film

A shot from the film "The Secret Life of Tom Lightfoot," which received the Taylor Rees Juror Award. The short will be shown at Ridgway Independent Film Festival Saturday. (Courtesy image)

The Ridgway Creative District and Ridgway Chautauqua Society

will host the seventh annual Ridgway Independent Film Festival (RIFF) this weekend. The Friday and Saturday schedule includes 27 short films that will be shown at the historic Sherbino Theatre from 6-9 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. each night, and a $10 donation is encouraged for entry.

Ridgway locals Diedra Silbert and John Clark helped start the festival in 2014. Silbert is the Town of Ridgway initiatives facilitator, while Clark is the town's mayor.

"We were looking for different types of creative events that might stimulate our own community's creativity, as well as bring in creativity from elsewhere, and lots of us loved film. We thought we could pull it off with a small group in a small town and have it grow over time, which it has," Silbert said.

The film festival is part of the Ridgway Creative District, a state-designated Creative District since 2013. Clark, who has lived in Ridgway for over 40 years, is incredibly proud of the district and its accomplishments with events like the film festival.

"The Creative District has really given Ridgway a whole new identity that it never had before. It's always been kind of a sleepy little ranch community. To get the designation and realize just how many of our residents are involved in some sort of creative endeavor or another has been really rewarding. The film festival was something else that we thought meshed with the whole idea of being an arts community, and it's just blossomed," Clark said.

The RIFF is a short-film festival, and all entries must be under 20 minutes, he explained. Films are submitted through the online platform Film Freeway. The platform allows filmmakers from all over the world to submit their work and connect with festivals. Other notable festivals, including Sundance, Tribeca and Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, use Film Freeway to receive submissions.

Since RIFF organizers discovered Film Freeway after the festival's first year, the festival has received submissions from all over the world.

"This film festival has brought in an incredible variety of short films that we would otherwise not likely see here. It encourages emerging filmmakers to get their work out there and connects us to places and people around the globe," Silbert said.

In addition to this international resource, the festival always makes sure to highlight local talent. Two of the filmmakers accepted to the festival are area locals. The last film showing on Saturday night is "Postman Jim," about beloved Telluride postal worker Jim Looney.

The 2021 panel of judges reflects the notion of keeping a local touch during the festival. Four out of the five selected judges live near Norwood or Ridgway.

"This year and the last, we have involved filmmakers as jurors, connecting some of the local and regional talent we have around here to our creative district and the festival," Silbert explained.

The panel displays an impressive resume and includes film producer Michael Stipe, who has worked on the popular films "Being John Malkovich," "En El Septimo Dia," and "Velvet Goldmine." Taylor Rees, who lives near Ridgway, will also be on the panel. Rees is a photojournalist, environmentalist, producer, filmmaker and featured speaker for TEDx.

Each night, the festival will have one filmmaker in person for a Q&A after their respective showing, Clark said. In the past, the festival has conducted videoconference Q&As with filmmakers unable to attend the event.

"We've had chats with filmmakers from all over the world, from Iran to South Africa," Clark added.

This year there will not be any video calls with international filmmakers, but instead, Clark asked six creators to send in a companion piece with their film. The bits are two to three minutes long and allow the filmmaker to share their creation and address the audience personally. For this year specifically, Silbert looks forward to watching these short clips.

"I personally always love the interaction with filmmakers and the special additional pieces they often send into us if they're unable to join us, explaining more about how the film was made or more about who they are and what they're working on," Silbert said.

Two different sets of awards are presented during the film festival. Five cash awards of $400 each have already been awarded by the jurors. Both nights there will be a People's Choice Award of $400 for the film with the most votes from the audience. According to Silbert, 30 local businesses donated to the festival awards.

Films are separated into lighter themes and darker themes and are strategically spread out "to keep a good balance throughout the evening," Silbert said.

In 2020, the film festival was online, which was extremely challenging, Clark explained. This year, he looks forward to being back in-person.

"If you haven't ever been to a show at the Sherbino, you need to come. We call it Ridgway's living room," he said.

To learn more about the festival, visit ridgwaycreativedistrict.com/film-fest.