Featured photo: A still from the documentary, Bloom, which follows three families and their doulas in NC.

A story about one team’s journey to the championships. An intimate look at three families’ birthing process. An inspiring music teacher. A portrait of an activist group.

For this year’s RiverRun Festival, we chose a handful of documentaries — both long and short — that were filmed in the Triad and feature local stories.

The festival starts on Thursday and runs through April 27. Several films will be screened at theaters in Winston-Salem and Greensboro and also virtually. For more information visit riverrunfilm.com.



Directed by Elizabeth Miller-Derstine, Allison Rieff, 65 minutes


  • Marketplace Cinemas in Winston-Salem, April 21, 4 p.m. (A discussion will follow the screening with the filmmakers and representatives from Novant Health.)
  • Virtual, April 29-May 6 at riverrun.com

In a highly politicized landscape around reproductive rights and healthcare, this one-hour documentary brings empathy and a conversation about care to its center. Directed by Wake Forest graduate students Elizabeth Miller-Derstine and Allison Rieff, the film follows the stories of three different couples and their respective doulas as they plan for the births of their children. By following closely from the weeks before their babies’ birth, to the delivery room to the period after the babies are born, Bloom takes viewers on an intimate look at what it’s like to give birth in North Carolina today.

The film starts with a stark reminder of today’s realities: “If you’re a mom today, you’re 50 percent more likely to die in childbirth than your own mom was, 3-4 times more if you’re Black, compared with if you’re white.” The film also highlights how in a March of Dimes Report Card, which highlights the latest key indicators to describe and improve maternal and infant health, Forsyth County received an F.

However, rather than being a depressing story about the dangers of giving birth, the film shows the kind of affirming experience that is possible when parents have a support system during one of the most important phases of their lives.

Couple Rachel and Lee, who have a large, 11-pound baby on the way, talk through details about cesarean sections with doula Jessica Bower. In Jessica and Ricky’s instance, doula Ka’Tiera Truett shows Jessica a catheter that would be used on her if doctors needed to induce pregnancy. Delaney and Thomas, who had a traumatic first birthing experience, opt for a water birth for their second child. 

Throughout the film the case is made that it takes a village to not only raise a child but to bring them into the world and that doulas can help to carry that load. At the end, the film states that 11 states plus Washington DC have passed legislation for Medicaid reimbursement for doulas services, but that North Carolina is not yet one of those states. 

But the hope is that as more parents like the ones featured in the film share their stories, the more normalized having support through pregnancies will become.

“It’s a safety net to have a best friend carry you through your pregnancy,” doula and birth educator ShLanda Burton explains.

Through the Lines

Directed by Gerry Gibson, 119 minutes


  • HanesBrands Theatre in Winston-Salem, April 21, 4:30 p.m.
  • RED Cinemas in Greensboro, April 23, 5:30 p.m.
  • Virtual, April 29-May 6 at riverrun.com

Through the Lines, Gerry Gibson’s deep dive on the NC Fusion soccer team, is a big story about a short season.

Specifically, he’s documenting the Fusion’s 2023 season, just their second in the USL2 division, as it emanates from their home pitch in High Point to the championship game.

And from the beginning of this 2-hour documentary feature, we delve into the minutiae of the thing, game by game: mini-profiles the coaches and many of the players, to be sure, but also time on the travel bus, bits of game strategy, breakdowns of every bad call and red card, some discussion of the infrastructure of the American versions of the game as opposed to the European model, the drama of a thrown water bottle and lots more granular detail that will enthrall students of the game.

For the casual fan, there are the stories of the athletes themselves, overlooked players relegated to a lesser league with just three months to make their individual cases for promotion to the big time. 

The film is more “Welcome to Wrexham” than “Ted Lasso,” with emotional monologues from the players as they rise through the league during that spectacular season, but without the colorful locals and Hollywood stars. For the soccer fan, it’s as real as a sports doc gets. With a 2-hour runtime, it’s pretty long — they win the SouthAStlantic Division at the halfway mark — but not if you love it. And by the end, it’s hard not to love these guys.


‘Your Cadenza’

Directed by Chen Zheng, 24 minutes


  • HanesBrands Theatre in Winston-Salem, April 26, 5:30 p.m. (The film will be screened as part of North Carolina Shorts, Program Three: Winston Stories)
  • Virtual, April 29-May 6 at riverrun.com

This sweet little film follows music teacher Olesya (Alex) Dashkevych as she teaches a group of elementary school kids how to play violin through the Winston-Salem Symphony’s PLAY Music Program.

Dashkevych, who grew up playing violin in Ukraine, traveled to Italy playing in prestigious orchestras and chambers before finding herself in Winston-Salem as a teacher. Prior to taking up teaching, Dashkevych reveals that she had been assaulted, causing her lasting injuries that prevented her from playing violin professionally. Because of that, Dashkevych found herself going back to school for nursing in addition to spending time teaching the kids.

The film, which lasts 24 minutes, is as much about Dashkevych’s journey as it is her students’. Kids no older than 8 or 9 start by learning how to play the instrument using paper violins that they construct and decorate to eventually showing off their hard work in a seminario concert held at RJ Reynolds High School. Throughout the film, Dashkevych’s resiliency and bubbly personality shines through, highlighting the program, which helps kids from diverse backgrounds learn music and literacy. ALong the way, viewers can delight every time a child hits the right note in Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or the more difficult, Mary Had a Little Lamb. And by the end of the film which coincides with the concert, you can’t help but root for everyone involved.


Directed by Parker Beverly, Louie Poore, 16 minutes


  • HanesBrands Theatre in Winston-Salem, April 26, 5:30 p.m. (The film will be screened as part of North Carolina Shorts, Program Three: Winston Stories)
  • Virtual, April 29-May 6 at riverrun.com

Editor’s note: A longer version of this review was previously published online by TCB in February.

The camera zooms in on Michael Douglas’ face, years of life reflected in the slight wrinkles under his eyes and the white in his goatee. His eyes are closed, but the first line to come out of his mouth speaks volumes.

“We’ve got people living in two- and three- and five-hundred thousand dollar homes and we’re living in deficient housing, meaning Crystal Towers,” Douglas says.

Thus starts the short documentary “United,” which follows a small but determined group of residents — many of whom are elderly or disabled — who live in Winston-Salem’s 11-story, low-income housing facility.

The film, which is streaming on Vimeo, was created by Louie Poore and Parker Beverly as an assignment for Wake Forest’s documentary film program of which they are now graduates. 

In the past several years, a dedicated group of residents and activists have coalesced around improving living conditions at Crystal Towers. Many news outlets, including TCB, have reported on the subpar living conditions afflicting residents including mold, broken elevators and even a recent fire. The result is a group called Crystal Towers United, which in large part has been led by resident Michael Douglas.

The film, which spans just about 16 minutes long, captures snapshots of residents fighting for change through speaking at city council meetings, strategizing at organizer Dan Rose’s dinner table and meeting in the library.

As a longtime resident of the building, Douglas is a natural protagonist. But his penchant for public speaking and activism didn’t stop with his living space. In November 2023, Douglas announced that he would be running for a seat on city council in the Northwest Ward. Like so many underdog stories, the film touches on the core reasoning why regular citizens become activists: because the powers at be, aren’t doing anything to help them, and often, are working against them.

“It wasn’t right,” Douglas says, reflecting on his speech at city council. “I shouldn’t have been there; I shouldn’t have had to complain; I shouldn’t have been forced to run for office.”

And at the 14-minute mark in the film, viewers finally see the point driven home. 

Because even once the cameras stop rolling, the work continues.

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