Film Preview: Rochester International Film Festival | Movie previews


With more and more media competing for our collective attentions, it seems shocking that mainstream feature film directors have yet to learn the value of slim runtime (just watch the recent “Avengers : Endgame “, which recorded a whopping three hours).

Perhaps that’s why the Rochester International Film Festival – also known by its unofficial title “Films on a Shoestring” – has remained so popular for so long. Celebrating the art of the short film, RIFF presents a program of films that contain as much intrigue, character and visual interest as a traditional feature film in just a fraction of the time. And every year the filmmakers behind these cinematic appetizers show Hollywood how it’s made.

Entering its 61st year this week, RIFF will present four distinct short film programs over the course of three days (May 9-11) at the Dryden Theater. In addition to the films themselves, a number of international filmmakers from the festival will be on hand to participate in post-screening question-and-answer sessions. Entrance to the festival is free, but donations are accepted.

The following is a preview of some of the films in this year’s lineup. For more information on the festival and a full film lineup, visit

Thursday May 9 8 p.m.

Yasmin Mistry “For a better life” uses lively animation to introduce audiences to the life of a brave young man named Fekri, born into a poor family in Tunisia and sold for $ 100 at the age of five. The hope was that he would find a better life; instead, he suffered years of abuse from his adoptive mother. But he survived, eventually finding the hope and support he needed through the foster care system.

“Moved to levels” comes from director Avery Herzog, and mixes live action footage with animation to tell the whimsical story of a wedding cake couple who set out to search for their own happy ending.

From the Kyrgyz Republic, “Tash Kømyr” follows two boys who dream of escaping their dire situation by selling charcoal harvested from a nearby mine. Director Evgenii Chistyakov balances this relentlessly dark narrative with beautifully austere cinematography.

The inspiring, locally produced documentary “Why are we pushing? “ by Nathan Sengillo, takes a look at Rochester’s tight-knit skate community and the still unfulfilled dream of Roc City Skatepark.

In the bittersweet of Indian filmmaker Rahoul Daswani “To remember me from here,” an old 8mm camera offers a chance for a young man to bring back memories of loved ones he has lost.

Friday May 10, 8 p.m.

Jhosimar Vasquez’s crime thriller “The Tale of the Scorpion” uses the classic fable of “Scorpion and the Frog” to weave an opera tale of murder, greed and revenge.

The stunning “Double exposure”
packs a big bang in under four minutes. Filmmaker Julie Buck uses the inadvertently layered images of Super 8 family films shot by her grandfather to contemplate the image these films paint of his family and what parts of their stories are left out of the frame.

Plunged into the difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship, the German stop motion animation by Nathalie Lamb “He she” focuses on a couple in love, but who find themselves separated. Through a phone call, they conjure up a rich fantasy in which they could be together.

Seasoned ice fisherman gets over his head on his latest excursion into dark and fun Lewis Leon animation “The Man and the Fish.”

Saturday May 11 4 p.m.

In the convincing doc, “Martin Hill: cameraman”, Joanne Hock trains her camera on a man’s quest to preserve a bit of Hollywood history by bringing together the cameras that shot some of the most iconic films of the last century. In the process, she examines the value we place on preserving the past through Hill’s sincere desire to share her passion with the world.

Expression is the key to Adam Vincent Wright’s exuberant “Welcome to the ball”, who finds a creative young child working to make a connection with a deaf neighbor.

The mysterious “Diversion,”
by Spanish filmmaker Ana Maria Ferri, takes the familiar story of a young man struggling to come to terms with a recent breakup and gives it an enigmatic twist.

In the touching film, “To free,”
Returning filmmaker and choreographer Ben Hartley uses the medium of dance to tell the story of a young slave whose world opens up as he learns to read and write.

Saturday May 11 8 p.m.

Despite his close relationship with his grandfather, a young boy suffers a loss for the first time in the poignant “Ashes,”
by director Prashant Singh.

In 1965, in Sicily, a female volunteer clashes with the local Calabrian mafia when she tries to take over the business of her recently murdered husband in Brendan Young’s black and white crime drama, “The widow.”

Through detailed animation, the imaginative fantasy of Mark C. Smith “Two balloons” finds two lemurs on a solitary exploration trip, as they suddenly learn that some adventures are best taken together.


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