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Mending Walls directed by Pam Hervey and Tod Hervey.
Mending Walls directed by Pam Hervey and Tod Hervey.

Under the theme “This is Richmond,” the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF) celebrates its special 10th Year Anniversary edition with more than 150 award-winning films from 20 countries from Monday, September 7th to Sunday, September 12th.

For the first time in RIFF’s ten-year history, opening night will headline three Virginia centric films. First on the slate is The Good Road, directed and written by Andrew Duensing. Recently nominated for a Daytime Emmy, this doc series focuses on reflecting the good road that every day people around the world venture through despite some of today’s pressing global challenges. Premiering at the festival will be the first episode of the second season of the series, which is Richmond focused as it traces the history of the city through the Hidden in Plain Site virtual reality lens and how Monument Avenue and the city became a focus of international attention after the killing of George Floyd considering the city was the former Capital of the Confederacy. The feature also highlights Valerie Oliver from the VMFA and many others who endeavor the good road throughout the capital of Virginia.

Paired with the Good Road is the Virginia doc feature, Mending Walls, directed by Pam Hervey and Tod Hervey. The film follows popular artist, Hamilton Glass, as he challenges over 30 artists with different cultural backgrounds to collaborate on 16 different murals throughout the city of Richmond. This project also features many notable leaders in the community who are challenging new collaborations and innovative thinking put into action throughout the city. Both opening films are Richmond-produced beacons for a unified, vibrant future and will include special feature events later in the week at RIFF’s “Breaking Bread” signature event. The opening night takes place Tuesday, September 7th at the historic Byrd Theatre.

Closing out opening night is the Virginia production narrative feature, Welcome to the Show, which is on a clear path to becoming a university cult classic. The film was written by actress and VCU professor, Dorie Barton for her university students and it completed post during the pandemic. Filmed in Richmond, an invitation to a mysterious theatre piece, “The Show,” sends four best friends down a mind-bending rabbit hole of mistrust and madness as they try to figure out who are the actors, who is the audience, who is doing this to them, and why. Not only does the film capture its viewers’ hearts and keep them on the edge of their seats, but also beautifully showcases the city of Richmond. This is also Dorie Barton’s directorial debut. A special who dun it game will be featured within the screening of the film and include participation from the audience.

Also in the feature spotlight is The Rumba Kings, a documentary feature that celebrates the epic freedom quest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an African nation that fought colonial oppression, found freedom. and forged a new identity through music. Directed by Alan Brain, the film spotlights how music can bring people together and be a tool for social justice and a mechanism of celebrating culture and diversity in the midst of great change. Following the Saturday afternoon premiere, it will also be a part of the community wide Breaking Bread event and include a live Rumba music performance, Hamilton Glass’ live mural art and soul food featuring an international flair. The festivities take place Saturday, September 11 at Tilt Creative + Production.

The 2021 Closing Night film on Sunday, September 12th is One Moment, a narrative feature starring Danny Aielo which was his last starring role in a feature before his recent passing. The film follows the story of middle-aged siblings who struggle to manage their own lives while also caring for their recently aging father. This film, directed by Dierdre O’Conner, warms the hearts of its viewers and will include special guests.

A few other notable films include:

Behind the Strings directed by Hal Rifken. This feature has strong Virginia and University of Richmond ties as it shares the journey of the Shanghai Quartet. When Mao’s Cultural Revolution ended, China’s door cracked open. Four young, classically trained musicians seized the opportunity to flee to the West. They’ve performed for 36 years in the U.S. and around the world. Behind the Strings tells how they got there, and the price they pay to stay on top. And, why China is now inviting them back to perform the music that was previously banned.

Petersburg Rising, a documentary that anchors its belief that after the anger and protest of racial inequality and social justice, the road to recovery starts with education. Director Alan Blankstein follows three compelling students in this story and paints a picture of how providing resources to all can positively change the world. Special guests will be present along with an extended Q and A to follow the premiere.

Bloom (China), a narrative feature about the inner world of a young man who ponders the longing, growth, and memory of his life. Through incredible cinematography and transcendent plot, Xuan Liu executes his first attempt at directing a film in this engaging feature.

Georgia (Republic of Korea), a narrative short directed by Jayil Pak, follows two computer-illiterate parents as they design a protest banner after the police refuse to investigate their daughter’s alleged suicide. Based on a true story, this film will inspire its viewers and beautifully portray the love of a parent.

Pulse (Ukraine), a narrative feature directed by Sergii Chebotarenko, tells the story of a young Ukrainian field athlete who lives in a small town with big dreams of making it to the Olympics. Her career is on the rise until she experiences severe injuries after a car accident. Although it seems impossible, she doesn’t give up on her dream.

An animated short, Kapaemahu follows a Honolulu individual who is both male and female in mind, body, and spirit. Directed by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and animated by Daniel Sousa, this film visually captures a beautiful story.

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