What to Look Out for at the Roxbury International Film Festival

Kerry Washington as s high-end shoplifter, a Boston-based film with zero budget, and so much more.

roxbury international film festival

Danielle Sosnowski and Jason Bowen in Good Fences. Still image courtesy of Goodfencesmovie / Flickr

The 16th annual Roxbury International Film Festival is officially in action. The festival is New England’s largest film festival that “showcases and honors the work of emerging and established filmmakers of color,” and kicked off Wednesday night at the Museum of Fine Arts.

The fest, which runs through Sunday, June 29, is on the smaller scale in comparison to large-scale film fests like this week’s Nantucket Film Festival. Nevertheless, the RIFF is bringing in movies from around the globe of all genres and lengths, some more shocking and dramatic than others.

Some filmmakers with local ties are showing at the RIFF, and there are even films based in Boston. Here are some highlights to look for:

Escapement
Directed by Jae Williams
Friday, June 27, in Alfond Auditorium
5:30 p.m.

This 40-minute feature follows Brandon, a 17-year-old from Boston who turns to his musical talents to help his family. Struggling with self-identity and peer pressure, Brandon eventually finds confidence when connecting with men from his past. This story covers three generations of African American men who bond through jazz to tell a tale of love and family.

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power
Directed by Freida Mock
Friday, June 27, in Remis Auditorium
6 p.m.

Anita is a celebration of Anita Hill’s legacy and a rare glimpse into her private life with friends and family. Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, this story covers Anita Hill’s experiences that led her to testify before the Senate to reveal the truth about being sexually harassed by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. The film candidly discusses the obstacles she faced afterward, and what happened to her life and work in the 22 years since. Hill is currently a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University’s Heller School in Waltham.

Good Fences
Directed by Sam Powell
Sunday, June 29, in Remis Auditorium
11:30 a.m.

Good Fences is a 24-minute story about a young couple that moves from a small no-name town to a metropolitan city, and discover some deadly secrets about their upstairs neighbor. The story is based on director Powell’s younger brother. The two, who are both filmmakers, grew up in Boston in a filmmaking family. “We were set rats,” Powell says of his time growing up with his father as a documentary filmmaker and editor.

The cool part about this film? The team didn’t dish out a single dime to make it. “It was grassroots style,” Powell says. “Resourcefulness had to take the place of finances. The actors are all people who had success in theater and are new to film. Cast and crew, all volunteers. We paid in food, and got all our favorite [eateries] in Boston to donate to our film. All the money we raised on social media and Kickstarter went directly toward the film festival submission.”

A zero-dollar budget? Just watch the trailer, and you’ll be shocked.

Lift
Directed by Khari Streeter and DeMane Davis
Sunday, June 29, in Remis Auditorium
2:30 p.m.

Kerry Washington (a.k.a Scandal‘s Olivia Pope) stars in this slick 85-minute drama. She plays Neicy, a well-dressed young woman who maintains an air of intelligent arrogance in her part-time job as a window dresser in a Boston department store. But Neicy has a secret to looking good on a part-time salary: shoplifting. She’s an expert at it, and is looking for one last heist.

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