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Mike C. Manning and René Mena in Prescience directed by James Helsing
Prescience directed by James Helsing

The 2019 Richmond International Film & Music Festival (RIFF) brings more than 150 cutting edge award-winning film premiers from 30 countries, plus up to 40 bands, panels, and daily events at various venues across Richmond. The festival kicks off Tuesday, April 23rd and concludes Sunday, April 28th.

Opening up the festival is Prescience, a narrative feature starring Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, Runaway Train (Oscar nominee), Star 80, It’s My Party) and Linda Gray (Dallas (Emmy nominee), Models Inc., Hilton Head Island) and directed by James Helsing. A criminal attorney struggles with his sexuality, a cryptic new boyfriend, unemployment and the disturbing childhood secrets his parents hold.

Also on opening night is a narrative feature shot in Virginia starring pop star Phoebe Ryan, known for chart topping hit songs with The Chainsmokers and Tove Lo, stars in her debut acting role as Dakota. Jake Etheridge from the TV show Nashville joins as her co-star in this comedy about friendship, love, music, and where boundaries blur.

Other notable films include:

AMERICAN MIRROR INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY: Documentary feature starring Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louis, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, A Bad Moms Christmas) and Armenian painter, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan & directed by Arthur Balder. The documentary expands the ordinary perception of time and beauty while exploring the unconscious.

BEER JESUS OF AMERICA: Documentary feature starring craft brew icon, Greg Koch and directed by Matt Sweetwood. Risking millions on a dream to become the first American to build, own and operate a craft beer brewery in Europe, Greg Koch may be making the biggest mistake of his life. One of America’s most successful craft brewers, the so-called Beer Jesus has spent years working on an ambitious project in a sleepy corner of Berlin.

BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTES: Documentary Feature that explores the unique vision behind the iconic jazz record label. Through rare archival footage, current recording sessions and conversations with Blue Note artists, the film reveals a powerful mission and illuminates the vital connections between jazz and hip hop. With Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Robert Glasper, Norah Jones, Don Was and many more. This premiers at the Byrd Theatre with a special panel to follow the premier with DJ Pari, legendary jazz/soul/funk musician Lonnie Liston Smith, and more.

DOMINION: Documentary feature narrated by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Gladiator), Sia (Grammy Award Winning artist), Rooney Mara (Lion, The Social Network), Sadle Sink (Stranger Things). Dominion uses drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture, questioning the morality and validity of humankind’s dominion over the animal kingdom.

SWEDISH SPOTLIGHT: THE TRAFFIC SEPERATING DEVICE, a comedic documentary short directed by J. Palmgrem. A traffic separating device is installed in the middle of Stockholm. It is supposed to keep normal cars away and only let buses pass. It turns into a disaster as normal cars continue to go there and hundreds of cars get destroyed every week. Tragic and funny situations occur and we follow the whole mess of human failures. HERON: FRAGRANCE OF VIOLENCE, an experimental short directed by Natalie Sutinen about a dollhouse filmed in the forests of Småland in Sweden and explores immigration and human struggle.

THIS IS LOVE: Documentary feature starring Rudy Love and the Love Family Band, George Clinton, Sinbad, Marsal Martin and Mick Fleetwood (also Executive Producer) & directed by John Alexander. You may not know Rudy Love’s name, but you will almost certainly know his voice. Mick Fleetwood, Sinbad, and George Clinton unveil an unsung hero of soul in this investigation of a singer who turned down fame to make music with his family. Just when it seems all his music is lost, it shows up on the other side of the world.

STAND DOWN: Film noir music video starring Billy Bob Thornton on the subject of PTSD with music by K.O. (personal support from Bob Dylan, Juval Aviv, and many more have helped spread his music to the masses. This will be featured in the music video spotlight at MadBox/Red Amp and the Military Spotlight at the Institute for Contemporary Art.

BOOK OF LOVE:A music video starring Asher Monroe (Sound of Music, Oliver and Prince in the Pauper, and award-winning singer-songwriter that started his own independent label with 3 top ten singles gracing the Billboard charts).

SPIDER MITES OF JESUS: THE DIRTWOMAN DOCUMENTARY. A Documentary Feature directed by Jerry Williams. When he was an infant, he suffered from the “Spider Mites of Jesus” (his mother couldn’t pronounce spinal meningitis). This caused mental challenges that resulted in his lifelong illiteracy. At 13, he began selling his body on the streets as a drag prostitute. When he was arrested, he took a dump in the back of the police car, leading the cops to give him the moniker: Dirtwoman. Since then he’s run for mayor, gotten kicked out of the inauguration of America’s first black governor (Douglas Wilder), posed for his own pin-up calendar (weighing in at 350 pounds), offered crabs from his crotch for a GWAR video and hosted the annual Hamaganza fundraiser that provided “Hams for the Hamless.”

SAINT JUDY: Narrative feature that tells the true story of Los Angeles immigration attorney Judy Wood, who single-handedly changed the United States Law of Asylum and saved countless lives in the process. Executive Produced by Alfred Molina and Stars Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible III and Fallout, Patriots Day, Gone Baby Gone), Common (Oscar/Grammy Award Winning Rapper and Singer-Songwriter), Alfre Woodard (Captain America, 12 Years a Slave), and Alfred Molina and more. A special panel discussion will follow the film to include the filmmakers.

THE BOOK OF CLARENCE: Documentary feature by Lee Breuer highlighting the celebrated theatre peice, Gospel at Colonus featuring Morgan Freeman and Clarence Fountain and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

PLAY: Narrative short from Poland starring Joanna Kulig (Ida, Cold War). A man consumed by guilt because he did not dare to defend his mother, he plays the role of a murderer and forces ten-year-old self to face trauma.

THE ROCKSTAR OF REAL ESTATE: Documentary feature on America’s number one real estate agent of all companies, Ken DeLeon, (Wall Street Journal), on how he achieved it and the personal family struggles he endured along the way. A special panel discussion will follow the premier and tie into the rising development of RVA.

Additional Virginia Spotlight Films

CHARLOTTESVILLE: OUR STREETS: Documentary feature. A collection of Alt-Right groups descend on a small college town to unite and protest removal of a Confederate monument, where they clash with protesters from the left and local citizens. Events turn violent. The story is told via eyewitness accounts and first-hand footage from dozens of cameras. A special panel discussion will follow the Richmond premier.

GIFT: Narrative feature directed by Virginia filmmaker Sunny Zhao. In this extraordinary tale of love, tragedy, and friendship, a mysterious piano connects two children from opposite sides of the world, leading them into a journey of a lifetime to pursue the truth and the love of music.

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