Maintaining its title as the longest continuously-running short film festival in the world, the Rochester International Film Festival reaches its whopping 60th year this week. The latest installment of the annual local festival -- also known as Movies on a Shoestring -- will be held this Thursday through Saturday, April 26-28 at the Eastman Museum's Dryden Theatre (900 East Avenue).
This year, RIFF will be screening 28 films from 15 different countries, presented in four distinct programs spread across the festival's three days. As is typical, the films offer a sampler platter of genres and styles, with films that run the gamut from comedy to thriller, animation to documentary, and everything in between. Parents should note that the Saturday matinee program features films that tend toward the family-friendly. In addition to the films themselves, a number of the filmmakers will be in attendance to participate in Q&A sessions following the screenings. Admission to the festival is free, though donations are accepted.
What follows is a preview of just a few of the films from this year's lineup. For more information on the festival as well as a complete schedule of films, visit rochesterfilmfest.org
Thursday, April 26 8 p.m.
The doc "You Are Here" offers a fascinating portrait of Irish musician Tony Rogers and his life as a small-time farmer by day, and rockstar by night. Nicholas Jones beautifully captures how the contrasts in Rogers' daily life make for a singularly satisfying existence.
In the tense Canadian thriller "Asleep," a wounded journalist in Syria makes some desperate attempts to ensure his efforts weren't in vain.
The charming animated film "Dog Clog" comes from RIT School of Film and Animation alum Maggie Miller, and follows a hapless canine who seeks to get back on track after his life suddenly goes down the drain.
A couple seek the spiritual guidance of "The Monk" to save their marriage, but find the solution to their troubles isn't quite so easily achieved in DanilGrinkin's lovely drama.
Omar Al Dakheel's touching and well-acted "Ablution" finds a young Muslim man struggling to reconcile his personal life and family commitments while caring for his ailing and deeply religious father.
Friday April 27, 8 p.m.
In the comedic "The Dinner Scene" from Nicholas Thurkettle, a frazzled screenwriter struggles to put pen to paper and create a crucial sequence in their script. Having had some experience as frustrated writer banging their head against a coffeehouse table in public, this one spoke to me on a deep, personal level.
A misanthropic young woman learns that apocalypse isn't everything she'd hoped it'd be in the sweet and funny "Waltzing Tilda" from Australian director Jonathan Wilhelmsson.
In ErmaoZhong's enigmatic "Smiling From the Grave," a widow in rural China hopes to find peace by setting out to fulfill the deepest and most hidden wishes of her late husband.
A troubled young man must reckon with his actions and the hurt he's causes in Michael Langman's tragicomic "Wake the Riderless Horse," featuring "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" co-stars Pete Gardner and Scott Michael Foster, as well as the always great Beth Grant.
Saturday April 28, 4 p.m.
German animator Julian Friedrich's simple but striking animation style conveys deep reservoirs of emotion in telling the story of a young refugee boy in "01."
Kyra Zagorsky's wonderful "The Prince" blends drama and dance to tackle issues of Islamophobia and prejudice in the heartfelt story of a young girl paying tribute to her beloved uncle.
Based on the story by O. Henry, Ekaterina Uvarova's "The Last Leaf" finds an aging painter bringing hope to the life of a young woman who's battling depression.
Saturday April 28, 8 p.m.
A brass band hopes to save the world in "The School of Honk," as director Patrick Johnson documents the titular Massachusetts community street band.
In the Canadian film "The Immaculate Conception Photography Gallery," a photographer faces an existential crisis after he starts caving to the whims of his clients when they ask him to alter his images of their most cherished memories (a much more difficult proposition in the days before Photoshop).
Sex, love, and politics collide as the relationship between a photographer and his fashion model girlfriend gets complicated in the amusing French comedy "Comme Les Roses," from French director K. S. McMullen.
A Syrian refugee must seek assistance in navigating the confounding Swiss bureaucracy when he faces the task of burying his Muslim wife in Jan-Eric Mack's moving "Facing Mecca."