Asian-American family who struggle  to run a restaurant in Bad Axe, Michigan during the Pandemic in rural America as they fight to keep their restaurant and the American dream alive in the face of both the pandemic, Neo-Nazis, an generational scars left over from the Killing Fields in Vietnam.”

“Another is Cave of Adullam, which is the 2022 Winner of the Tribeca Film Festival for Documentary feature and tells the story of martial arts sensei Jason Wilson and his efforts to guide troubled young Detroit students with a beautifully effective blend of compassion and tough love”

“The third documentary we will showcase is Fire of Love, which is a 2022 Sundance Award winning documentary about two intrepid scientists and lovers, Katia & Maurice Krafft, who died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together, which was unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded.  This film was directed by Peabody Award winner Sara Dosa and narrated by actress and award-winning screenwriter Miranda July.”

In addition to showcasing these innovative and compelling films, The Riverside Saginaw Film Festival is also hoping to conduct some accompanying seminars tied into some of this year’s films. “We are hoping to get somebody from Bad Axe in to speak and are also looking at bringing a professional Chef in to speak, which will tie in with another film we are showing titled Boiling Point, which shows us the relentless pressure within a restaurant’s kitchen as a head chef wrangles his team on the busiest day of the year.  This film was the winner of the 2021 British Independent Film Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Casting, and Best Supporting Actress, Vinette Robinson.”

In looking over the latest crop of films being released in 2022, has Irene noticed much of an evolution in terms of topical content?

“I think the studios are trying to figure out what people are going to see and right now the trend is go with Marvel comics types of movies,” she reflects. “This has been a trend in recent years and Superhero action films seem to be the main thing drawing people, which is why it will be interesting to see how this new romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney will fare.  The film industry is struggling right now, especially with the added competition from Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV, who don’t have to deal with theatres.  Attending a film can be very expensive now. In California a matinee ticket at a movie is now $18.00.”

“Each of the films playing at Riverside will be shown twice at the very affordable price of only $5.00 at the door. “We strive to make the festival affordable,” notes Irene, “so at Riverside people can see really excellent films at half the price of the mega-plex cinemas.”

“People I talk with at major film festivals like Sundance continue to be surprised at two things about our festival: first, the quality of films that come to this relatively small regional festival; and secondly, the fact we manage to live within a realistic budget, largely because of the grass roots support we’ve been fortunate to cultivate.  If people are interested in helping us sponsor a film, they can contact me about sponsorship opportunities, which are always appreciated.”

According to Irene, the majority of feedback received from patrons is they are eager to see films that they otherwise might have to go downstate to screen.  “We do not feature experimental films or first-run Marvel comic book blockbusters, and while we’ve featured short film contests in the past, we find those are not that well received. What we are always looking for is a good French comedy, which everybody seems to like, but become harder to find each year. So many of the Independent films are very serious and deal with powerful issues, but we also don’t want to feature a weekend of downers, so always keep our eye on trying to balance everything out with uplifting films.”

Without further ado, here is a breakdown of the schedule and films being shown at this latest installment of the 2022  Riverside Saginaw Film Festival.

A HERO (2021) • PG 13 • 127 minutes

Friday • Nov. 11 • 7 PM & Saturday • Nov. 12 • 10 AM

This Iranian drama tells the story of Rahim, imprisoned due to a debt he was unable to repay. During a two-day leave he attempts to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint for a portion of the debt, but things don’t go as planned. 

This film was the Winner of the Grand Prix and the Francois Chalais Award for writer/director Asghar Farhadi.   According to many critics, no filmmaker working right now is capable of tackling cinematic moral quandaries like Farhadi, which is refreshing to see in a landscape that is predominantly painting in black-and-white. He navigates the complexity of emotions, intention, empathy, self-preservation, and morality that we all deal with every day in a way that feels impeccably human at every turn. He allows us to empathize with all sides, firmly placing us in the shoes of each character.

