"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Run to RiverRun 2024!

RiverRun International Film Festival is back in a big way this year
RiverRun is an Academy-Award-qualifying festival in two of its categories. (Courtesy of Visit Winston Salem)
“RiverRun is an Academy-Award-qualifying festival in two of its categories.” (Courtesy of Visit Winston Salem)

Many of Winston-Salem’s inhabitants are unaware that it is home to one of the most lauded film festivals in the Southeastern United States. Founded in 1998, RiverRun International Film Festival occurs annually each spring — and this year it will take place from April 18-27. 

RiverRun is an Academy-Award-qualifying festival in two of its categories. This means that the films that win in the qualifying categories are automatically considered to be on the preliminary Oscar film list in their respective category. 

Rob Davis, executive director of the RiverRun International Film Festival, provided some insight on the legacy of the festival and its roots in North Carolina as well as the upcoming showings for this spring. He also detailed the film selection process.

“RiverRun film festival was founded in Brevard, North Carolina, and it was struggling in its early years,” Davis said. “The festival’s name was coined because Brevard is located on the banks of the French Broad River that runs through Asheville, North Carolina.” 

Story continues below advertisement

Then-dean of the North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking Dale Pollock felt that Winston Salem needed a film festival to complete its arts offerings. RiverRun was amicably relocated to the City of the Arts in 2003 in a grand effort to keep the festival alive. 

“RiverRun has a strong legacy in presenting exceptional films, both documentary and interpretive, both short and feature-length as well as animated film,” Davis said, emphasizing how the festival supports local filmmakers. 

There is no shortage of arts and cultural events in time, and [Wake Forest] students are very fortunate to be in a city that offers so much in the realm of arts and culture.

— Rob Davis, Executive Director of the RiverRun International Film Festival

This year, RiverRun received its largest number of submissions to date. The festival received 1,924 films by their submission deadline of Dec. 15. They have a programming team and volunteer screeners who sort through the films and ensure that each film is watched. The screeners submit a “report card” of sorts that not only reviews the content of the film but the quality of the filmmaking itself. Screeners grade the technical factors in the scorecard’s rating of sound, color correction and various other aspects.

“We have a legacy of hosting audiences that ask exceptional questions,” Davis said. “Within the filmmaking community, we are known as a very friendly festival, both due to the filmmakers and the festival organizers. There’s a strong reputation for hospitality.” 

Pitchfest, an event that occurs within the first three days of the festival, will be held again this year. College and university students working on documentary films stand before a panel of judges and pitch their films or films in progress. The judges are often industry executives and producers, and the most successful pitches receive funding. 

“The quality of films we receive has been exponentially increasing,” Davis said. “We are now in a place where we are now turning down films that we would have accepted five years ago.”

RiverRun hosts panels following showings, now a common festival feature, which are open to the public. Davis encourages students to come out and educate themselves further — not only on the world of film but also all of the multiple disciplines of study represented and reimagine through visual media.

“Something unique about this festival is that we received a grant to enhance our BIPOC programming,” Davis said. “[We] awarded a fellowship to Fatima Wardy, a Sudanese writer-director, to coordinate and organize a segment of their festival that really focuses on one aspect of BIPOC programming.”

Apart from the festival, RiverRun’s programming persists throughout the year; last year they hosted thirty screenings and will continue hosting them this year, most of which are completely free and open to the public detailed on their website.

“There is no shortage of arts and cultural events in time, and [Wake Forest] students are very fortunate to be in a city that offers so much in the realm of arts and culture,” Davis said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lydia Derris, Arts & Culture Editor

Comments (0)

All Old Gold & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *