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Film festival comes to the plaza

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By Stephanie Holland

Opening nite (Stephanie Holland)

By Stephanie Holland

Every year, filmmakers from all genres bring their completed works to the Riverside Plaza for the Riverside International Film Festival.

The festival showcases shorts, features and documentaries from up and coming artists, as well as established pros.

It is also known for bringing a wide array of foreign films to a mainstream audience.

One of the best films of this year’s festival was the 2009 Oscar submission from Denmark, “To Verdener (Worlds Apart),” a film about a young woman’s quest to reconcile a new love with her faith.

While foreign films are always popular at the festival, this year seemed to be the year of the psychological thriller, with films like “Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee” and “Callous” premiering.

“Callous” is the story of a Native American, single father who must come to terms with his haunting childhood in order to have a future with his daughter.

“It’s about trying to get over the past and move on…it’s very dark, it’s somewhere along the lines of where “Sling Blade” might meet “The Pursuit of Happyness,” said the film’s director Joey Lanai.

In the shorts category, films ranged from the musical, gay comedy “Boy Crazy” to the vampire horror fest “Liminality.”

“Liminality” is the tale of a young Native American boy whose reservation is wiped out by vampires.

When he goes looking for his uncle, instead of a powerful vampire slayer, he finds an old drunk.

“There’s melting faces, stakes to the heart and whips…all in the span of 12 minutes,” the film’s director Migizi Pensoneau said.

The festival’s opening night gala on April 17 provided the filmmakers a fun atmosphere to get to know each other.

The event was held at the Riverside Plaza where guests mingled while guitar duo Sombra Quieta played in the background.

One of the high points of the gala is when a legendary actor is honored with the Riverside International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year’s honoree was film and television great William Devane, the star of “Knots Landing,” “24” and the opening night film, “The Least Among Us.”

During his acceptance speech Devane spoke about how he got his first major part, playing JFK in “The Missiles of October.”

Devane was originally cast as RFK, but when Hal Holbrook couldn’t play President Kennedy, he was given the part. He called it total luck.

Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to a screening of “The Least Among Us,” the story of a young black man who must join an all white seminary following the 1965 Watts riots.

Devane plays the seminary’s president, who encourages the young man to break the color barrier.

With its diverse screenings and welcoming atmosphere, the Riverside International Film Festival provided moviegoers with a variety film experiences unique to this small town festival with big time charm.

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