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Three Rivers Film Festival rebuilding

| Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, 4:09 p.m.
Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in 'A Quiet Passion'
Johan Voets
Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in 'A Quiet Passion'
Evan Wolfson (right) in a scene from the documentary “Freedom to Marry'
Evan Wolfson (right) in a scene from the documentary “Freedom to Marry'
A scene from the documentary “Freedom to Marry'
A scene from the documentary “Freedom to Marry'
'Contemporary Color'
'Contemporary Color'
Quinton Aaron stars in 'Halfway'
Quinton Aaron stars in 'Halfway'
Mackenzie Davis in 'Always Shine'
Mackenzie Davis in 'Always Shine'
'One Week and a Day'
'One Week and a Day'

It's been a long ride since George Romero's “Knightriders.”

Fittingly, an offbeat film from Pittsburgh's most famous filmmaker launched the Three Rivers Film Festival in 1982.

The 35th annual festival screens Nov. 16 to 20, with a diverse lineup of three dozen indie and documentary films, with settings ranging from Switzerland to Swissvale.

The Pittsburgh Filmmakers, longtime guardians of the festival, have shifted to the background. Film Pittsburgh — formerly known as JFilm and best known for running the JFilm and Reel Abilities festivals — has stepped in to host this year's festival.

“We took over day-to-day operations this summer,” says Kathryn Spitz Cohan, executive director of Film Pittsburgh. “It's a partnership. … We are working with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts to present an abbreviated version (of the festival).”

Though there was a time crunch, this year, Cohan says her group is thinking big picture: “We're excited to try to build this film festival into something bigger and better attended.”

The 2016 Three Rivers Film Festival launches with a notable documentary, “The Freedom to Marry” — a behind-the-scenes look at the gay marriage battle, made by Eddie Rosenstein and featuring activist Evan Wolfson, both grads of Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill.

This year's festival includes:

• Brothers Bill and Turner Ross' “Contemporary Color,” a profile of David Byrne's staging of a Brooklyn color-guard festival.

• A newly restored version of the silent German classic “Variete,” accompanied by a live performance by the Alloy Orchestra.

• A new “Heidi,” Swiss director Alain Gsponer's take on the classic that has become a hit in Europe.

• Carnegie Mellon University grad Ben Caird's acclaimed debut “Halfway,” with Quinton Aaron (“The Blind Side”) starring as an ex-con trying to figure out life in rural Wisconsin.

• Terrence Davies' “A Quiet Passion,” with Cynthia Nixon leaving Miranda from “Sex and the City” well in the background to play reclusive poet Emily Dickinson.

• Peter J.S. Regan and Benjamin T. Wilson's “A Funny Man,” centering on a quirky phone conversation and one of six mini-films in the festival's “Shorts Program.”

• Robert Greene's “Kate Plays Christine,” an out-of-the-box documentary that explores actress Kate Lyn Sheil (“House of Cards,” “The Girlfriend Experience”) as she prepares to play Christine Chubbuck, a Florida newscaster who committed suicide live on-air in 1974.

• Actor-director Sophia Takal's “Always Shine,” with Caitlin FitzGerald (“Masters of Sex”) and Mackenzie Davis (“Halt and Catch Fire” and the upcoming “Blade Runner 2049”) on a Big Sur weekend that takes a dark turn.

• Ryszard Bugajski's Polish Stalin-era drama “Blindness,” starring Maria Mamona as a cruel officer leading brutal purges against dissidents.

• “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” a documentary on the great poet-activist.

• Israeli director Asaph Polonsky's award-winning drama about loss, “One Week and One Day.”

• “Steeltown Event,” which combines screenings of a few local shorts with a forum featuring Pittsburgh filmmakers.

For the complete lineup, schedules and tickets, visit

Tom Scanlon is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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