Lanisha Brown, left, Joycelyn Clifton and Maria Hernandez star in Our Song. It plays tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Pawtucket Film Festival.
BY BRYAN ROURKE
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Rick Roth has a master plan. At the moment, it's cleverly concealed within the Pawtucket Film Festival, which begins this weekend.
On the surface, it looks like a fine and fledgling festival, now in its third year. But look closely. Or, better yet, look back.
The first year, the festival ran two nights; the next year it ran three; and now it will go four.
Surely you can see where this is going. Roth is creating a cinematic monster!
"Soon we'll do 300 nights!" says Roth, the festival's producer.
Maybe you imagine the sound of sinister laughter, as from some mad scientist in an old and especially bad movie. But Roth's not laughing.
"People laugh," he says. "But I'm serious."
In a city that once had several movie theaters but now has none, Roth has laid film festival roots. Someday, he hopes, these roots will grow, rise up and return a permanent Pawtucket venue for film.
This is his master plan. Brace yourself. It involves an ax, which Roth is ready and willing to wield.
"This festival is the thin edge of the wedge," Roth says. "We're reintroducing film into this community."
That's nice, you say, but, perhaps, Pawtucket makes you pause. A film festival there?
Yes, there's a film festival there, and, frankly, Roth is a little irritated more Rhode Islanders aren't more familiar with it.
"It's easier to bring people down from Boston to see the films than people from Providence," Roth says. "I think they're ignorant about Pawtucket. It has a bad rep. People think of corruption with the mayor, pollution and economic downturn."
That's Pawtucket's past, Roth says, not its present.
"The river is beautiful and this is an extremely artist-friendly town. People don't know it."
Here's what you need to know. The festival happens in a 75-seat venue in the Visitors Center, located downtown. Tickets are $10, but that includes food, beverages, live music and a T-shirt.
"We try to do things a little different," Roth says. "Instead of selling people on films they've already heard of and bringing in the usual suspects, we try to make a fun evening."
The phrase film festival doesn't help. But that's what this is.
"It sounds like something film students would go to," Roth says. "I want this to be more fun."
The festival features four full-length productions -- two documentaries and two features. It also involves several short films by local filmmakers.
"Some of the shorts are two minutes," Roth says. "If you can't sit through that, you've got trouble."
The first film to be shown, tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., is Our Song, by Jim McKay of New York. It's a story about three teenage girls in a marching band in a predominantly black neighborhood of New York.
"In independent films, Jim McKay is really well known, which doesn't make him well known to the general public," Roth says.
On Sunday at 6:30 p.m., the documentary La Boda & La Escuela, by Hannah Weyer of New York, will be shown. It chronicles the life of a female Mexican farm hand.
"It's educational, and it's just plain artfully done," Roth says.
Another documentary, Mai's America, by Marlo Poras of Framingham, Mass., will run on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. This documentary, which was previously shown on PBS, is about a Vietnamese exchange student coming to America and studying in the South.
The last film, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, by Jackie Egan of New York, runs Sunday, Sept. 22, at 6:30 p.m.
"It's basically Mystery Science Theater, but done artfully," Roth says. "It's an old science-fiction movie with the dialogue redubbed, and instead of people turning into aliens, they turn gay."