“Film is, to me, just unimportant. But people are very important.’ - John Cassavetes
As the 11th annual Riverside Saginaw Film Festival commences its second season of delivering the cream of the crop from contemporary films released in the past year that have all received top accolades from both critics and festivals across the country where they have premiered, the dynamic range of dramatic narratives, documentaries, comedic and foreign films that will be showcased from November 9-12th is an illuminating excursion into both the pitfalls and possibilities that populate the human spirit.
With 20 features films and 6 documentaries that will be shown on six screens at five locations, 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.”
“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.”
“Subjects can range from feminism to movies that simply exist for fun; but for the most part, these are ‘thinking’ people’s films. And a majority of the films we select have been nominated, or are winners in other film festivals, which is one of the things we look at when making our selections.”
Notable & Noteworthy
The Riverside Saginaw Film Festival was established in 2007 as part of a grassroots effort to bring interesting, entertaining and thought- provoking contemporary movies to the Saginaw area; with other goals focused upon bringing an economic boost to the central city area, supporting local venues and non-profit groups, and showcasing emerging filmmakers – all of which they have admirably achieved over their 11-year run.
Opening this year’s festival on Thursday, November 9th at Pit & Balcony is Maudie, a Canadian and Irish production based upon a true story about an unlikely romance between a reclusive fishmonger and an arthritic Nova Scoatian folk artist he hires as his housekeeper.
“This is a narrative film based on a real person and is about a woman with some physical limitation that is thought of as slow in her community and is kind of a pitiful thing, and the relationship between the man that takes her in and marries her,” explains Irene. “It’s not a documentary but a Biopic and the tone is set by beautiful cinematography to frame this emerging relationship between these two kinds of misfits; and how he encourages her to pursue her art.”
Patrons are encouraged to arrive at Pit & Balcony at 6:15 PM to sample some fine Nova Scotian-inspired food and from 6:30 – 7:00 PM can enjoy easy-listening piano and guitar music played by Saginaw native Curtis McLeod prior to the screening.
Another notable screening will be that of Colossal, which will also show at Pit & Balcony at 8 PM on Friday, November 10th. This Canadian Science-Fiction ‘Black’ Comedy focus upon an out-of-work party girl (Anne Hathaway) who is forced to leave her life in New York and move back home. When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this far-off phenomenon.
Speaking at this 8 PM showing is David Baxter, head of content development at Legion M, which invested in the promotion and distribution of Colossal. He is also a screenwriter and producer, a native of Detroit, and attended the University of Michigan.
Two notable biopics that will be shown at this year’s festival are A Quiet Passion, which is a British film starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson – showcasing the wit and intellectual independence of this reclusive American poet whose genius became recognized only after her death. Acclaimed British director Terence Davies wrote the script; and this film is being sponsored by Janet Martineau.
Meanwhile, Rebel in the Rye is a USA biography about the legendary and reclusive author J.D. Salinger, detailing his relationship with socialite Oona ONeill, his experiences fighting in World War II, and his writing process for The Catcher in the Rye. Saginaw native Brian D’Arcy James is cast (briefly) as editor Robert Giroux. This film is being sponsored by Diane & Floyd Kloc.
With Eagle Huntress, this Mongolian film centers around a 13-year old girl who trains to become the first female in 12 generations of her family to become an eagle hunter – rising to the pinnacle of a tradition handed down from father to son for centuries. Also framed with breathtaking cinematography, this film received 19 nominations and eight wins at film festivals and critic lists; and is sponsored by Judy & Jordan Johnson and Kimberly White.
While Frances Ford Coppola is truly a legendary filmmaker, with his daughter Sophia also turning in notable works such as Lost in Translation, now Eleanor Coppola (wife of Frances) makes her own writing and directorial foray with Paris Can Wait, a romantic drama starring Diane Lane has a woman married to a successful but inattentive movie producer (Alex Baldwin), who is a workaholic finally taking his wife on a trip to Paris, only to get called away. Consequently, he asks his assistant to drive her to Paris, who turns out to be this lovely French man, and the pair have experience some adventures on the way to the City of Romance.
The historical drama Land of Mine is inspired by real events and tells the story of an estimated 2,000 World War II German prisoners of war, many of them teenagers, that were sent to clear 45,000 coastal land mines in postwar Denmark. Nearly half were killed or lost limbs to explosions. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2017 Academy Awards and winner of 26 awards at film festivals worldwide, this film inspires some powerful ethical questions.
Venues & Passes
Single ticket pricing for the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival is only $6.00; and you can get a Pre-Festival Pass to all films for only $40. Passes during the festival are $45 and entitles the holder to enter all films. Moreover, people with festival passes can also obtain special discounts from 15 restaurants in Saginaw that are aligning and pledging their support to the festival.
For last-minute information on any movie or schedule changes, refer to the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival Facebook Page, as their website at riversidesaginawfilmfestival.org is currently undergoing a facelift. You can also phone 989-607-1070 for more information.
Venues showing films consist of: Pit & Balcony Community Theatre, 805 N. Hamilton St; The Saginaw Club, 219 N. Washington Ave (2 screens); Castle Museum 500 Federal Ave.; Hoyt Library, 505 Janes Ave., and First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson Ave.