Movies

It’s time to put on shorts, and other things

Diversity is a key part of the Roxbury International Film Festival, which showcases narrative features, documentaries, and shorts — that latter group is too often overlooked, by the way. Here are a few programming highlights.

The 19th annual RIFF runs Thursday through July 1 at the Museum of Fine Arts. It boasts several strong programs of short films. Varying in genre, style, and subject matter, they’re showcased throughout the festival, with many of the filmmakers in attendance.

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Hakim Hill, a resident director at Salem State University and the co-executive director of HipStory Films, brings in his latest short, “Vitiligo,” on June 29 at 3 p.m. The film examines mental health in the black community and the importance of therapy in its story about a doctoral student who suffers a traumatic event that causes a psychotic break.

Boston native Anike Tourse’s directing debut “America; I Too” (June 30, 5:30 p.m.) stars Barkhad Abdi, an Oscar nominee for “Captain Phillips,” and features music from Grammy winners Quetzal. Based on factual testimonies, the short film is about three arrested immigrants who navigate the justice system as they attempt to prevent their deportation.

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Also screening in the June 30 shorts program is Holliston filmmaker Raouf Zaki’s “Fireflies,” about a withdrawn Middle Eastern man named Marwan (Essam Ferris) who frequents a Boston café. Flashbacks to his experiences in Aleppo, Syria contrast with Marwan’s interactions with the café’s head waiter and its other patrons, who view him with suspicion.

Directors Ralph Celestin and Siskeith Walker will engage in a post-screening discussion of their new independent feature film “Boston2Philly” (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.). It’s a coming-of-age drama that chronicles the struggles of Rome “Boston” Williams (Celestin), who wrestles with his identity and his inability to form real relationships when he leaves Boston for a new life in Philadelphia after a tragic accident takes the lives of his family.

Writer-director Greg Carter’s feature “My B.F.F.” (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) is a coming-of-age comedy about childhood friends Marni, who is white, and Gemma, who is black. When both apply to a magnet school for the arts, Gemma is accepted but, due to a mistake, Marni doesn’t get in. When her friend convinces her to do something drastic, the pair learn important lessons about race, identity, politics, and friendship.

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Among the documentaries, highlights include “Body and Soul: An American Bridge.” Robert Philipson’s film (Thursday, 5 p.m.) examines the relationships between African Americans and American Jews by undertaking a close study of Johnny Green’s 1930s classic composition of the title, which is one of the most recorded songs in the jazz repertoire. It screens with a performance of the song by singer Andrea Lyman and a Q & A with the filmmaker.

Following that screening, at 8 p.m., is another documentary about a musical icon — Bobby J. Brown’s “Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic,” which examines the dynamics, artistry, history, and cultural impact of the dance-party funk band whose exuberant costumes matched the exhilaration of their music. It follows their rise from doo wop roots to their memorable Mothership Connection tour and their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Grady Thomas, of the original Parliament, and Shirley Hayden, of Parlet, will be on hand for the screening.

For more information go to www.roxburyinternationalfilmfestival.com.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net. Peter Keough is at petervkeough@gmail.com.
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