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The Roxbury International Film Festival hosts its 15th annual celebration of indie filmmakers of color

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
The Roxbury International Film Festival hosts its 15th annual celebration of indie filmmakers of color
Behind the scenes film stills from Things Never Said (L-R): Actress Shanola Hampton (‘Kal’) and director Charles Murray.

The Roxbury International Film Festival (RIFF) celebrates its 15th anniversary over four days (beginning Thursday, June 27), with an array of features, documentaries, shorts and youth-produced works.

The annual fest is produced by The Color of Film Collaborative and is New England’s largest film festival showcasing the work of emerging and established filmmakers of color.

The festival has gone through many transitions since it first began, but it has been able to grow from a local festival to one that is known not only across the country but around the world.

“It’s an important outlet for filmmakers to share their vision and voice with a larger audience,” says RIFF Director Lisa Simmons, “ and it’s important for it to continue, to give not only filmmakers but audience members the opportunity to see rich, diverse stories that are not only impactful and purposeful but also representational of their lives or lives of people they know.”

Los Angeles-based director Charles Murray (F/X’s Sons of Anarchy) opens the festival with his quiet and powerful film Things Never Said which tackles the issue of domestic violence and self-empowerment. The film stars Shanola Hampton from Showtime’s Shameless as “Kal,” an emerging spoken-word poetess from California who dreams of taking her poems to the infamous Nuyorican stage in New York. But Kal is haunted by a miscarriage and is married to ‘Ronnie’ (played by Milton native Elimu Nelson), who’s angry and without direction and tends to use his fists as a form of speech.

Roxbury native Michael Beach co-stars in RIFF’s Opening Night film Things Never Said.

The film also co-stars Omari Hardwick from Middle of Nowhere and Michael Beach as brothers who become entangled in the lives of “Ronnie” and “Kal.” Both Nelson and Beach will attend opening night and RIFF will present Beach with the Independent Spirit Award.

Among the numerous documentaries two stand out. The first is Sandra Jaffe’s Our Mockingbird, which uses the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird as a lens to look at the issues of race, class, gender and justice in today’s environment. (Our Mockingbird screens this Friday, June 28 at the Museum of Fine Arts).

The second doc is When I Walk, screening on Saturday, June 29 at 12:30 p.m., also at the MFA. Filmmaker and artist Jason DaSilva was diagnosed with the degenerative disease, multiple sclerosis, at the age of 25 years old. Without knowing where it would lead, Jason began filming what would be the slow, difficult decline of his body. When I Walk is a first-person account of the nearly overwhelming loss of everything a vital young man thinks he will be.

It’s not all serious films and documentaries at the festival. If you’re looking for some laughter, there are several humorous films such as the short Filmmaking co-produced by Aidan Payne and Daniel Brito. And then there’s Nostalgia directed by Johnnie Hobbs. It stars Dulé Hill from USA’s Pscyh. The tap dance short is about an aging entertainer that can’t let go of his successful past and how it affects his present day life and his relationship with his son.

And don’t miss the funny short called Situationship screening before In Search of the Black Knight, by music video and film director Tamarat Makonnen. Both highlight the search for relationships with a black sensibility in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Both are scheduled to be screened at the Haley House Bakery Café in Roxbury as part of the “Dinner & A Movie” program on Friday, June 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Tonya Lewis Lee, children’s author, lawyer and producer of the film the Watsons Go To Birmingham.

The festival closes with the program “A Conversation with Tonya Lewis Lee” on Sunday, June 30 at the Museum of Fine Arts. Tonya Lewis Lee, wife of Spike Lee, and an accomplished lawyer and children’s author in her own right, will show an exclusive sneak peak from her new film The Watsons Go To Birmingham. The women and children’s advocate will discuss her role as producer, children’s author and more in an intimate setting.

For schedule and ticket information on The 15th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival, please visit The festival runs from June 27 to June 30, 2013.