Rome International Film Festival connects GHC and Rome to the Atlanta Film Industry

Beginning on Wednesday, November 6, Rome, Georgia hosted the Rome International Film Festival for its sixteenth year. The festival ran through Sunday, November 10 and included showings of features, documentaries and short films, many of them produced by local filmmakers.

The festival, which was originally hosted in Dahlonega, relocated to Rome in 2004. It was brought to Rome by Harry Musselwhite, a Berry College professor. Musselwhite ran the festival with help from his wife, Laura Musselwhite, a history professor at Georgia Highlands.

The festival’s close connection to GHC continued when Cartersville campus Regional Operations Manager Seth In- gram took over as executive director in 2015.

“We’ve always had students involved,” said Jessie Bishop, Director of Faculty Academy and Associate Professor of English at the Floyd campus. Bishop is also president of the RIFF board this year.

This year, the festival showed a film produced by a GHC faculty member. Mack- leen Desravines is an associate professor of English and the executive producer for “Smoke” (2018), a narrative feature based on the real-life Dearborn Heights murders.

“I’m a big supporter of the independent film and the locally produced film,” said Ingram. “I purposefully try to put in as many of those as we can.”

One of Ingram’s own short films was shown at the festival. “Hammertree & Sons P.I.” is a “sizzle,” a promotional reel to give backers a taste of a TV show concept. In this case, Ingram used the sizzle to pitch a detective show about Hammertree, a redneck farmer who moves to the big city to pursue his dream of opening a detective agency.

Ingram said that the short was loosely scripted with lots of improvisation from the actors. The cast was made up not of professional actors but of Ingram’s friends and relatives. Like many of the films shown at the festival, “Hammertree & Sons P.I.” was filmed locally.

The festival featured far more than short films and narrative features. The five days of showings included political documentaries, real-life stories of battling Alzheimer’s and experimental animation. The festival also hosted events outside of film showings with a wine tasting, a salsa party and social also on the agenda.

The RIFF has something for everyone. Some of the film showings were designated family friendly, while others featured more mature content.

On Thursday, November 7, the festival hosted an outdoor showing of “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” the animated story of a dog that served in World War I. Attendees were encouraged to bring their own canine companions to enjoy the film with them.

This year the festival introduced its new film academy, providing three days of educational workshops for aspiring filmmakers in middle school, high school, and college. In- gram said that the workshops were well-received.

“I think Rome is just waking up to the film industry and what this could mean,” Ingram said. The RIFF is one of many programs linking Rome to the ever-growing Atlanta film industry.

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Eric Gordon spoke about his film “When All That’s Left is Love.” Photo by Penelope Stephens

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Rome International Film Festival is at the Desoto Theatre  Photo by Penelope Stephens