Richmond International Film Festival kicks off with musical acts

Richmond International Film Festival kicks off with musical acts

Now in its sixth year, the festival features more than 150 films and musical acts at venues throughout Richmond.

Photo: Amelia Heymann

Amelia Heymann – Capital News Service

Chatter once filled the room, but is now replaced by a different sound. Silence is shattered by electric cello. With the help of live looping, a single man creates a complex song that ebbs and flows through the air. With the exit of the cello comes heavy beats created with a keyboard and brass wind instruments with crescendo of notes piercing the air. What starts as an onstage performance then deconstructs into musicians blending in with an an excited crowd. This is the opening music act for the Richmond International Film Festival.

Wytold and the Trap Music Orchestra performed at the Sound of Music on Altamont Avenue on Monday night as the first musical performances of the event. Wytold is cellist who uses a six string electric cello & a looping machine to mix classical and contemporary music. The Trap Music Orchestra combines the classical jazz orchestra with trap.

This was also both act’s first time in Richmond. However, Wytold said he had been in similar events. “I’ve been in some film festivals before because some of my music has been featured in films,” he said. One was the documentary Blood Brother, which won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival.

Heather Waters, founder and producer of the festival, says that this year is different from others. In its premiere, the festival featured only 15 films. Now in its sixth year, the Richmond International Film Festival is a full film and music festival with 30 more musical performers than last year, and 150 films from over 35 countries.

Waters has produced and performed in film and music creative works since she was young. When she moved to Richmond seven years ago, she noticed that the city was lacking in a competitive film festival, such as with the Sundance Film Festival out west. As a member of the Virginia Producers Association, which has brought film productions such as Lincoln to the Commonwealth, she wanted to help showcase Richmond’s talent.

“I absolutely love working with other creatives and promoting them, developing them, so really I was inspired by that,” said Waters. “Richmond has so many things going for it; this is something that can help really support the development of artists here, and [our city’s] economic development through tourism.”

Waters isn’t the only one looking forward to working with other artists. “We’re incredibly excited,” said Ryan Easter, a member of the Trap Music Orchestra. “Especially to be part of a more centric type of art environment. It felt cool to do a musical act in a space that doesn’t entirely focus on music; to really get a better feel of what the community of the arts is like in Richmond.”

Events are being held all over the city at locations such as The Bryd Theatre, Bowtie Movieland and Boulevard Square, and The Broadberry. Most events are open to the public and range from professionally-led workshops to live musical performances.

Festival highlights

  • On Tuesday, there will be a red carpet premiere of The Last Punch, a film based on the last fight of Muhammad Ali. The director Jesse Vaughan will be holding a workshop before the film. Karon Riley, the actor who plays Muhammad Ali, will also be at the festival.
  • Wednesday evening, Smooth Da Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler will be performing at the Broadberry. Smooth just finished a feature film with Ice-T. Waters said that Smooth will be coming to complete the soundtrack to the film, which contains hit artists like Jay-Z and Beyonce.
  • Well-known French actress Irene Jacob will fly out to Richmond for one day only to attend the Thursday screening of the film Tales of Mexico, which she stars in. That evening she will also be performing jazz music with her brother at The Hofheimer in Scott’s Addition.
  • On Sunday, the festival will end with a Red Carpet Awards Ceremony. Awards will be given to films, filmmakers, and musicians alike. The gala is open to the public, with tickets available for $20.

The Richmond Film Festival runs from February 27th to March 5th, 2017. Tickets are available for purchase online at Individual tickets range in price from $10 to $15, whereas access passes range from $25 to $400. While many of the events are open to the public, some are exclusive to filmmakers, musicians, full access pass holders, or VIP pass members.

The music of Monday night gave way once more to idle chatter and eventually the crowd dispersed. However, with the rising sun comes more music, for the festival has only just begun.



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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.