A Hero, is a gripping anxiety trip with an insightful critique on the media circus. Everyone wants to take one man’s (perhaps self-motivated) good deed and warp it into however it’ll best suit them. Everyone has their own angle. This film rattles the nerves so effectively, building and building to a final act that is almost unbearable to watch, yet impossible to look away from

Fire of Love (2022) • PG • 98 minutes

Friday • Nov. 11 • 10 AM & Saturday • Nov. 12 • 7 PM

A 2022 Sundance Award winning documentary about two intrepid scientists and lovers, Katia & Maurice Krafft, who died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together - unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded. Directed by Peabody Award winner Sara Dosa and narrated by actress and award-winning screenwriter Miranda July.

Katia and Maurice Krafft loved two things — each other and volcanoes. For two decades, the daring French volcanologist couple roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and documenting their discoveries. Ultimately, they lost their lives in a 1991 volcanic explosion, leaving a legacy that forever enriched our knowledge of the natural world. Director Sara Dosa and the filmmaking team fashion a lyrical celebration of the intrepid scientists’ spirit of adventure, drawing from the Kraffts’ spectacular archive. This film tells a story of primordial creation and destruction, following two bold explorers as they venture into the unknown, all for the sake of love

Boiling Point (2021) • R • 92 minutes

Saturday • Nov. 12 • 4 PM • Sunday • Nov.13 • 1 PM

In this thrilling drama, Director Philip Barantini shows us the relentless pressure within a restaurant’s kitchen, as a head chef, played by Stephen Graham, must wrangle his team on the busiest day of the year. Winner of the 2021 British Independent Film Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound,  Best Casting, and Best Supporting Actress, Vinette Robinson.

As Esquire Magazine noted about this film: “Like the bellies of knives, most movies have arcs, a gracious curve of circumstance, a rise, a fall and, perhaps, a rise again. Not Boiling Point, perhaps one of the most brutal—and best—restaurant films of the last 20 years.

The film, starring Stephen Graham as English chef Andy Jones, is a straight stark line which starts dark and gets darker. It chronicles a single night in a mid-tier fine dining restaurant in London, near Christmas. It uses a technically virtuosic method of shooting. The 90 minute film was shot in one very long take which renders unto the scenes something choreographic. The performances are uniformly brilliant but in a way that does not unduly shine.

Food, as it must be in the brigade system, is viewed as a challenging logistical problem to be solved involving many moving parts that must arrive at the pass more or less simultaneously over and over again.  Because it is in the interest of both the diner and the chef to keep opaque the veil separating front and back of house, these dynamics are rarely observed. The diner is there for a good time; the chef is there to provide it. Any suffering, especially suffering caused by the dynamic in which both diner and chef play a part, gums up the machine with guilt.

Movies like Boiling Point, though fictionalized, nevertheless point to truth. And once this truth is known, it’s difficult to unknow. Once one becomes aware that the pleasure of the plate is offset by the unhappiness of those who get the food there, how can one dine as one did before?

Cave of Adullam ( 2022) • NR • 94 minutes

Friday • Nov. 11 • 4 PM & Sunday • Nov. 13 • 10 AM

The 2022 Winner of the Tribeca Film Festival for Documentary Feature, this film tells the story of martial arts sensei Jason Wilson and his efforts to guide troubled young Detroit students with a beautifully effective blend of compassion and tough love.  At Wilson’s martial arts academy in Detroit, the students’ emotional well-being is prioritized over athletic prowess. Here, these young Black boys are given the rare and invaluable experience of being seen and cared for as the vulnerable beings they are.

Over several months, this documentary follows Tamarkus, Gabe, Daniel, and Kevin as they courageously confront their inner demons. Jason is more than just a martial arts sensei to these fragile tween boys who are silently suffering an array of hurts and fears and guides them to course correct at a crucial juncture where their trauma might otherwise calcify into darker behavior.

Living out his mantra “it's easier to raise boys than repair broken men,” Jason teaches emotional intelligence instead of discipline, setting these children on a path to become whole and healthy adults.

