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The 57th Annual Rochester International Film Festival

For 57 years now, the Rochester International Film Festival has been must-see viewing for local film buffs. Better known as "Movies on a Shoestring," the annual event holds the remarkable title of being the oldest continuously running short film festival in the world. Presenting four unique programs of short films over the course of three nights, this year's edition will be held Thursday, April 23, through Saturday, April 25.

There's something for everyone to enjoy in the festival's lineup, which mixes narrative, documentary, experimental, and animated short films from around the world, giving attendees a wonderful selection of everything the cinema has to offer. And admission is free.

I viewed a number of this year's selections, and what follows are a few of the highlights. For more information on the festival and to view the complete schedule, check rochesterfilmfest.org.  

Thursday, April 23, 8 p.m.

In the wryly comedic "Tuning Oscar," a couple's conversation about death leads to an ill-advised promise which proves to be exceedingly difficult to keep.

In his powerful documentary "Children of Stateless," director Moonsik Chung focuses on the young inhabitants of the Mae-La Refugee Camp in Thailand.

A desperate killer stops at a gas station for some much needed supplies, but is held up by a chatty cashier in the amusing "Open 24 Hours."

A surprise pregnancy reveals the fractures in a long-term relationship in the dramatic two-hander, "Plato Para Dos (Party For Two)," from director Eugenia Llaguno.

Mixing stop-motion and computer animation to lovely effect, "Between Times" acts as a conversation of sorts between a cuckoo clock and the street clock its observes through the window of the bakery where it hangs.

Friday, April 24, 8 p.m.

"OMUL" is German director Brigitte Drodtloff's tender fable about a mysterious man who arrives at street market but whose presence agitates the other vendors when he begins to give away his possessions.

Directed by Tim Guinee and executive produced by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, "One-Armed Man" isn't a retelling of "The Fugitive," but is instead a well-acted period drama about a hopeless man's urgent request to his former employer.

In the enigmatic "Keeping Time," a tribal dance ritual inspires a power station worker to find his own inner strength.

Directed by Minji Kang, "The Loyalist" tells the unsettling story of a North Korean general forced to make a decision between the wishes of his only daughter and those of his leadership.

An aging, out of work actor reluctantly takes a job chaperoning a young boy to a costume contest, in the charming "Cowboys," from Spanish director Bernabé Rico.

Saturday, April 25, 4 p.m.

An international lifeguard competition becomes the source of much strife for a young Iranian woman in Sarah Saidan's beautifully animated "Beach Flags."

In the deadpan and darkly funny "5 Ways 2 Die," a morose man works his way through various methods of offing himself, though his motive remains unclear.  

I'm a sucker for films about old movie theaters, so Adam Carboni and Tansy Michaud's loving documentary "Enjoy Your Intermission," about the Hi-Way Drive-In Theater in Coxsackie, New York, had me at hello.   

Animal lovers will get a kick out of "Foster Dog," from director Lisa Alonso Vear, which takes a "Look Who's Talking" approach to its story of a disabled dog learning the ins and outs of adoption.

The idiosyncratic "Hsu Ji (Behind the Screen)" is somewhat difficult to classify but its story, about the daughter of an illegal immigrant who gets some unexpected help from some silent film characters, is utterly captivating.

Saturday, April 25, 8 p.m.

In the gritty drama "Jaya," from director Puja Maewal, a young girl struggles to survive the streets of Mumbai by posing as a boy.

Jon Noble's harrowing "Nzara '76" tells the story of the first outbreak of Ebola in Sudan. Tensions rise as the virus claims more victims and tradition butts up against medical protocol.

Traveling to Geneva, four strangers are forced to share a ride with an eccentric taxi driver and a chicken named Power in the entertaining farce, "Taxistop."

"Drone Strike" is split into parallel stories between an RAF drone pilot and a father in Afghanistan. It's not hard to see where the film is headed, but that doesn't make its shattering climax any less effective.

The closing day of a beloved movie theater proves a catalyst for relationships both new and old in the bittersweet Spanish drama, "The Last Session."

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