Double Down South by Tom Schulman
Double Down South by Tom Schulman (© Double Down South Film)

Under the theme “Togetherness,” the 12th annual Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF) takes place September 26 – October 1, 2023, showcasing 195 award-winning film premieres from the U.S. and 20 countries – from Spain to Israel, Germany to Japan – plus 30 national and international bands, the first annual Global Visionary Summit Cinema & Panel Series, signature community events, and the red carpet at various venues across Richmond.

Kicking off the 2023 festival is the narrative drama, Double Down South written & directed by Academy Award winner, Tom Schulman (Dead Poet’s Society, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Me, Myself & Irene, What About Bob) and produced by Emmy Award winner, Rick Wallace (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser MD, The Closer).

Tom Schulman is this year’s RIFF Legacy Award recipient. He will be present to receive the award immediately following the film’s screening, Tuesday, September 26 at 7:15pm at the Byrd Theatre. The film stars Kim Coates (Godless, Sons of Anarchy, Bad Blood), Lili Simmons (Banshee, Power Book IV), Igby Rigney (The Midnight Club, Midnight Mass), and Justin Marcel McManus (Power Book II: Ghost, Forty Winks). Opening night will feature several special guests along with a Q & A to follow the premiere. This red carpeted event is open to the general public.

Other film highlights include the premiere of local film, Stonebreakers followed by The Business Of Birth Control with special guests Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. The festival will also host the premiere of the narrative feature, Asian Persuasian with Special Guests Jhett Tolentino (Director) and Mike Ang (Producer); and Glue Trap directed by Justin Geldzahler who along with the team, returns to the hometown of Richmond for the premiere of the film.

Other notable feature docs include 2020 Chaos And Hope, an immersive journey through the unprecedented year of 2020, this film captures the profound moments that defined it, leaving us pondering the path forward and our role in shaping it, directed by June Baellor; Bad Things Happen In Philadelphia, a documentary feature exploring the harsh reality of gun violence in Philadelphia by following the lives of three individuals who find resilience and hope through basketball, showcasing their transformative journeys amidst a city plagued by escalating violence, while community leaders strive to save lives and prevent further tragedies, directed by Kyra Knox; Untreated & Unheard: The Addiction Crisis In America, this film sheds light on the devastating impact of substance use disorder through the experiences of affected families and dedicated experts. From profound loss and frustration to unwavering hope, it calls for improved access to treatment and a collective effort to tackle America’s most urgent public health crisis, directed by Laura Casey, Spencer Parker; Not On This Land, this film chronicles the determined journey of citizen activists for over six years, as they rally together to defeat the destructive 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, inspiring and empowering others engaged in safeguarding their environments from hazardous infrastructure projects, directed by Christopher Landry; and Called To The Mountains, a captivating documentary that chronicles the journey of Bluegrass 45, a pioneering Japanese bluegrass band formed in the 1960s, directed by Josh Goleman, Robert H. Dyar Jr.

In the International narrative program, the festival will feature a large block of shorts and feature films including Elisabeth (France) directed by Caroline Tillette, Ibiza Blue (Spain) directed by Jesus Lloveras, Rupture (Austria) directed by Paul Ertl, There’s No Place Like Home (Denmark) directed by Puk Grasten, Women Of Valor (Israel) directed by Anna Somershaf, 5 Seasons – A Journey (Germany) directed by Katja Sallay, Indelible Memories (Japan) directed by Shin Sonoda, Reset (Sweden) directed by Jesper Wachtmeister, and many others.

Also in the lineup are several award-winning shorts including Yogurt Raisin directed by Michael Cooke and starring Ron Fallica, Q Parker, Miguel A Lopez, Trivon Howard; Beyond Homelessness: Finding Hope, directed by Sean Schiavolin. This documentary short highlights the urgent issue of homelessness in American cities, contrasting the dire conditions in San Francisco with the successful community-based solution of Haven for Hope in San Antonio, TX; Shakespeare For All Ages, an animated short written and directed by Hannes Rall and animated by Siew May Khoo Jay Septimo, which showcases the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s works through a visually stunning depiction of his iconic plays, seamlessly blending individual images into a dynamic and coherent narrative; Puncher’s Chance, written and directed by Garland Scott, this narrative short is about a struggling single father and former Boxer who reluctantly takes a match on short notice.

Featured in the local spotlight are several this year including Busker Jones follows a deaf, homeless street performer learns that he deserves love, written and directed by Colton Johnson, a recent graduate from VCUarts Cinema and a current freelancer based in Richmond, Virginia; the documentary short, The Vegetable Connection explores how blockchain technology is transforming the way African indigenous vegetables get from farm to table in rural Kenya, directed by Bethany Teague, an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Blacksburg, Virginia; Tiger, a music video short made for Richmond’s local indie-electronic project, Ionna. Ionna must seduce the Tiger moon god with her coven of pagan witches and steal his power, directed by Christian Detres.

As part of this year’s international focus, the festival has expanded its FLOW Collective Conference to include a new Global Visionary Summit Cinema and Panel Series that includes thought leader roundtables, think tanks, panels, and themed focused exhibitions utilizing the arts and conversation as a platform to exchange ideas around shared goals.

In addition to local and U.S. participation, several embassies will participate in festival week. At the Summit, a range of global roundtable focuses will include: Building a Sustainable World Environment; Empowering Women in Cinema & Global Leadership; Diversity and Equity in a Global World; and Technology, Ideation & Innovation. Special focused cinema spotlights and panels with art exhibits to precede and run throughout the day. A lunch mixer will take place at 12:30pm hosted by the Embassy of Israel. The main day of the Global Visionary Summit will take place at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture on Sunday, Oct 1.

Other events during festival week include this year’s expanded live music showcases at the Vagabond, NY Deli Rooftop, In Your Ear Studios, and in conjunction with our collaborators at the first annual HeartStrings fest, a special all day bash of live music with the Licks, Flicks, and Love with RIFF & HeartStrings – this will take place Friday, Sep 29 at Hardywood Downtown and feature more than 15 live music acts on indoor and outdoor stages plus films, a tattoo, yoga and drum station, and more.

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