This year’s 21st edition of Winston-Salem’s RiverRun International Film Festival begins today and screens through April 14. More than 170 films from 47 different countries grace screens across Winston-Salem and one location in Greensboro, bringing a wide breadth of films to local viewers. Comedies, thrillers, documentaries, shorts and even animated works tell stories relevant to our pasts, present and futures. As part of this year’s RiverRun issue, we are excited to bring a carefully curated guide reviewing some of the most compelling works of film from the last year. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll groan and maybe even yell. We know we did.

Always in Season: This difficult documentary poses an alternative to the official cause of death of Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old black boy who was found hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, NC, in 2014.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché: This documentary uncovers the life and career of Alice Guy-Blanché, a female director who was one of the most prolific during cinema’s first phase, and influenced cinematic giants like Sergei Eisenstein and Alfred Hitchcock.

Bei Bei: This documentary delves into the abortion debate by focusing on Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant woman living in Indiana, who is facing two felony counts after her baby died when she committed suicide.

Buddy: This heartwarming documentary follows the lives of six people who rely on service dogs to live their day-to-day lives and the intimate relationships they have with their canines.

Don’t Get Trouble in Your Mind: Greensboro-based band Carolina Chocolate Drops gets their story told in this film.

Freaks: This thriller follows the struggle of a multi-generational family as they fight for their lives in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world.

Life is Fare: This freeform film follows the story of an Eritrean woman making a film in San Francisco and explores themes of identity, mental health and reality.

Lupe: This drama centers of a transgender protagonist who, while searching for their sibling, also searches for their true identity.

No Country For Old Men: Winston-Salem journalist and musician Eddie Garcia produces an original score for this Coen Brothers film.

Ode to Joy: In this film, Martin Freeman plays a man with cataplexy, or a condition that causes him to fall asleep if he experiences joy. When he meets a woman and falls in love, managing his disorder becomes harder.

‘The Ostrich Politic’: This animated short serves up uncomfortable questions of compliance, the truth, and accountability by showing the not-so-unfamiliar lives of ostriches who live in a society grounded through ignorance.

The Rusalka:This quiet thriller by North Carolina native Perry Blackshear, the director of the 2015 psychological thriller They Look Like People, depicts a modern retelling of the Rusalka, a Slavic folktale female creature who haunts the waterways in which she drowned.

‘Santuario’: This locally tied documentary brings the immigration debate home as it follows Juana Luz Tobar Ortega, a Guatemalan woman who sought sanctuary in an unfamiliar Greensboro church in 2017 to avoid deportation.

A Scientist’s Guide to Living and Dying:This drama, co-directed by and starring UNC School of the Arts alum Nitzan Mager, centers on a scientist named Amy, played by Mager, as she mourns the loss of her husband Chris while preparing to give birth to his child.

The Sound of Silence: This feature-length film by an NC-native follows Lucian, a man who makes a living by “tuning” the homes of anxious, troubled New Yorkers.

This Changes Everything: This star-studded documentary explores how film and television promote narratives that marginalize and render girls because women are denied the opportunity to tell stories as producers, directors and actors.

The River and the Wall: This visually stunning documentary tracks a group of friends who travel from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on a 1,200-mile journey to document the border and investigate the looming impacts of a wall on the natural environment.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn: This documentary dives into the mysterious death of Lt. Van Dorn, a Greensboro native who died during a training exercise off the coast of Virginia in 2014 while piloting the US Navy’s 53E helicopter.

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