She watched 200 films ahead of the Richmond International Film Festival. Here's what she wants you to know.

Posted at 9:25 AM, Sep 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-23 06:35:41-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Heather Waters has watched all 196 films scheduled to be screened at the 2023 Richmond International Film Festival (September 26 - October 1).

As the founder and producer of the festival, now in its 12th year, it's part of the job Waters loves.

"Because [the festival] has grown so much, we are constantly having to review and judge to get it down to the films that are finally accepted," Waters said. "By the time that year ends, I feel like they're almost my babies even though I had nothing to do with the actual filmmaking process."

While Waters may not have anything to do with making the films, it was her vision that created the festival more than a decade ago.

"I had been living in Atlanta and I was about to move back to Los Angeles and started dating a guy from Richmond," Waters said about the birth of the festival. "He was really proud of Richmond and Virginia as a whole. So a lot of our courtship, he would take me to all kinds of events. [During that time] I really got a wonderful snapshot of what Virginia had to offer."

Waters started the festival the same week she moved to Richmond.

"I think that was partially inspired by some of those visits," she said. "I knew, probably before I arrived, we needed to do something to develop this talent and this city because I was falling in love with it already."

While RIFF has its devoted fan base, there are plenty of options for people in the community who have not yet experienced the festival to find something that speaks to them.

"We have 195 films, which is... I can't even believe that. But we're excited about that. There are over 20 countries represented and tons from the U.S. as well. And they're all very different," Water said. "You will not only see great films and some of the most incredible artists who are kind of breakout musicians that the world hasn't fully discovered yet, but it's a welcoming, all-inclusive environment. Some people can come and go and just watch a film or catch live music and hang out with their friends or family. But then we also have those really, I think unique opportunities for the normal film enthusiast and music enthusiasts to hear directly from the artists themselves outside of just performance. And that's one of the things that really makes it special because you get a sneak peek behind the scenes and what these artists are really about on and off the stage."

Click here to learn more about the featured films and click here for the complete RIFF schedule.

Opening night will feature Double Down South at 7:15 p.m. at the Byrd Theatre.

"It's a film that was written and directed by Tom Schulman Tom is the Oscar award-winning writer of Dead Poets Society. He has been involved in so many projects as a writer and or producer," Waters said. "He's a legend. He will also be the recipient of this year's 2023 Legacy Award which we give out annually. So very inspiring."

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