As critic Karen McMullen writes:  In this tender documentary, Oscar-nominated documentarian Laura Checkoway presents a rarely seen methodology of raising healthy young men, weaving intimate verité footage into emotionally profound scenes. Devoid of melodrama, this film is a gift from scene one onward. Executive produced by Laurence Fishburne and told with warmth, impressive access and touches of humor, this heartwarming film is a beautiful testament to the healing power of love.

A Love Song (2022) • PG • 81 minutes

Thursday • Nov. 10 • 7 PM & Sunday • Nov. 13 • 4 PM

At a campground in the rural West, a woman waits alone for an old flame from her past to arrive, uncertain of his intentions while bashful about her own. Starring Dale Dickey, winner of the 2022 Seattle International Film Festival for Best Performance, and directed by promising newcomer Max Walker-Silverman, this is a very low-key treasure of a movie that has as much to say in its long silences as it does in authentic-sounding dialogue between two would-be lovers who reunite after not seeing each other for decades.

“A Love Song” has a very uncomplicated plot: A recently widowed woman in her 60s named Faye (played by Dale Dickey) camps out at a remote location in southwestern Colorado, where she hopes to reunite with a man whom she had a crush on when they were students at the same high school. Faye is at this isolated, desert-like location because years ago, Faye and her would-be beau Lito (played by Wes Studi) agreed they would meet each other there if they ever decided they want to see each other again.

This remarkable film explores the notions that there's no such thing as a hopeless romantic. Hope is what romance is built on, the hope that you'll find the person who fills that missing part of your life, or warms something in you, or just makes the dull roar of the world go away. There's definitely nothing hopeless in this achingly optimistic, rare. and beautiful portrait of clinging to the promise of romance even if it seems impossible.

Bad Axe (2022) •  NR • 180 minutes

Thursday • Nov. 10 • 4 PM & Saturday • Nov. 12 • 1 PM

This captivating films takes a look at an average family trying to keep their business and mental well-being from collapsing in 2020 as a pandemic, controversial restrictions, and even Black Lives Matter come to their small Michigan town.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in March 2020, Asian-American filmmaker David Siev left his home in New York City to return to Bad Axe, MI and document his family as they struggled with fear over lost life, lost business, and lost community.

The result is a deeply personal film that feels essential when we tell the story of how 2020 shaped this country, revealing both strengths and weaknesses in small towns across the United States. Siev’s father Chun fled the Cambodian Killing Fields when he was very young, but he holds the trauma of that experience in ways that sometimes come out in his quick temper and heated conflicts with his daughter Jacyln, who balances many different things  including her own career and marriage, but moves from Ann Arbor back to Bad Axe when it’s clear that she’s going to be needed at their family restaurant Rachel’s.

When the pandemic starts, the kids are scared for Chun to be that exposed in the actual restaurant, so Jaclyn takes control. And then 2020 gets crazier when she decides to post support of BLM on their social page and go to a BLM rally in a part of the country that went heavily for Trump.

We have a habit of thinking that the United States is divided into Blue States and Red States, but “Bad Axe” is a reminder that people of different backgrounds and beliefs not only live side by side by work together and support local businesses.

Hit the Road (2021) • NR • 93 minutes

Friday • Nov. 11 • 1 PM & Sunday • Nov. 13 • 7 PM

Winner of Best Film at the 2021 London Film Festival and Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, this Iranian drama by film director Panah Panahi chronicles the journey of a family who embarks on an eventful road trip across a rugged landscape as they deal with a sick dog, each other’s nerves, and a mysteriously quiet older brother.

As the family squeeze into an SUV, ready to travel, while the opening hints at existential overtones, the story  gradually reveals how secrets are grounded in universal family intimacies and cultural specifics. Helped by note-perfect performances, Panahi navigates the ensuing tonal and geographical shifts smoothly. Sometimes funny, sometimes terribly sad, the film also draws a delicate expressive power from the car's confines and the remote landscapes alike. With a cosmic climax complimenting a bold mix of styles, the result is a far-reaching fable of connection and separation, handled with disarming wit and tenderness.

For more information and a complete schedule of show times please visit www.riversidesaginawfilmfestival.org or their facebook page.

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