Three Rivers Film Festival Accents Pittsburgh Figures in its 35th Year

Three Rivers Film Festival Accents Pittsburgh Figures in its 35th Year

Originally featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 11.16.16

The Three Rivers Film Festival has been a home for filmmakers the past 35 years, especially those born in Pittsburgh. And with 26 events in just five days, Film Pittsburgh’s inaugural year of programming is set to highlight many meaningful Steel City connections.

Kathryn Spitz Cohan, executive director of the nonprofit Film Pittsburgh (formerly JFilm), said that in such a small film market, the festival serves a vital role.

“It gives you an opportunity to see films that you would never see in Pittsburgh, and that’s the point,” she said. “These films are one shot only, one night only.”

To kick off the jam-packed schedule, Three Rivers opens with the frank documentary “The Freedom to Marry,” at 7 tonight at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown.

Boasting two Pittsburgh natives, director Eddie Rosenstein and protagonist Evan Wolfson, the film zooms in on a historic moment that took place less than two years ago — the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which legalized same-sex marriage in all states.

A catered reception featuring a Q&A session with Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. Wolfson and the ACLU-PA’s Vic Walczak follows the screening.

But the festival is not all about documentaries. There are traditional art house films such as “Neruda,” whimsical cinematographic features such as “Lost in Paris” and “glorious remakes” such as the German subtitled “Heidi,” which Ms. Spitz Cohan lauds for its artistry.

“Halfway” — a drama featuring “The Blind Side” star Quinton Aaron — challenges the failed American prison system. The story centers around a recently released prisoner dropped into rural Wisconsin and left to his own devices as the only black man in town.

The film, directed by Carnegie Mellon University graduate Johnny Patterson, speaks to Ms. Spitz Cohan’s dedication to feature native producers and filmmakers in her first year organizing the Three Rivers Film Festival.

“We certainly paid attention to films submitted to us that have a Pittsburgh connection,” Ms. Spitz Cohan said.

The festival opens at the August Wilson Center tonight at 7 and runs through Sunday at various locations. For more information about the festival: Student discounts are available and tickets may be purchased at