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Richmond Diversity Film Festival aims to spotlight a more diverse world through cinema

Bridget Douglas | April 22, 2015

There is a film festival for every possible topic you can think of. Most film festivals focus specifically on one topic, whether it be LGBTQ, poverty, different ethnicities, you name it.

“We have not been able to find another film festival that’s inclusive of all forms of diversity,” said Leslie Valenza, Publicist for the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival, Richmond Resident and organizer of the Richmond Diversity Film Festival coming to RVA this weekend.

Valenza is long-time with friends with Hollis McLachlan, actress and founder of Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival. When the festival started last year, McLachlan’s mindset was to have the event in Los Angeles every year and then to eventually expand to other cities. Valenza decided to bring the festival to Richmond this year.

“I think Virginia in general is a hot market for independent films and increasingly becoming a hot market for filmmaking in general, even outside of the indie level,” said Valenza. “More and more Hollywood films are being shot here.”

The Richmond Diversity Film Festival will be held this Saturday April 25th at Criterion Cinemas in Movieland. The festival focuses on every possible range of diversity: LBTQ issues, people with disabilities, different ethnicities, life through art and literature, poverty, teenagers and a man searching for his biological parents.

There will be five blocks of films throughout the day. Each block is $5. The festival starts at 1pm and each block lasts from an hour to an hour and a half.

“Each block includes different demographics. So you won’t have 1 or 2 hours dedicated to one group,” said Valenza. “We focus on independent film, often low-budget films, student production, short films and documentaries primarily for this event in Richmond.”

Here are just a few of the films that will be featured that day:


‘Annabel Lee’ was made by a film student in Virginia. It is a short film based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem.


‘Wallas on Velos’, is about four men in Mumbai that each have different jobs and their stories of working by bicycle in the city.


‘Free” is a documentary about five teens in Oakland, following their stories as they work toward a collaborative dance performance, and how they find release through dance.


‘Glass Man’ is about a young depressed and disabled boy with a crippling bone disease that spends his time helping mentally disabled kids to find their place in the world.


‘You Have His Eyes’ is about a 25 year old man whom after recently meeting his biological mother goes on a long journey to find his father.
There will be 16 films featured in the festival.
For the full program block schedule, check out the website here.
There will be a guest speaker between Program Block 3 and 4 around 5:15pm and 5:55pm. The man featured in the film “And Counting” will be doing a Q&A. The film is a documentary about this man whom during the 80′s had came out and left his wife. He then contracted HIV and was given 6 months to live. But he is still alive today and will be participating in the event on Saturday.
This film festival has something to offer for everyone and covers all ranges of diversity.
“I think that this encourages people to step outside of their own lives and become interested and compassionate towards people different than themselves,” said Valenza.