Filmmakers vie for showing in esteemed RI film festival


Quite a few film production companies have visited Rhode Island because of tax credits and unique scenic locations, but that doesn’t make the state synonymous with Oscar-winning films. However, there is something that does.

The Rhode Island International Film Festival, or Flickers, is an Academy Award-qualifying competition. Short films that screen at the festival have the chance to be short-listed for an Oscar, a factor that makes Flickers extremely appealing to filmmakers across the nation.

Kevin and Matt McManus, twin brothers originally from Warwick, wrote and directed a film called “Funeral Kings,” which will screen at Flickers on Aug. 9.

The McManus brothers drew inspiration for “Funeral Kings” from their father’s tales of his childhood.

The McManus’ dad served as an alter boy when he was younger, and told his sons how he would gladly play “hooky” from school after serving at funerals. Though the twins say their dad would do harmless things like grab a donut or a milkshake, the characters in their film are not so angelic.

The twins turned their father’s stories into a dark comedy, weaving together a cast of characters they call “really terrible juvenile delinquents.” The alter boys get themselves into trouble after services, and instead of getting their paws on a cruller or ice cream float, they stumble upon a gun.

The twins, who both attended Emerson College, began writing the screenplay for “Funeral Kings” in 2009, filmed in Warwick over the course of 26 days in the summer of 2010, and took another year to edit the film. Since then, the film has played at film festivals in Austin, Philadelphia and Montreal, Canada.

So what’s it like to have their film screen in their home state?

“It’s really cool,” said Kevin.

Kevin said Flickers also took a shot on one of their first films, another reason the festival is so important to them.

The twins encourage their fellow Rhode Islanders to come support their film, which includes local talent, like their sister Michaela McManus, who has had featured roles on television shows like “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Awake.”

Nearly 3,000 miles away in sunny California, is Ed Wintle. Wintle works for Parkes/MacDonald, the Los Angeles company that produced “Men in Black III,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Catch Me If You Can,” among other blockbusters. Despite his Hollywood connections, Wintle is just as excited as the McManus twins to have his film premiere this month in Rhode Island.

Wintle produced the film “Nina Del Tango,” a period piece that centers on two tango dancers. The film is set in the late 1940s in Argentina, and Wintle said the 25-minute low-budget film turned out “terrific.” “Nina Del Tango” cost about $30,000 to make; “Men in Black III,” said Wintle as a comparison, cost $200 million.

The film took about two years to make, though it was shot in only five days last summer.

To be accepted to Flickers, and earn a chance to qualify for an Oscar is a huge accomplishment.

“Not many Rhode Islanders know about it, but it’s really a huge deal,” he said. “The prestige is great. I’m really, really excited.”

Internationally there are only 63 Oscar-qualifying film festivals; in the U.S. there are only 26, with Rhode Island being the only one in New England.

Tsutomu Brelsford, public relations associate for Flickers, said they received about 4,700 submissions this year. Of that, the festival will screen more than 200 films from 51 countries and 32 states. The festival boasts 28 world premiers and 26 North American or U.S. premieres. Flickers accepts short films, features and documentaries.

Only the short films are judged and placed on the short list for the Academy Awards.

“They’re judged on a lot of aspects,” said Brelsford. “We don’t bias ourselves on high or lend productions.”

Instead, judges examine the quality of the story, narrative and characters.

The 14 judges are Rhode Islanders from all aspects of the film and entertainment industries and journalists, critics, professors and actors. Once the judges narrow the pool of films down, the Rhode Island Film Office chooses the best film in the festival to qualify for an Oscar.

Flickers: The Rhode Island International Film Festival will take place from Aug. 7 through the 12th in theaters around Rhode Island. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at “Funeral Kings” will screen Thursday, Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m. and “Nina Del Tango” will premiere at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12. Both films will screen at the VMA Arts and Cultural Center in Providence.


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