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Scene Here | Local Films, Festivals, and Faces

Scene Here: Festivals to the south — in Rhode Island and on the Vineyard

Clarence Avant in “The Black Godfather,” the opening night film at the Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival.
Clarence Avant in “The Black Godfather,” the opening night film at the Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival.(Courtesy Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival)

Short is sweet for Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, which celebrates its 23rd year Aug. 6-11. RIIFF is a qualifying festival for the live action, documentary, and animation short categories for the Academy Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and Canadian Screen Awards. Just 10 festivals worldwide share that distinction. Chris Overton’s Oscar-winning short film, “The Silent Child,” had its world premiere two years ago at RIIFF, where it won the festival’s grand prize. That was the first in a string of honors leading up to its Oscar win. RIIFF offers many shorts packages organized by theme and style, with the festival screening a total of 317 films, short and feature length, from 51 countries, at venues in and around Providence.

A lineup of seven short films kicks off RIIFF’s opening ceremony, Aug. 6, 7 p.m., at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, a.k.a. The Vets. These include Eusong Lee’s animated “My Moon”; Belgian director Delphine Girard’s thriller “A Sister”; “The Christmas Gift,” from Bogdan Muresanu, of Romania; Will Kindrick’s “Storm”; the Martinique-set “Stand Up,” from Pierre Le Gall and Sarah Malléon; and “Ayaneh,” directed by Switzerland’s Nicolas Greinacher, who won RIIFF’s 2013 Directorial Discovery Award for his first short film.

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Other notable shorts include “The Neighbors’ Window” (Aug. 8, Rhode Island School of Design), from three-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry; and “Incandescent” (Aug. 10, The Vets), from New Hampshire’s Alfred Thomas Catalfo. His 2016 film “Split Ticket” won the Director’s Award Grand Prize at the 20th RIIFF.

Several documentaries boast local ties. “The Craft: Rhode Island” (Aug. 10, RISD), directed by David Ricci, follows the booming Rhode Island craft beer scene. Salvatore Mancini looks at the state’s capital and largest city in “Divine Providence: The Rebirth of an American City” (Aug. 11, RISD). Harry Charalambos Mavromichalis’s “Olympia” (Aug. 11, RISD) traces the life and career of Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, cousin of former Massachusetts governor and 1988 presidential nominee Michael Dukakis.

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Scripted features include Rachel Wortell’s “Romance Analyst” (Aug. 7, AS220 galleries), about a depressed filmmaker’s infatuation with her therapist. It screens with Rhode Island College graduate Steven Luna’s short “To Be Heard,” about a Latino poet at a crossroads. Nick Frangione’s coming-of-age drama, “Buck Run” (Aug. 7, The Vets), is set in rural Pennsylvania. And Polish director Piotr Subbotko’s “A Hole in the Head” (Aug. 8, The Vets) is about an actor who returns to his hometown and encounters his mysterious double.

Go to www.rifilmfest.org.

Vineyard voices

This year, the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival also is an Oscar-qualifying festival in the short film categories. The 17th annual MVAAFF, presented by Run & Shoot Filmworks, runs Aug. 5-10 with, 70 fiction and nonfiction features and short films screening at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. Director Reginald Hudlin and producer Nicole Avant will be on hand for a discussion after the 7 p.m. screening of the opening night film, “The Black Godfather,” which documents the colorful career of trailblazing music executive Clarence Avant.

“Black Panther” star Michael B. Jordan joins author Bryan Stevenson for a conversation including clips from their upcoming drama, “Just Mercy” (Aug. 8, 5:30 p.m.), based on Stevenson’s best-selling book of the same title. Jordan plays Stevenson, who after graduating from Harvard heads for Alabama to work as a public defender. At the urging of local advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Stevenson takes the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who, despite a lack of evidence, spent six years on death row for the 1986 murder of an 18-year-old white woman.

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Spike Lee, who screened his Oscar-winning “BlacKkKlansman” at the MVAAFF last year, returns as the closing night guest of honor, presenting music and film clips from his many Spike Lee Joint productions.

Go to www.mvaaff.com.