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10 BEST RiverRun highlights

by Jordan Green

10 BEST RiverRun highlights

randomly compiled by Jordan Green

Pleasures of movie-going

I spent the first full day of the RiverRun International Film Festival catching as many movies as I could. It’s the ultimate recreational pastime, as far as I’m concerned, with the minor challenge of studying the program to rank your picks, securing tickets and getting from one venue to the next. My wife joined me for the opening night feature, One Night Stand.

Get downtown

It’s good to get downtown in Winston-Salem after work hours. The block of West 4th Street in front of the Stevens Center was blocked off on Friday evening. A band played on the street. My wife and I scored tickets for One Night Stand and headed over to Mellow Mushroom for pizza. On the way we bumped into Winston-Salem politician Everette Witherspoon and media maker Frank Eaton shooting campaign photographs. It was a perfect spring evening.

Year of the women

“We have more women directors participating in this festival than ever before,” said Executive Director Andrew Rodgers, prompting enthusiastic applause before his introduction of Trish Dalton and Elisabeth Sperling, co-directors of One Night Stand. Their comedic documentary, about a four teams of writers and actors producing 20-minute musicals in 24 hours, is hilarious, not to mention a fascinating study of creativity under pressure and a marvel of editing.

Return of a troubadour

I was excited to see Kevin, a documentary about an Austin, Texas singer-songwriter who drops out of sight in 1995 after an ill-fated move to southern California. This film is a testament to the fragility of creativity and the resilience of the human spirit. The movie was exceptional, but the greatest thrill was meeting the singersongwriter before and after the screening. Kevin Gant as inspired, engaging, quirky and friendly in the flesh as he is as a documentary subject.

The real thing

As one of the music from one of Gant’s songs faded at the end of the movie, the theater filled with the live sound of his guitar. Tracking from document to incarnation, the movie chronicled Gant’s visit to Granada, Spain, where the flamenco music that inspired him originated, and he played for us “The Holy Songs,” whose lyrics materialized during that journey: “Everyone’s life has meaning/ So bring it on/ Bring on the healing.”

Marathoner

Waiting for Kevin to start, I struck up a conversation with Sarah Fulcher and her biographer, David Burl Morris. Fulcher is as extraordinary as Gant, but in a different way. She ran 11,134 miles around the perimeter of the United States in 1987 and 1988, essentially by running a marathon a day. Fulcher is currently applying her energy and initiative to securing sponsorships for the Guilford County Animal Shelter.

Devastating filmmaking

Following the lead of a marine and his wife, I watched Return, a movie about a female soldier’s homecoming from Iraq. The depiction of the homefront, as portrayed in director Liza Johnson’s first film, is as harrowing as any combat experience, and the ending — something of a surprise — left several viewers in the theater absorbing a devastating blow.

A quality education

“Everybody that comes here comes from the town where everybody thinks they’re the best thing ever and they’re going to be on the cover of magazines. And you get here and the professors don’t give a s*it. And then you get out in the real world and people care even less.” So said Nate Meyer, a Greensboro native, graduate of UNC School of the Arts and writer and director of See Girl Run.

Working the system

See Girl Run almost sold out UNC School of the Arts Main Theatre, and fared similarly at a film festival in Orlando, Fla. Viewers praised the film, Meyer’s second feature, for fully developing every one of its characters and packing layers of nuance into what appears on the surface to be a facile romantic comedy. All of which bodes well for the film’s prospects for getting picked up by a distributor and selected for national release.

Check it out

See Girl Run is worth seeing for a couple reasons: Adam Scott, best known for his work on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” who has a great acting career ahead of him; Chapel Hill artist Josh Taylor, whose frog art figures prominently in the film; and an ending that turns the dubious premise of stoking old flames on its head.

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