The 2023 Rome International Film Festival (RIFF) runs from Nov. 2 to Nov. 5, including more than 125 film screenings and bringing thousands of visitors to Rome, Ga. A highlight will be a special appearance on Nov. 3 by actor/director Ethan Hawke for the Southeast premiere of “Wildcat,” a new film about Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor.

“Wildcat” is an unconventional biopic film with deep Georgia connections to Savannah-born novelist O’Connor as she struggles to publish her first novel. Hawke selected RIFF for the film’s Southern premiere (only the second U.S. screening) because of the festival’s broader mission to promote literacy in Georgia and to help celebrate its 20th anniversary. 

“Asleep in My Palm” will be at 6:45 pm on Saturday with a Q&A afterward with Tim Blake Nelson (“O Brother Where Art Thou” and “Old Henry”) in the film, directed by Nelson’s son, Henry.

RIFF is well-known for showcasing breakthrough artists–from local Georgians to international filmmakers (Burt Reynolds, Danielle Deadwyler, Billy Bob Thorton to name a few). The festival has a full schedule of highly anticipated events–hosted by multiple venues in Rome.

Rome International Film Festival Facts:

· Over $500,000 economic impact on local businesses

· Over 5,000 attendees, 40% of them are tourists

· Over 125 films screened, featuring four red carpet events 

RIFF’s awards include more than 10 categories into which films could be submitted, and this year more than 400 films from 48 countries are vying for RIFF’s Sylvia, their version of an Oscar, given annually to the best films chosen by an international panel of jurors with expertise in all aspects of filmmaking. 

Jurors this year include a great variety of national filmmakers, local film lovers and experts, and industry experts. Actors such as Ethan Embry of films “That Thing You Do” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Sunny Mabry who has acted in “Snakes on a Plane” and “Hillbilly Elegy” will partner with actor and producer Trevor Duke-Moretz of “Alias,” and local Rome videographer/photographer Ryan Simmons, among others.

Rome International Film Festival Focus areas:

This year, RIFF’s leadership expanded the festival’s mission from an annual event to a year-round engagement creating near-monthly opportunities for important conversations about race, diversity, education, literature, film, and other creative channels. RIFF also curates legacy films that draw industry icons who share their knowledge via masterclasses and workshops.

· Educating for the Future: On Oct. 27, 2023, local high school students will hear first-hand from film industry pros how attending college in Rome can help them secure their place in the lucrative film industry — behind or in front of the camera. This day-long seminar will be held at Georgia Highlands College, courtesy of monies donated by local civic leaders and several organizations that support the arts, including Georgia Council for the Arts.

· Enlightenment & Issue Elevation: With a South Arts grant, RIFF and partner Berry College will present six documentaries throughout the year that highlight issues facing the region, from literacy to racism to mental health. In conjunction with local thought leaders, these films will start important conversations about the local community.

· Enriching Northwest Georgia: RIFF, government leaders in Rome and Floyd County, and other partners are working to entice more film production to Northwest Georgia. A study committee has been created and is exploring everything from local tax incentives, to private investment, to strategic partnerships. As more films are drawn here, local businesses reap the benefit.

“Our 20th Anniversary provided an opportunity to contemplate RIFF’s future, and we are committing even more strongly to being an uplifting presence in the community for discussing important issues and furthering the cause of education, both through the lens of film, which can be a lever for open conversation and potentially a more stable economic future due to higher-paying jobs,” says Leanne Cook, Executive Director of the Rome International Film Festival. 

Georgia Unscripted Roadshow Hits Rome! Executives from the gaming, film and television industries will also be in Rome on the first day of the Festival, Nov. 2, to kick off the Northwest Georgia edition of a statewide program created by Georgia Entertainment News, the  “Georgia Entertainment Unscripted Roadshow.” The event highlights Georgia’s creative business economy and the impact of the entertainment industry around the state.

About Rome International Film Festival 

Rome International Film Festival (RIFF) is a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Northwest Georgia. RIFF welcomes films and filmmakers from around the globe to share the art of independent film with regional audiences, to entertain and enlighten festival attendees, to provide filmmakers the opportunity for professional networking and development, and to encourage cultural tourism and film industry development in Rome, Georgia and the surrounding area.

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