Riverside Saginaw Film Festival brings hundreds to the city

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The Riverside Saginaw Film Festival took place from Thursday, Nov. 8, to Sunday, Nov. 11, at various locations in Saginaw. The festival showcased several different films, including artistic films, documentaries and foreign films.

The nonprofit festival works with volunteers who select the films and organize the event. It started as a common goal between individuals to bring contemporary, thought-provoking and intriguing films to the Saginaw area.

According to Irene Hensinger, the director of the film festival, opening night had a large turnout.

“We opened with ‘The Wife,’ starring Glenn Close, and we had over 300 people on opening night,” Hensinger said. “This is our 12th year at the film festival.”

Viewing locations for the festival included Hoyt Library, the Castle Museum, First Congregational Church, Pit and Balcony Theatre and Court Street Theatre.

This is the first year that the festival has been able to use the Court Street Theatre again, because it recently reopened after closing several years ago.

“We always went [to the Court Theatre] because they were a theatre with seats, popcorn, cup holders and all of that,” Hensinger said. “And then it closed for probably five or six years, and it just reopened, so we’re back there this year.”

The festival committee chooses films based on their newness and popularity. The committee tries to feature Michigan and regionally made films, several of which were shown this year.

“Call me Ishmael” was one of the Michigan films, created by David Shaerf, a professor of film studies and creative writing at Oakland University.

The film is a documentary about people who love the book “Moby Dick.”

Shaerf recalled disliking “Moby Dick” until he reread it after completing graduate school, at which point he chose to create a documentary about the book.

“I came back to it, revisited it and was really taken by how much I loved it,” Shaerf said. “I went down a rabbit hole on the internet and started finding people who were equally as obsessed with the book as I was. And, because I’m a filmmaker, it organically turned into collecting material that would ultimately turn into this film.”

The film festival shows documentaries and films like this one for low prices to the community.

“Ticket prices are only six dollars,” Hensinger said. “We’re funded by grants, local foundations and businesses, as well as individual sponsors. That’s what keeps the prices down.”

The group sees its event as a way to bring people to the city and to enjoy parts of the city they may not otherwise visit.

The film festival partners with restaurants to give discounts on dining to those who hold festival passes.

They also hope that patrons of the films take time to notice the buildings the films are held in and to explore the exhibits within the Castle Museum.

The film festival runs annually. The board of directors prepares yearly for the event, which brings hundreds to the center of Saginaw to enjoy films they wouldn’t have the opportunity to see otherwise.

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