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Rhode Island Film Fest: Next stop, another Oscar?

Garrick Hamm’s “Retrospective” stars Charles Dance as a war photographer. The film screens Aug. 8 at 9 p.m. as part of  the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
The Rhode Island International Film Festival
Garrick Hamm’s “Retrospective” stars Charles Dance as a war photographer. The film screens Aug. 8 at 9 p.m. as part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Can the Rhode Island International Film Festival duplicate the success it had in 2013, when three short films that premiered there went on to earn Oscar nominations and one, “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” took home the award?

RIIFF, a.k.a. “Flickers,” is one of just 19 film festivals worldwide (and the only one in New England) designated as a qualifying festival for the short film and short documentary Academy Awards. Now in its 18th year, the event, which also includes feature-length films, runs Aug. 5-10 in Providence and other locations, including Newport, Woonsocket, Jamestown, and Bristol.

A collection of 10 international short films kicks off the festival at 7 p.m. at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Besides the North American premieres of “Market Hours” and “Operation Barn Owl,” the opening program features the world premiere of “Caserta Palace Dream” featuring Richard Dreyfuss and directed by James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta”).


More than 240 feature-length documentary and short films from 62 countries will be screened during the six-day event. The lineup includes two new shorts from New Hampshire filmmaker Alfred Thomas Catalfo, who was last year’s grand prize winner of the RIIFF Screenplay Competition. The winner of this year’s screenplay competition is “Growing Things,” written by Jenna Sullivan and Quentin James of Marshfield.

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Catalfo returns with “Slam Man,” a faux infomercial about a boxing robot that screens Aug. 8 at 12:15 p.m. at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. His animated “Moonlight Bait and Ammo,” co-directed with Marc Dole and narrated by Maine humorist Tim Sample, screens Aug. 9 at 2:15 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium (The Vets).

Garrick Hamm’s “Retrospective” (Aug. 8 at 9 p.m., The Vets) stars Charles Dance as Jonathan Hoyle, a war photographer accosted in London just before a retrospective of his life’s work. Whether he survives the night will depend on what exactly he witnessed through his camera’s unflinching eye.

Among other local talent in this year’s RIIFF is Matt Tente, who grew up in South Kingstown, went to Rhode Island College, and volunteered at RIIFF during his time there. Now based in LA, he’s working as an assistant to director Scott Cooper on the big-screen version of “Black Mass.” Tente’s short film “Welcome to the Building,” about an innocent crush and online infatuation that take a dark and dangerous turn, screens Aug. 9 at 8:30 p.m. at the Bell Street Chapel in Providence.

Notable features include Pourya Azarbayjani’s “Everything Is Fine Here” (Aug. 7 at
7 p.m., RISD) about two old lovers in Iran who reunite after 20 years. “The Newport Effect” (Aug. 9 at 2 p.m., Jane Pickens Theater, Newport) documents the history of the legendary Newport Folk Festival, including the infamous moment when Bob Dylan “went electric” in 1965. Daniel Junge’s documentary “Fight Church” (Aug. 8 at 12:15 p.m., RISD) is about a bizarre blend of Christianity and mixed martial arts at the center of ministries that train fighters.


And Jeff Toste’s “The Original Food Truck: Haven Brothers Legacy of the American Diner” (Aug. 10 at 4:45 p.m.) tells the story of Providence’s beloved late-night lunch cart, said to be the oldest operating diner on wheels.

Under the RIIFF umbrella is the 15th annual Providence LGBTQ Film Festival, offering a slate of 40 shorts and three features, including the world premiere of “TransJourney” (Aug. 9 at 7 p.m., RISD), a documentary by Alexia Kosmider, a senior lecturer at RISD. Co-directed by Blue Wade, “TransJourney” tells the intertwined stories of three women, two of whom are transgender.

The RIIFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Theodore Bikel, the Austrian-American actor, folk singer, musician, composer, and activist who made his film debut in “The African Queen” (1951) and was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role as Sheriff Max Muller in “The Defiant Ones” (1958). Bikel performs in the musical documentary “Journey 4 Artists,” which has its world premiere on Aug. 10 at 2:30 p.m. at RISD.

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Comic Con screenings

RIIFF filmmaker Alfred Thomas Catalfo will have a busy weekend, as three of his shorts (“Bighorn,” “Slam Man,” and “Moonlight Bait and Ammo”) are also playing in the Boston Comic Con (BCC) running Aug. 8-10 at the Seaport World Trade Center. The BCC Film Festival takes place during the entire three-day event and showcases shorts, new features, and B-movie classics such as “Tales From the Crypt” (1972), starring Joan Collins and Peter Cushing and directed by Freddie Francis, and Ed Wood’s infamous “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959), with Bela Lugosi, Vampira, and Tor Johnson.

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Loren King can be reached at