For 19 years, the Roxbury International Film Festival (RIFF) has brought buried voices to the forefront to entertain, to educate and, whenever possible, to spur viewers into action. The festival — for, by and about people of color — boasts over 60 films from a variety of genres this year.
“We have so many films that tell stories that people don’t even know about. I love when people come out of a movie thinking, ‘I had no idea,’ ” says Lisa Simmons, founder and president of the Color of Film Collaborative and director of RIFF.
She talks animatedly about the history of RIFF (which starts Thursday, June 22) and her passion for film, but it’s obvious that the festival’s audience holds a special place in her heart.
“They want to be entertained, but they also want to be moved and they want to, I think, be educated. They’re really passionate about things that they might learn from a particular film, which is what I think draws people to the festival,” she says.
One film that does just that is “Mixed Match.” An emotionally-charged, partially animated documentary written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, “Mixed Match” follows the lives of multiracial blood cancer patients in a desperate search to find mixed-race bone marrow or blood cell donors.
The idea for the film stems from Athena Asklipiadis who founded Mixed Marrow, a nonprofit dedicated to finding bone marrow and blood cell donors for patients of multiethnic descent, in 2009. In 2010, Asklipiadis reached out to Stearns via Facebook for help.
The two spent years meeting patients in need and interviewing medical experts to develop the illuminating film where viewers get a glimpse of the hope and heartache that comes along with searching for and sometimes finding a match, only for the donor to pull out or for the match to possibly be unsuccessful.
Typically, only 30 percent of all patients find a matching donor in their families. The other 70 percent must rely on a stranger to donate,…