By David Gallagher
The Rappahonnock Independent Film Festival (RIFF) began as the brainchild of Ryan Poe, a Fredericksburg native and independent filmmaker.
Poe, who also serves as RIFF’s creative director, realized that Fredericksburg, a city with opportunities for artists, musicians and thespians, lacked an organized output for independent filmmaking. Poe began planning for the first RIFF in February of 2008.
The festival culminated in September of that year with 30 films, ranging from five minutes to an hour in length, based on the theme “Portraits,” or films dealing with depictions of people, places or things.
The festival started “as a group of people who’ve never done a film festival before,” Poe said. “It wasn’t perfect, but it went well.”
RIFF’s next screening with be Feb. 20 at the Wounded Bookshop at 109 Amelia St. in downtown Fredericksburg.
They will be showing some of the finalists from the 2008 Festival. RIFF is currently preparing for the 2009 Festival.
With dates set for August 27 to 30, the RIFF is currently receiving, reviewing and selecting films for this year’s festival. For the first festival, RIFF screened every film they received.
The hope for the 2009 festival is to be able to still show only 30 films, but to be much more selective in their selection process.
“We pretty much begged for films in 2008,” Poe said. “We’re looking to expand quality, not quantity.”
Until the festival in August, RIFF is doing monthly screenings of films in an effort to draw attention and viewers to the festival.
This past Friday, RIFF screened the “Crawford,” a film by David Modigliani. “Crawford” is an hour-long documentary exploring the change President George W. Bush brought the small town of Crawford, Texas, after he announced he would be moving there in 1999, just after announcing he would be running for president.
“Crawford” can be viewed in it’s entirety on www.Hulu.com, where it premiered in October.
The film presents a remarkably politically unbiased account of how the town was completely turned on end after the arrival of the president.
Modigliani presents footage from 2000 to 2007, covering the 2000 election, the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2004 election and the Iraq War.
Poe is proud of what the RIFF has become and what he believes it will develop into.
“[It could be the] next Cannes or Sundance,” Poe said.
While he considers himself a filmmaker before a festival organizer, it is obvious he believes RIFF is an important project for him to be a part of right now.
“We just wanted to see something in Fredericksburg for people who are interested in film.”