The 2021 RiverRun International Film Festival set to run May 6-16 will kick off its opening night with the film “Dream Horse” starring Toni Collette and Damian Lewis.
This film was originally planned for closing night of the 2020 RiverRun International Film Festival, which was canceled last April early into the pandemic. “Dream Horse” tells the story of a Welsh cleaner and barmaid who decides to breed a racehorse in her small village. As the horse rises through the ranks, Jan (Collette) and the townspeople are pitted against the racing elite in a race for the national championship.
RiverRun, based in Winston-Salem, is a competitive event that annually showcases new films from both established and emerging filmmakers around the world. RiverRun screens new narrative, documentary, short, student and animated films, offering both audience and jury prizes in competition categories.
The 2021 festival will be a combination of virtual screenings, and outdoor and drive-in screenings. It will feature 134 films representing 24 countries culled from a pool of more than 1,500 films.
Venues will include Marketplace Drive-In, SECCA, the Kilpatrick Townsend campus on Fourth Street, The Winston Cup Museum, The Ramkat and Bailey Park in Winston-Salem, with one outdoor screening at RED Cinemas in Greensboro.
Honorees this year will include Master of Cinema recipients Alan Cumming and Lee Grant along with Emerging Master recipient Finnerty Steeves. Virtual interviews are being conducted with the award winners for inclusion with their films, and Steeves will be present for a screening of her film outdoors at RED Cinemas in Greensboro.
The 2021 closing night film will be “The Dry,” an Australian thriller starring Eric Bana and based on the global bestseller. In this film, a police detective returns to his drought-stricken hometown to attend a tragic funeral. But his return opens a decades-old wound – the unsolved death of a teenage girl.
In between, there will be a variety of narrative, documentary and animated films from North Carolina and throughout the world.
“If there is one thing we have all learned to do over the last year, it is adapt,” Rob Davis, the executive director of RiverRun, said. “Even though the festival will look a bit different this year, we could not be more excited to be able to offer this incredible slate of films to our supporters and all lovers of film.”
Davis said the festival will have something for everyone. He spoke of how grateful festival officials are for the continued support RiverRun receives from everyone connected to it.
“We are looking forward to a wonderful festival!” he said.
The festival will also feature a number of free offerings this year, including capacity-controlled Family Night screenings at Bailey Park, Saturday Morning Cartoons available via RiverRun’s Virtual Theater, as well as a virtual version of its annual Pitch Fest competition, which will also be in the Virtual Theater.
Tickets are on sale now to RiverRun members through Sunday and will be available to the general public Monday. Information on the complete schedule, ticketing and free events is available online at riverrunfilm.com.
Mark Owens, president and chief executive of Greater Winston-Salem Inc., said RiverRun is a great economic driver for Winton-Salem and a major platform to showcase the city on an international scale.
“Our community’s vibrant arts and culture scene is essential to our ability to attract talent and continue cultivating a strong workforce,” Owens said. “Events like RiverRun help us to convey that we offer world-class amenities, right here in Winston-Salem.”
With the festival being a hybrid event this year, he hopes that even more film lovers from around the world will be able to enjoy the festival and learn about Winston-Salem by participating.
“This is a positive step towards recovering from the pandemic as RiverRun can offer virtual experiences for everyone while adding in some opportunities for people to watch films in person but still safely distanced,” Owens said.
In addition to “Dream Horse” directed by Euros Lyn and “The Dry” directed by Robert Connolly, RiverRun’s other special screenings include “Any Day Now” directed by Travis Fine, “Before/During/After” directed by Stephen Kunken and Jack Lewars, “The Capote Tapes” directed by Ebs Burnough, “Down and Out in America” directed by Lee Grant; and “Final Set” directed by Quentin Reynaud.
“Any Day Now,” a narrative starring Alan Cumming, is a tale of love, acceptance and family. When a teenager with Down syndrome is abandoned by his mother, a gay couple takes him in and becomes the loving family he has never had. It was inspired by a true story from the late 1970s.
“Before/During/After” is a narrative written by Finnerty Steeves, who also stars in the film. This dramedy studies a middle-aged New York City theater actress suddenly forced to figure out the kind of person she wants to portray in real life when her seemingly perfect marriage comes to an end after she catches her husband cheating.
“The Capote Tapes,” is a documentary about writer Truman Capote’s last, unfinished novel, “Answered Prayers, and the effects it had on the author and his friends.
“Down and Out in America” won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1987. It is an exploration of homelessness, foreclosures and food insecurity during the recession in the mid-1980s.
“Final Set” is a narrative about a former professional tennis prodigy. At 37, he decides to return to the French Open at Roland-Garros, in spite of his declining physical fitness and shattered knee.
There are several animated shorts in this year’s free Saturday Morning Cartoons including “Go Fetch” directed by David Coole. In this animated short, a worse-for-wear old tennis ball tries to escape his life as a dog’s chew toy to try something new.