The Cream of the Crop in Contemporary Cinema • 13th Annual Riverside Saginaw Film Festival Overview

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Movie Reviews,   From Issue 887   By: Robert E Martin

31st October, 2019     0

“Film is, to me, just unimportant. But people are very important.” 
                          ― John Cassavetes, Director, Writer, Actor.

As the annual Riverside Saginaw Film Festival embarks upon its 13th year of showcasing contemporary cinema, it has established an undeniable reputation for harvesting the cream of the crop from contemporary films released in the past year.  Indeed, each film screened at Riverside has received top accolades from both critics and festivals across the country where they have premiered; plus the dynamic range of dramatic narratives, documentaries, comedic and foreign films that will be showcased from November 7th - 10th  is an illuminating excursion into both the pitfalls and possibilities that populate the human spirit.

With 11 feature films and 5 documentaries that will be shown on screens at The Court Street Theatre, The Castle Museum, and Hoyt Library, according to chairwoman Irene Hensinger, “Our fundamental goal and purpose with this festival is to showcase quality films spanning a broad range of topics that all share a common thread of substance.”

“I believe the strength of the festival exists in the films themselves that we’ve been able to bring into this region,” she continues. “People look forward to Riverside and audiences continue to grow each year, largely because audiences realize this is the only opportunity they will have to screen such a varied assortment of high-caliber first-release films that set the bar for artistic accomplishment.”

“We had to really take a sharp knife to narrow down our selections this year, because there are truly a lot of wonderful and really good films out there not coming to the Big Box theaters, which is good for us,” she notes. “Fortunately, we receive lots of support from local foundations, individuals, and corporations, which makes this festival possible and enables us to keep our ticket prices low.”

The Traverse City Film Festival  Traverse City is now getting $14 per ticket and you need to stand in line to get tickets, while this year we’ve actually lowered our ticket prices to $5.00 because we strive to keep the festival affordable,” she adds.  “At Riverside people can see really good 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: 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.”

“We started Riverside back in 2007 with the idea of trying something out to see how things would go; and we’ve managed to keep the momentum going, which is very gratifying.  One thing all the films we showcase share in common is they are all new releases, including many that have not appeared in theaters yet,” she continues. “These are not experimental films that we feature, nor are they the ‘Big Box’ films either; but they are quality independent feature films and documentaries that deserve serious attention.”

“We always look closely at what other festivals
do; and for us, the biggest draw and appeal to our audience seems to center around foreign films and contemporary issue films dealing with topics like the economy, the environment, and the world situation.”

“Some years we struggle to find a strong collection of really good films; and comedies can be really difficult, but this year there were a lot of good films to choose from and the hard part was winnowing the number down,” continues Irene. “Apart from offering thought provoking films on contemporary issues, along with films that are a joy and fun to see because they are so well constructed, one thing they all share in common is that they are not scheduled to appear in the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

Irene also points out how frustrating pulling a festival of this magnitude can be. “We had the new film Judy lined up to come, but had to pull it because its opening in this region; and we couldn’t get the new Linda Ronstadt bio-pic until the Spring, when we’ll be staging another Spring Festival.”

Once again, local Saginaw restaurants will be giving a discount to all Riverside Saginaw Film Festival attendees that show them their festival pass in order to pledge their own support to this remarkable annual event.

In addition to $5.00 single tickets, you can obtain a pre-festival pass for only $40 or a pass during the festival run for only $45 that is the best value. Pre-festival passes are available by calling 989.607-1070 and arranging a pick-up time at Hoyt Library.

You can visit to view trailers and obtain more information about the festival; and for last-minute information on replaced movies or schedule changes, you can refer to their Facebook page as well as their webpage.

Notable & Noteworthy

• BEANPOLE • Russian, 2019, historical drama. 130 min.

This winner of the 2019 Cannes Films Festival takes place in 1945 Leningrad during World War II. The war has devastated the city, leaving its citizens in tatters both physically and mentally. Although the siege is finally over, life and death continue their battle in the wreckage that remains. Within this wreckage, two young women search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.

“We’ve always found it helpful for the audience to better understand the social and political context of films such as this before we show it, so prior to this showing Jason Szigalyi who is a professor of History at Delta College will be giving a brief discussion prior to this screening,” notes Irene.

‘Beanpole’ will be shown on Friday & Saturday, November 8 & 9th  at the Court St. Theatre.

The CHAMBERMAID • Mexico, 2018, drama, 120 min.

This winner of numerous film festivals concerns a young chambermaid at a luxurious Mexico City hotel who controls the monotony of long workdays with quiet examinations of forgotten belongings and budding friendships that nourish her newfound and determined dream for a better life.

‘The Chambermaid’ will be shown on Friday, Nov. 8th at 8 PM and Nov. 9th at 2 PM at Hoyt Library.

• PARASITE •. S. Korea, 2019, drama thriller, 132 min. Rated R.

This satirical black comedy thriller held its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the valued Palme d’Or award. It concerns the Park Family - the picture of aspirational wealth; and the Kim Family - rich in street smarts but not much else. A twist of fate brings these two houses together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity and soon a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kim’s newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

‘Parasite’ will be shown Friday & Saturday, Nov. 8 & 9th at 11 AM at Hoyt Library.

• NON-FICTION. France, 2018, farce, 106 min. Rated R.

When it comes to comedy, the French have a penchant for breaking fresh ground, This film starring Juliet Binoche concerns a man in his 40s who runs a famous publishing house which publishes novels by his friend, a Bohemian writer. The publisher’s wife is the star of a popular TV series and the writer’s companion is the devoted assistant of a political figure. Although they are longtime friends, when the publisher turns down the writer’s new manuscript, complications develop between the two couples.

NON-FICTION will be shown at The Court Theatre on Friday, Nov. 8th at 2 PM and Saturday, Nov. 9th at 5 PM.

FOR SAMA • USA, in Arabic, 2019. 100 min.

This film is a must-see for those seeking to better understand the complicated war that is waging in Syria. This film is the first documentary by Emmy award-winning filmmakers Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts and was a winner at Cannes and 23 other film festivals internationally.

FOR SAMA will be shown at The Castle Museum on Friday, Nov. 8th at 5 PM and at The Court Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 10th at 5 PM.





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