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Richmond International Film Festival

Movie premieres! Red carpets! Music! Celebrities!

Hollywood-style excitement is coming to Richmond, Va., April 23-28 for the eighth annual Richmond International Film & Music Festival (RIFF).

Nearly 160 films from 15 countries, and more than 50 musical acts of all genres, will vie for audience attention and competitive awards. Some films have Virginia connections.

Shows are at various venues in Richmond, a 100-mile drive south of Washington, D.C. Among locations are the historic Byrd Theatre, an opulent 1928 movie palace, and Bow Tie Cinemas.

With an abundance of riches, how do you choose?

“I encourage people to try something new,” said the festival’s Heather Waters. She hopes attendees will be inspired by learning about topics they might not have thought about before.

In addition, it’s a chance to get behind-the scenes insights about movie making.

The 2019 festival theme is “Bridges,” described as “using the arts to create meaningful discussion and celebrate connections between people of all backgrounds.”

All manner of films will be screened, including narrative feature films, comedies, documentaries, shorts, avant-garde films, animated films and music videos.

Many filmmakers will on hand to introduce and field questions about their productions. Invitations have been extended to a number of stars.

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Richmond International Film Festival

Early confirmations include Eric Roberts, Academy Award nominee for “Runaway Train,” and Linda Gray, Emmy nominee for the TV series “Dallas.” They will present their narrative feature, “Prescience,” on opening night. Directed by James Helsing, the film is about a criminal attorney struggling with his sexuality.

Craft brew icon Greg Koch will attend the April 24 premiere of “Beer Jesus of America,” a Matt Sweetwood-directed documentary feature about Koch being the first American to build, own and operate a craft beer brewery in Europe. An after-party will follow the screening at River City Roll with special brew from Berlin.

Other film highlights include: “American Mirror Intimations of Immortality,” starring Susan Sarandon and Tigran Tsitoghdzyan; “Dakota,” a film shot in Virginia starring Phoebe Ryan and Jake Etheridge; “Dominion,” narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, Sia, Rooney Mara and Sadie Sink; “Saint Judy,” starring Michelle Monaghan, Common, Alfre Woodard and Alfred Molina; and “Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary,” directed by Jerry Williams.

Several films have music themes, notably “Blue Note Records Documentary,” which is about the iconic jazz record label that spawned such greats as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Robert Glasper and Norah Jones.

Others include “Rudy Love,” starring Rudy Love and the Love Family, George Clinton, Sinbad, Marsal Martin and Mick Fleetwood; “Stand Down,” a music video starring Billy Bob Thornton with music by K.O.; and “The Book of Clarence,” featuring Morgan Freeman, Clarence Fountain and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Among films with Virginia ties is a documentary feature, “Charlottesville: Our Streets,” about a protest by alt-right groups that turned violent. Eyewitness accounts and first-hand footage are included.

In addition, there will be panel discussions, workshops, mixers, a creative conference, a gala and a free outdoor music event at River City Roll on April 28.

Information about the films, music, venues and a variety of ticket options, can be found on the website, rvafilmfestival.com. Some hotel packages are available, but reserve early.

Spotlight on Richmond

Waters, who founded the festival, is a Nashville, Tenn., native who came to Richmond after stints in Los Angeles and Atlanta. She wears many hats as an actress, writer, producer and director.

RIFF has become one of the largest international festivals in the Mid-Atlantic, according to Waters.

Developing and supporting artists in the Richmond area is a major goal. She’s a leader in the Virginia Production Alliance, which advocates for TV and films in the state, and has established the RIFF Arts Institute, a year-round program for the next generation of artists.

She said last year’s festival was “fantastic,” with more than 8,500 attendees. The festival helped land distribution deals for “Nona,” starring Kate Bosworth, and “Blackout Road,” starring Danny Glover. Both stars and two Virginia governors were in attendance.

The festival

What: Richmond International Film & Music Festival

When: April 23-28

Where: Various venues, Richmond, Va.

Info/tickets: rvafilmfestival.com

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