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    Rhode Island festival could play big part in getting short films Oscar nods

    A scene from Julius Ramsay’s “Midnighters,” which will screen at the Rhode Island International Film Festival
    A scene from Julius Ramsay’s “Midnighters,” which will screen at the Rhode Island International Film Festival

    It’s not surprising that a slate of short films kicks off the 21st edition of Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival on Aug. 8 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. The festival is a qualifying event in all three short film categories for the Academy Awards, one of only six film festivals worldwide with that distinction. (Nine films that previously screened at RIIFF won Oscars, and another 40 were nominated.)

    The many notable shorts being showcased this year include the directing debut from actress Karen Allen, who will participate in a discussion following the Aug. 10 screening of her 30-minute film “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” Based on the short story by Carson McCullers, it’s about an old man and a boy who meet by chance at a roadside cafe. “The Flying Electric” (Aug. 12) is directed by Providence-based filmmaker Laura Colella (whose credits include the 2013 feature “Breakfast With Curtis”) and set in an old boarding house where a pair of young lovers are interrupted by a string of familial strangers. Canadian filmmaker Yan England, whose 2012 short film “Henry” screened at RIIFF and went on to be nominated for an Oscar, is back with his feature debut, “1:54” (Aug. 12), starring Antoine Olivier Pilon (“Mommy”) as a gay high schooler who confronts a band of bullies.

    Running through Aug. 13, mostly in Providence with a few screenings at other Rhode Island venues, the festival also offers filmmaking workshops, discussions, parties, and a wide selection of documentaries and scripted features. Among those features is the world premiere of “Entanglement” (Aug. 10), a family/relationship drama from Canadian director Jason James starring Thomas Middleditch and Jess Weixler as strangers whose lives unexpectedly entwine. “Midnighters” (Aug. 11), shot in the Rhode Island towns of Exeter and West Greenwich, is the feature debut from Julius Ramsay, an editor and director of “The Walking Dead.”

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    It’s a thriller set in the backwoods of New England about a couple whose marriage is tested when they try to cover up a crime.

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    Rhode Island native Paddy Quinn directed “High Low Forty” (Aug. 12), about a pair of long-estranged brothers who reconnect along a road trip home to visit their father on his deathbed. Richard Schenkman’s sci-fi “The Man From Earth: Holocene” (Aug. 12), about 14,000-year-old John Oldman (David Lee Smith), is a sequel to his “The Man From Earth,” which won multiple RIIFF awards in 2007.

    For more information go to www.film-festival.org.

    Island discoveries

    Another notable out-of-town event, the 15th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival presented by Run & Shoot Filmworks, runs Aug. 7-12 at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center.

    Two timely new features will screen Aug. 7: Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit,” about the 1967 riots in that city and the deaths of three black men at the Algiers Motel there, and Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights,” about a man who is wrongfully convicted of murder and his best friend’s efforts to prove his innocence. The festival also presents an early screening of the highly anticipated “Marshall” (Aug. 8), starring Chadwick Boseman as a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American US Supreme Court justice. The MVAAFF’s signature moderated event, “The Color of Conversation,” will follow with director Reginald Hudlin.

    Director Spike Lee closes the festival on Aug. 12 with a preview of his original Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” a contemporary update of his 1986 debut feature film.

    For more information go to www.mvaaff.com.

    Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.