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16th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival kicks off June 25

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
16th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival kicks off June 25
“The Halls,” a web-lanched series produced by the Boston Public Health Commission, follows the stories of three young men negotiating complex relationship issues in Boston.

The documentary “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne” follows the 60-year crime spree of a jet-setting black jewel thief.

From an international jewel thief to a high powered political figure to black boys in crisis and young love, the 16th annual Roxbury International Film Festival explores the themes of love, loss, identity and hope in a range of documentaries, narratives and shorts. The festival spans four days beginning Wednesday, June 25 through Sunday, June 29 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Produced by The Color of Film Collaborative, the film festival will screen approximately 30 films, shorts and documentaries hailing from China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United States. This year marks the first time that the festival will screen entirely at the Museum of Fine Arts.

“The MFA has been a great supporter of the festival and it provides an incredible opportunity for filmmakers to screen their work at a world class cultural institution” said Lisa Simmons, festival director.

The annual festival opens on June 25th with the documentary “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne” based on the incredible real-life story of one of the world’s most notorious jewel thieves, who managed to jet-set her way into any Cartier or Tiffany’s from Monte Carlo to Japan, and walk out with small fortunes.

The directors Kirk Marcolin and Matthew Pond set out to uncover and tell the story of the now 83 year-old Doris Payne, and the $2 million plus in jewels she’s stolen over a career spanning 60 years. Not just a crime caper, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne” taps into the themes of race, identity and gender; and what it meant to be a young girl of color born during segregated America who believed the only way out of poverty was a life of crime.

The directors became interested in the real-life crime caper when Matthew Pond read about her story in a newspaper article in 2010 which eventually led to meeting with her in an Orange County jail in California.

“This initial meeting got the ball rolling for the film” says Pond. According to both directors, it was important to bring this story to light because “we felt Doris’ story is a unique version of the Great American Dream, we found her moral ambiguity fascinating and thought she would make a wonderfully complex subject for a documentary.”

Complex subject matters and characters abound in several other documentaries including ANITA: Speaking Truth To Power” (Friday, June 27 at 6 p.m.) and “American Promise” (Saturday, June 28 at 1:30 p.m.). Directed by award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, “ANITA” reveals the intimate story of a woman whose testimony in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing brought up issues of sex, politics, and race. Hill speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced.

In Michele Stephenson’s documentary, “American Promise” the issue of Black boys in crisis in America, specifically academically, is at the heart of this film. “American Promise” holds a magnifying glass to a son and his best friend to really explore the unique factors that they face as middle-class black boys coming of age at home, at school and in their community.

The brother-sister duo of Noah Christofer and Miranda Craigwell also feature teen African American boys in their web series, “The Halls,” which tells the stories of three young men in Boston, and their struggles sifting through relationships, trauma, masculinity and their own identities. The web series came about when the siblings learned “that the Health Commission was taking bids from production companies to produce a web series that engages young men and boys.”

Of the project, Miranda says she hopes that “youth are inspired when they see a representation of themselves up on screen. I also hope that they feel limitless in terms of what they can accomplish, as The Halls was created by Boston Youth, starred Boston Youth, and was made for Boston Youth. I would love for every young person who sees The Halls to leave the theatre with a sense of ownership.”

The festival also includes several international shorts such as the empowering Cuban documentary, “Maestra,” (which translates to ‘teacher’ in English), was written and directed by Catherine Murphy. The documentary tells the story of eight women who, as young girls, taught on the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961. The volunteer teachers lived with the families they taught, worked alongside them in the fields during the day and taught classes (often by kerosene lantern) at night.

Gina Rey, who reflects upon her experience as a teacher in the documentary says, “For me it was decisive in my ability to evaluate myself. To know what I was capable of. After the campaign, I realized I could aim higher in life. I didn’t have to settle for the future my mom planned for me. I could aspire to more.”

Young love is explored in Gabriela Lozada Pozo’s story, “La Marea” (“Tide” in English), against the backdrop of a small fishing village in Ecuador where the town is naturally flooded twice a day, as the young couple struggle in their own broken dreams and aspirations.

Director/Producer Chun Kit Mak brings us into the heart of one of the largest maximum security prisons in the Philippines, in “The World’s Most Fashionable Prison” where award-winner fashion designer Puei Quinones conducts some of the weirdest fashion workshops you’ve ever seen. Among the 12,000 prisoners convicted for the most vicious crimes, Puei has found the best artisans to create extravagant and flashy red carpet gowns, staging a spectacular fashion show in the heart of the prison.

On Friday, June 27, the festival presents “Dinner and a movie” at The Haley House Bakery Café at 6:30 pm, featuring Noam Osband’s documentary, “Adelante”. This specialty night (which includes a special dinner), has been part of the festival for the last several years. The documentary depicts the change in one American church where immigrants revitalized a dying, historically Irish-Catholic parish in Norristown, Penn. (Tickets can be purchased for both dinner and the movie at

And closing out the festival as part of a “throwback” retrospective on Sunday, June 29 at 2:30 p.m. is the offbeat drama, “Lift” from Boston filmmakers Khari Streeter and DeMane Davis, in which ‘Neicy’ (played by Kerry Washington in one of her first film roles), is a thief who plans one last heist, though hardly for the typical reasons.

Tickets for the film festival can be purchased at; and for more information on the festival, go to

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