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RIFF Celebrates 14 Years

RIFF Celebrates 14 Years
The RIFF closing night film, “The Contradictions of Fair Hope,” screened at the Museum of Fine Arts on June 17. Director of RIFF Lisa Simmons (L) poses with the feature film’s co-directors Rockell C. Metcalf (C) and S. Epatha Merkerson. (Photo: Colette Greenstein)

Author: Colette GreensteinThe RIFF closing night film, “The Contradictions of Fair Hope,” screened at the Museum of Fine Arts on June 17. Director of RIFF Lisa Simmons (L) poses with the feature film’s co-directors Rockell C. Metcalf (C) and S. Epatha Merkerson.

RIFF Celebrates 14 Years

The 14th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival kicked off into high gear with an opening night reception at the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury. It was a wonderful evening filled with laughter, delicious food, filmmakers and film aficionados alike.

There was an island feel to the night with the sounds of the steel drum in the humid night air and delicious Caribbean-inspired appetizers, VitaCoco juices and Bully Boy Distillers mixed drinks.

One other thing made the night special: Matthew A. Cherry, director of the opening night film “The Last Fall,” was in town for the reception and the screening. There were also other filmmakers who flew in from Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C. and Mexico to attend the yearly festival.

Among them were  S. Epatha Merkerson (of “Law and Order” fame), who was in town to promote the documentary “The Contradictions of Fair Hope, which she co-directed with Rockell Metcalf. The film closed out the festival to an almost sold-out audience at the MFA.

With a mix of young and old, newcomers and past festival supporters, RIFF 14 was a celebration of the best of independent filmmaking by people of color from the United States and around the world. Looking forward to next year’s 15th anniversary!

Pieces of Me

New Orleans native Ledisi Anibade Young, simply known as Ledisi to millions of fans across the country, is coming to Boston with Eric Benet in her second headlining tour, B.G.T.Y.  I recently had the chance to chat with the fabulous RandB singer and Grammy nominee about the tour and her recent collaboration with Essence Magazine on her first book, titled “Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love and Power.” 

How did the tour with Eric Benet come about?

This is my second headlining tour [her first was to promote her album, “Pieces of Me” in 2011], and I thought it would be great for Eric Benet to open. I’ve known him for a great long time.

The song “Bravo” is so upbeat and positive. You mention “a new Ledisi” in the song.  What was the inspiration behind the words and the music?

It described the moment in my life at the time and it immediately stayed with me.  I bonded with the song and I knew it was the one.

I love the song “Stay Together” with Jaheim.  Are there any other singers that you’d like to collaborate with that are on your “wish list?”

Right now, I know there are producers I would like to work with. Jaheim was my first choice and I’d love to work with D’Angelo, Prince and Stevie Wonder.

I read the excerpt of your new book, “Better than Alright,” in a recent issue of Essence.  How did the collaboration with Essence come about?  Can you talk about the positive changes that have come into your life?

The book was a dare and also an affirmation.  What was good about working with Essence was that they made me write more than just affirmations. I wrote about more of my journey and who I’ve become. It’s also interactive, which is really great. Essence was really good at pushing me and now the book is more transparent and really a lot of fun.

In the description of your book, Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance White says, “Ledisi can write! She’s a gifted storyteller.” How does that make you feel?  Is there another book in the works?

I’m very honored that people find my story very interesting. I love writing and I didn’t think I was a good writer. I’m still a singer at heart and a “journaling” kind of gal. The whole point of it is to spread light, inspire people and to document my ancestors.

What can we expect at the Boston show?

You should be prepared for something you haven’t seen from me. You’ll get a quality performance from me, high energy, very interactive and a lot of costume changes.

The Wilbur presents the Ledisi B.G.T.Y. Tour with special guest Eric Benet on Tuesday, June 26, at 8 p.m. Tickets available at