The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Rochester Independent Film Festival

Where: Rochester Opera House, 31 Wakefield St., Rochester
Saturday, June 24 screenings: The Messenger (R, 2009) at 10 a.m.; Broke. (documentary, 2009) at 12:15 p.m.; Raid of the Rainbow Lounge (documentary, 2012) at 2 p.m.; Gold (2014) at 4 p.m.; Seamonsters (2011) at 6 p.m.; T-Rex (documentary, 2015) at 8 p.m.; surprise classic horror film screens at midnight, title to be announced that night
Sunday, June 25 screenings: This Way of Life (documentary, 2009) at 10 a.m.; Road North (2012) at 11:40 a.m.; In the Heat of the Night (1967) at 2 p.m.; The Third Man (1949) at 4:05 p.m.
Admission: $10, by donation

Spreading art
Rochester kicks off busy summer with inaugural film fest

By Kelly Sennott

 “Art is for Everyone” is the slogan for the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts, and it plays out in everything the organization does — including its inaugural Rochester Independent Film Festival, with screenings at the Rochester Opera House Saturday, June 24, and Sunday, June 25.

The RMFA is co-organizing the festival with the Rochester Public Library, which owns InstantFlix, the service the flicks will stream from. The program includes award-winning indie films from around the world.
Matt Wyatt, co-founder and president of the RMFA, said via phone that one of the festival’s goals is to highlight this service available to all Rochester library card-holders. Another is simply to light up the the opera house with acclaimed, lesser-known pieces all weekend long. 
The idea for the film festival began with Rochester Public Library Director Brian Sylvester, who mentioned to RMFA members that the library had the capability of streaming movies off-site via InstantFlix. That meant it would save time for organizers, who wouldn’t have to race around trying to obtain permission from filmmakers to screen their flicks. 
The program includes In the Heat of the Night (an African-American detective investigates a murder in a racially hostile southern town), Raid of the Rainbow Lounge (recounting the 2009 police raid of a Texas gay bar), The Third Man (a novelist finds himself investigating the death of his old friend in postwar Vienna), The Messenger (about the men sent to deliver casualty notifications to soldiers’ families), Gold (an estranged father returns home to reconnect with his daughter and ex-wife), Broke. (documenting the friendship between a cynic pawnbroker and a psychopath), Seamonsters (two teenage boys are torn apart by a girl), Road North (a father absent for 30 years returns home to bond with his son on a road trip), This Way of Life (a couple raise their six kids in the mountains of New Zealand) and T-Rex (about female boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields), plus a surprise classic horror movie Saturday at midnight.
For the most part, the film selection was a matter of taste from the committee; the program spans all genres, all subjects, all periods. The only one chosen with a theme in mind was Raid of the Rainbow Lounge in honor of Pride Month, which the RMFA celebrates more fully Aug. 26 during the Rochester Gay Pride Parade.
“We do all kinds of events downtown but gay pride was very special for me. It’s overwhelming for me as a gay person to see my hometown light up like that,” Wyatt said. “It’s easy to do these things in Boston and New York, but in small cities like Rochester is where the LGBT community needs it the most because there are so few of us.”
Rochester’s arts and cultural life is bustling in general; soon it will also be home to the Rochester Performance & Arts Center, with construction underway in the former Carney Medical Supply building and an opening slated for this summer. It will be home to studio and workshop spaces and a small theater with 100 seats, allowing for more intimate events than the opera house, which holds 700.
“Our downtown district is really turning into an arts district,” Wyatt said.
The RMFA is more a concept than a physical place, running three gallery spaces (at City Hall, the opera house and the library), which together display a 150-piece permanent collection of donated and loaned pieces (paintings, sculptures, photography, etc.). 
“There are a lack of venues for working artists,” Wyatt said. “Not everybody’s getting into the fancy galleries or museums. … We wanted to give artists a place to show their work … and make it free for people to come in and see any time they want to.”
The organization also regularly presents film screenings, plus monthly-rotating art shows with work by contemporary artists.
“We don’t think anybody should have to travel to see fine art. It should be in every community, and that’s kind of the mission of the [Rochester] Museum of Fine Arts: to bring art to the people,” Wyatt said. “We do have a small curatorial committee built of artists, community members and leaders who want to make art accessible. And not just, ‘Oh, my neighbor is an artist.’ We try to get the best art we can get our hands on to bring to Rochester.” 

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