Readying for RiverRun

It was standing room only last Tuesday at HanesBrands Theatre in Winston- Salem, not because of St. Patrick’s Day, but to unveil the schedule for the 17 th annual River- Run International Film Festival, which runs April 16-26 in Winston-Salem.

Indeed, executive director Andrew Rodgers jokingly apologized to those in attendance for “ruining the evening of St. Patrick’s Day” during his opening remarks. But, he noted, “it’s that time of year again.”

“What are we going to say tonight that we haven’t said before?” Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines asked rhetorically as he opened his remarks.

Of the approximately $1.2 billion investment in the city’s downtown, much of that is “bricks and mortar,” he said, but pointed out that events like RiverRun lend a identity and distinction to the city, “the heart and soul of what makes it so special.”

This marks the 12 th anniversary since the festival made the eastward move from Asheville and Brevard to its current home, and, remarkably, Joines has been mayor for two years longer than that.

Rodgers and Joines emphasized the efforts of festival board members, staff and volunteers, a sentiment further echoed by Tonya Deem, the chair of the River- Run International Film Festival’s board of directors.

Although the festival is only 10 days long, “it actually takes the entire year to put it together,” she said.

Noting that ticket sales account for only about 15 percent of the festival’s annual budget, she graciously thanked the ongoing support of its sponsors. This year’s title sponsors are the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), Reynolds American and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. (Once again this year, YES! Weekly is also a proud sponsor of the film festival.)

Having received some 1,400 submissions – almost twice as many as for last year’s festival – RiverRun boasts 165 films this year, 74 features and 91 shorts. Upholding the “International” aspect of its name, 35 countries are represented in RiverRun this year.

The festival offers two opening-night films on April 16: Reality (original title Realite), an award-winning French comedy starring Alain Chabat, Elodie Bouchez, Jon Heder and John Glover, written and directed by Quentin Dupieux, whose 2010 farce Rubber was a previous RiverRun favorite; and Sacha Jenkins’ feature documentary Fresh Dressed, which explores the history of hip-hop and urban fashion and how it went from fad to phenomenon.

This year’s closing-night film, on April 26, brings back a hometown and River- Run favorite: David Gordon Green. The prolific filmmaker, who graduated from UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking and was presented RiverRun’s Emerging Master award in 2010, will return to his Winston- Salem stomping (and screening) grounds to show his latest film, Manglehorn, which pairs Oscar winners Al Pacino and Holly Hunter.

“Al Pacino will not be joining us this year,” quipped Rodgers, “but David Gordon Green will be.”

Green’s work has been a constant presence at RiverRun. His 2013 drama Joe, which starred Nicolas Cage and which Green wrote and directed, was screened that year at RiverRun, and last year’s festival favorite, Land Ho!, was produced by Green and co-directed by fellow School of Filmmaking graduates Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz.

The 2015 Master of Cinema award will be presented to director Stanley Nelson Jr., the three-time Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker whose credits include A Place of Our Own (2004), Freedom Riders (2009), Wounded Knee (also ‘09), and Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple (2006). The Emerging Master award will be presented to Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, co-directors of the award-winning documentary Detropia (2012) – a hot ticket at that year’s River- Run festival – and founders of Loki Films, which has produced such acclaimed documentaries as the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp (2007) and the Peabody Awardwinning 12th & Delaware (2010).

RiverRun will also present “Spotlight on Black American Cinema 1971-1991,” which will include screenings of such pivotal films as Gordon Parks’ 1971 version of Shaft (“can you dig it?”), Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986), John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood (1991), Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1979) and Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle (1987), among others. Burnett and Townsend will be attending the festival and participating in the “Spotlight Conversation” panel discussion on April 20. !


The 17th annual RiverRun International Film Festival will take place April 16-26 at venues throughout Winston-Salem. For more information, call 336.724.1502. For advance tickets, a complete schedule of events, or additional information, visit the official website: website is updated on a regular basis.)