The 20th edition of the RIFF - Rome Independent Film Festival is kicking off today with the pre-opening screening of Silvia Brunelli’s first work The Miracle Child, which was presented at the latest Venice Film Festival. Unspooling 18 - 26 November, and directed by Fabrizio Ferrari, the agenda of this year’s traditional Roman rendez-vous with contemporary, independent cinema will showcase 95 works in competition, whether feature films, documentaries or shorts, hailing from Italy, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the USA, Canada, Burkina Faso and the Lebanon, boasting 21 world premieres, 9 European premieres and 45 Italian premieres, alongside a jam-packed programme of associated events, meetings and masterclasses.

Corruption, the pandemic, sport, mental illness, slavery, racism, life after prison, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, the history of central Rome… These are just a few of the topics tackled by the festival’s selected films (partly viewable in virtual cinemas, courtesy of MYmovies.it), with particular attention paid to the thriller genre. The feature films competition is composed of 8 titles, including Governance by Michael ZampinoFino ad essere felici by Paolo Cipolletta and the psycho-thriller set in lockdown The Grand Bolero by Gabriele Fabbro, in addition to Germany’ Future Is a Lonely Place by Martin Hawie & Laura Harwarth, Spain’s Mía & Moi by Borja de la Vega and Dear Ones by Grzegorz Jaroszuk (Poland/Czech Republic).

There are 13 documentaries competing in the event overall. These include From My House in Da House by Giovanni La Gorga & Alessio Borgonuovo, which is an ironic exploration of the past thirty years as experienced by central Rome; Sue by Elisabetta Larosa, which tells the story of three women who escaped slavery and won back their dignity; A Declaration of Love by Marco Speroni, revolving around a man who was declared innocent and released from prison after spending 22 years on death row; Clown's Planet by Hector Carré, about activist clowns found in all kinds of places, from Palestinian refugee camps to Russian orphanages.

Stealing focus among the Special Events is the Focus on Poland, dedicated to Krzysztof Kieślowski 80 years on from his birth and 25 years after his passing, which also showcases works by more recent directors. There’s also the screening of Hava, Maryam, Ayesha [+] by Afghan director Sahraa Karimi, which sees three women from Kabul, hailing from different social backgrounds, having to face life alone for the very first time; masterclasses led by Hungarian director of photography Gergely Poharnok - the four-time winner of the HSC - Kodak Cinematographer Prize - and Croatian documentary director Anja Strelec; and Love & Pride Day: The Importance of Diversity - a day dedicated to LGBT-themed titles for the third consecutive year, which will spotlight the 2021 Berlinale’s Teddy Award winner Miguel’s War [+] by Eliane Raheb, alongside other offerings.

This year’s closing film, presented out of competition, will be The Bachelorette Party by Francesco Apolloni, who is making his return to the RIFF twenty years after presenting his first feature film Just Do It in the very same setting.