So many films, so little time. 20 films to view over 4 days. The 13th annual White River Indie Film (WRIF) festival returns this week from June 1 to 4. It's a grab bag of classic feature films, premieres, documentaries, fantastical vision, short films, and and panel discussions. Though it accepts films from all over the world, the fest is saturated with local and regional flavor. Resign yourself to dry, sandpaper eyes and make it a viewing marathon, or scan the schedule on the WRIF website and choose wisely and often.
June 1 brings Salt of the Earth, a classic 1954 film about a strike by Mexican-American workers at a zinc mine in New Mexico. It was made by blacklisted filmmakers and banned by the U.S. government in its time. Like another documentary, Harlan County USA (1976), about a strike at a Kentucky coal mine (coincidentally screened last year at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival and released the year that I happened to be working with miners in eastern Kentucky), it is the women who are instrumental in saving the day.
A gala reception with food, live music and the Upper Valley premiere of The Hanji Box by local filmmaker Nora Jacobson is scheduled for June 2. She will be on hand for a Q and A following the film. Jacobson is already working on a sequel to this story of a mother and her adopted Korean daughter.
It's Criminal is a hometown premiere by Signe Taylor, who won accolades for a previous documentary (Circus Dreams) about Vermont's home-grown Circus Smirkus. Her newest film is about the experiences of female prisoners incarcerated in Vermont who worked with Dartmouth College students to write and perform a play about their lives. Taylor will hold a talk-back following the film on June 3 along with Dartmouth professor Ivy Schweitzer and some of the women and students in the film. (For a review of the film, please click here.)
Filmmaker Signe Taylor, center, with the women of her film, It's Criminal
The Regional Short Films Showcase was a particularly strong category this year. Among its many offerings, it promises Doll Power by Phish-bassist Mike Gordon. Divided by Diversity is a snippet from a documentary about the xenophobia directed toward 5 African-American students from New York City who were enrolled at a Catholic high school in Vermont. A Vermont filmmaker travels to Virginia to figure out why his parents are supporting Donald Trump in The Sign, (which apparently keeps getting vandalized on their lawn).
The Freedom and Unity Youth Film Contest "invites young Vermonters to create films that explain the life and culture of the Green Mountain State." You can view the results and if you call yourself a Vermonter, you can weigh in on whether they got it right. If your dream is filmmaking, you will want to catch a panel on How Do You Fund Your Film?
The Mars Generation--young participants in NASA's Space Camp discuss efforts to reach Mars. The first 20 students (K-12) to enter the screening of this film with get a pass for free entry into the Montshire Museum.
The WRIF fest is based at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction VT with an event or two at the Main Street Museum. Pricing depends on what and how much you want to see. For adults, an all-access pass is $75, the gala is $40, and a single ticket is $10. See the WRIF website for further information, the entire schedule, and tickets.
(Featured photo, above, is of Daniel Park and Suzanne Dudley (Schon) in The Hanji Box. All photos used with permission of WRIF, and Signe Taylor. Photo of Ms. Taylor and the cast of It's Criminal is by Charleen Music.)
I write about the arts and other interesting things in the Upper Valley. Please sign up to receive an email each time I post something new by clicking here. To view my profile page or to read previous posts, please click here.
Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge