State of the Art

Binge-watching, RiverRun film festival style

The Ukrainian drama “The Tribe” bowled critics over at the Cannes festival last year.
The Ukrainian drama “The Tribe” bowled critics over at the Cannes festival last year. ‘THE TRIBE’

In some places, ceaseless viewing expands your mind instead of burning it out. RiverRun International Film Festival, April 16-26 in Winston-Salem, is one I recommend.

Even in a busy April, I can still break away for a day of intense viewing, punctuated by hastily gobbled sandwiches or cartons of yogurt. I can leave on a weekend morning, get there in 90 minutes and cram four movies into my day, then drive home and arrive before midnight.

I like to find one film I’m most anxious to see, then pack others in around it, according to length and proximity.

This year, I’ve singled out “The Tribe,” which Film Comment’s Jonathan Romney called “one of those rare films that you can’t quite believe really exist, that demonstrate that cinema still has a few tricks up its sleeve.” The drama, a movie set at a Ukrainian school for the deaf, won three prizes in Critics Week at Cannes last year despite having no subtitles or spoken dialogue. The whole story gets told through sign language and action.

Around that, I’ve packed “The Look of Silence,” a documentary about victims’ families dealing with the perpetrators of an Indonesian genocide; “Still the Water,” a feature about a Japanese teenage boy and girl who discover a body floating off their island; and “Proud Citizen,” a comedy about a Bulgarian woman who travels to small-town Kentucky for the premiere of her play.

The festival runs for 11 days, April 16-26, and offers 74 features and 91 shorts. (It’s important for the latter, as it’s now one of the qualifying festivals for Academy Awards in the animated and documentary short categories.)

RiverRun has the usual round of events: awards, panels, parties and themed programs, including a black filmmakers’ retrospective this year that includes Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s.

Stay longer, and you can buy sugar cake at Winkler Bakery or hit Winston’s fine restaurants or drop by Reynolda House Museum of American Art, which currently features a national touring exhibit of George Catlin’s paintings of Native American life on the 19th-century plains.

But the main reason to go is to stuff yourself with movies, whether for a day or a week. It’s a gourmand’s delight.