Having a ball: Enjoying the RiverRun Film Festival; Minor League season gets underway

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2019

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Hanesbrands Theater became like a second home for me last week during the RiverRun International Film Festival.

It was one of the venues for the 21st annual festival, which has built quite a reputation over the years with its diverse assortment of films produced by established and emerging filmmakers from around the world.

This year was no different with more than 170 films from nearly 50 countries being part of the 2019 lineup. I enjoy checking out the schedule and target some of the more interesting choices and what I can work into my schedule.

In addition to Hanesbrands, there’s the a/perture cinema downtown and UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA) and SECCA in Winston-Salem along with Red Cinemas in Greensboro, but my picks for three straight days were all at Hanesbrands.

Besides the interesting mix of films, one of the things I really like about RiverRun is the number of directors that are available after the screenings to offer their insights into what we just watched on the big screen.

That was the case with “Trigger,” the suspenseful thriller set in a secluded mountain-top home when a young widowed mother suffering from anxiety and her child were confronted with an electronics repair man that she suspected had plans to kill her and her son instead of repairing the home-security system.

Afterward, directors Warren Smythe and Alexandra Sedlak discussed the film and took questions. I thought she looked familiar when she came to the podium, and sure enough, she was not only a director but the star on the screen as the young widowed mother in “Trigger.”

The couple revealed they were dating, and she talked about how they wanted the film to bring out different thoughts and reactions to the gripping chamber piece.

The next day provided a totally different experience with the documentary “Afterward” when Jerusalem-born trauma expert Ofra Bloch travels to Germany to meet children of the same Nazis that imprisoned her family. Then, it was on to Israel and Palestine to confront the history of the countries and come to grips with what has been the story of her life.

And finally, there was the NC Shorts Program One when I saw six shorts ranging from 12 minutes to 30 minutes — almost two hours in all — on a variety of subjects: “32°” (on climate change as it relates to the N.C. skiing industry), “As In Death” (on a Durham man who began the Durham Homicide and Memorial Quilt), “No Sanctuary” (on many personal details relating to the tragic 2015 church shooting deaths in Charleston, S.C.), “Peripheral Visions” (on the life and work of N.C. political cartoonist V.C. Rogers), “Santuario” (on the immigrant woman from Guatemala who took sanctuary at a church in Greensboro) and “Walker’s” (an observational portrait of a historic black barbershop in Wilmington).

All were very interesting, and three of the shorts had their directors on hand, including “32°” directors. I learned in that film that a record snowfall of over 100 inches in Boone in 1960 led to the start of the skiing business the next year in the N.C. mountains at Appalachian Ski Mountain.

I only got to catch a snippet of the 10 days of entertainment this year, but I now know to set aside more time in early April each year for RiverRun.

• • • • •

Baseball season is here, which means I’m a happy guy.

I managed to make it to “Opening Night” for both of the minor league teams in the Triad.

First up was making the short drive to Greensboro to see the Grasshoppers, which was a must-see for me since the franchise reached a deal to become a new affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the South Atlantic League starting in 2019.

That means I get to check out some of the future stars for my favorite major league team long before they make it to Pittsburgh, And I only have to drive 30-some miles to the ballpark in downtown Greensboro to see them play.

Next up was the Winston-Salem Dash home opener at BB&T Ballpark last Thursday night to watch the Luis Robert Show. If you’re not a diehard fan like me, you might not have heard of this 21-year-old rising star, but he can do it all — he was hitting .444 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI in the first eight games this season.

Robert, who received a $26 million signing bonus a couple of years ago as a top international prospect from Cuba, crushed a go-ahead home run late in the game well over the center-field wall. It may not have landed yet.

Anyway, remember this name, and go see the Dash soon before he moves up to the next level on what should be a fast track, if he stays healthy, to Chicago and playing in the outfield beside Eloy Jiminez, a former Dash standout from a couple of years ago.

Yes indeed, Play Ball!