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Unlike most 15 year olds, the Roxbury International Film Festival is all grown up. Celebrating its birthday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Haley House Bakery Café, and Massachusetts College of Art, this dedicated four-day festival has already screened around 450 films to about 30,000 audience members. RIFF has become New England’s largest film festival devoted to movies by or about people of color. And this year’s selection is as thought provoking and powerful as you can imagine.
Getting things started at the MFA on Thursday's opening night is “Things Never Said.” It’s a challenging story following a woman, Kalindra, as she decides whether or not to leave an abusive spouse and pursue her interest in spoken-word poetry. The remarkable performance from Shanola Hampton is the heart and soul of the movie, and her story hits close to home for writer-director Charles Murray. “This is sort of based on my mother’s life,” Murray admitted from his home in Los Angeles. “There was domestic violence in our house. I always thought my mother was a fascinating woman. And I always had this question for her: why stay?”
After the positive reaction from the cast and crew, Murray decided to share this personal story with a wider film festival audience. “You know how you’re in a bunker when you’re doing something creative, and then you show your baby, ‘Look, it’s my baby!’ Then somebody in the back of the room yells out, ‘That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen!’
"You don’t know how people are going to react. People have watched the film and their immediate response is, ‘I really liked that film’ or ‘It was a good film.’ But then they want to want to have a conversation, not about the film per se, but about how someone they know is going through this, that they are going through this, or that their parents went through this. As a filmmaker, [that experience] has been very fulfilling.”
Hampton and her costars Elimu Nelson ("House of Lies") and Michael Beach ("Sons of Anarchy") will be in attendance for the Thursday night Q and A. Other standouts include a rich selection of documentaries, including “Words of Witness” about Heba Afify, an intrepid young female reporter in Egypt during the Arab Spring, and the documentary “Losing LeBron” on the athlete’s decision to leave Cleveland and its effect on his fans. More narrative highlights include “Knockaround Kids,” which centers on a group of children dealing with dysfunctional lives, and the emotional “Redlegs,” about a group of adults coming to terms with a friend’s untimely death. There's also a collaboration with the Jewish Film Festival, "Our Mockingbird," about the place that "To Kill a Mockingbird" still has in the country's dialogue about race.
Monica Castillo is a freelance film critic and writer based in Boston. You can usually find her outside any of the area’s movie theaters excitedly talking about the film she just saw or on Twitter @mcastimovies.
This program aired on June 27, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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