RiverRun 2016 launches in Winston-Salem

by Mark Burger

The RiverRun International FilmFestival in Winston-Salem will screen 166 films in 2016, consisting of 76features and 90 shorts, encompassing 44 countries.

According to RiverRun programmanager and interim director Mary Dossinger, there were more than 1550submissions to this year’s festival – 200 more than last year, setting a newrecord.

Speaking at the NC FilmmakersPress Luncheon Monday morning, following a morning screening of the 2016RiverRun clip reel and prior to screening director Daniel Spiller’s documentaryshort Winston’s Ghost, (one of several shorts filmed in the TarheelState, this one in Winston-Salem), Dossinger said she and the RiverRun team are”thrilled by the incredible wealth of films we had from North Carolina. We’ve kind of coveredthe festival with North Carolina filmmakers this year.”

In the evening, the officiallaunch party was held at Hanesbrands Theatre in downtown Winston-Salem, wherethe clip reel was again screened following remarks made by Tonya Deem, thechair of RiverRun’s board of directors; Winston-Salem’s mayor, Allen Joines;Jim Sparrow, executive director of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/ForsythCounty; and Dossinger.

All lauded the ongoing efforts ofstaff, volunteers, sponsors and donors. “It takes a lot of work,” Deem said,”and they have stepped up in new ways and taken on new responsibilities. To saythe least, we would not be here were it not for them.”

Joines and Sparrow both spokeabout the economic impact of the festival and how it has brought new attentionto the City of Arts and Innovation.

The launch party also marked thelast official act for the outgoing executive director, Andrew Rodgers, who isleaving to become executive director of the Denver Film Society. Before thelaunch party, he said that he’d be driving to Colorado – with dog Harper in tow– the day after the party, with wife Iana and their two daughters to followlater in the spring.

Will he be hitting the slopes assoon as he arrives?

“Yeah,” he laughed. “The dog and Iare going skiing! As soon as we get there, we’re hitting the slopes rightaway!”

Regarding Rodgers, Joines notedthat “it’s a little bit of a bittersweet time. Andrew helped teach the city howto appreciative movies and the art of moviemaking, and the impact of thisfestival.”

Rodgers, making his final publicappearance as executive director, was presented with a framed logo of the festivalsigned by staff members and an award of his own. He gratefully offered histhanks to the staff, volunteers, sponsors and donors. “You all made the jobeasy.”

Mark Burger and Andrew Rodgers.

The festival will open April 7with two opening night films: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the new comedyfrom director Taiki Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), starring SamNeill and Julian Dennison; and the self-explanatory documentary feature NormanLear: Just Another Version of You, directed by Oscar nominees Rachel Garleyand Heidi Ewing, who received the Emerging Master award at last year’sfestival.

The centerpiece screening,sponsored by Wake Forest University, is the documentary Maya Angelou: AndNow I Rise, directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack. “She had such aremarkable life,” Dossinger said of Angelou, who died in 2014, “and this filmcaptures every little bit of it.”

The closing-night film is WhitStillman’s Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship, which reunitesKate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny from his 1998 comedy The Last Days ofDisco.

Although Dale Pollock, RiverRunEmeritus Board Member, was visiting his daughter and son-in-law in Toronto andunable to attend the launch party, he shared his thoughts beforehand: “I don’tthink there’s going to be any reduction in professionalism with Andrewleaving,” he said. “We have a fantastic staff, and RiverRun’s going to bebetter than ever.”

Want to go ..?

The 18th annualRiverRun International Film Festival runs April 7-17, 2016 at venues throughoutWinston-Salem. For a complete schedule of events and screenings, advance ticketand ticket-package purchases, or for more information, call 336.721.1945 orvisit the official (and often-updated) RiverRun website: