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8:00PM - 10:00PM

"The Last Laugh"

Feature Narrative |  Runtime: 1:28:00

Country of Origin: New York, USA

Language: English

Synopsis: The Holocaust would seem to be an absolutely off-limits topic for comedy. But is it? History shows that even victims of Nazi concentration camps used humor as a means of survival and resistance. Still, any use of comedy in connection with this horror risks diminishing the suffering of millions. So where is the line? If the Holocaust is taboo, what are the implications for other controversial subjects — 9/11, AIDS, racism — in a society that prizes freedom of speech? "The Last Laugh" offers fresh insights into these questions, with an intimate portrayal of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone alongside interviews with influential comedians and thinkers ranging from Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Ross (Comedy Central Roast Battle), Larry Charles (director of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Borat), and Gilbert Gottfried, to authors Etgar Keret and Shalom Auslander, plus Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. 

Director | Producer: Ferne Pearlstein (in attendance)

Ferne Pearlstein, an American filmmaker based in New York City, holds post-graduate degrees in documentary film and photography from Stanford University and the International Center of Photography. In 2003, Pearlstein‘s documentary "Sumo East and West" premiered at the Tribeca, Los Angeles, and Melbourne International Film Festivals, and was shown nationwide on Independent Lens. As a director of photography with dozens of films to her credit, Pearlstein is one of only a handful of female cinematographers featured in Kodak's long-running “On Film” ad campaign in American Cinematographer magazine. In 2004 she won the Excellence in Cinematography Prize at Sundance for her work on "Imelda". Among her other credits as cinematographer are: Academy Award®-winner Alex Gibney’s segment of "Freakonomics"; "Ruthie and Connie (HBO)"; and "The Voice of the Prophet" where she met her longtime collaborator and husband Robert Edwards.

Ferne Pearlstein will be honored as this year's Woman in Film Honoree in a ceremony after the film screenings. For more info, please visit here.

Writer | Producer: Robert Edwards

Robert Edwards is a writer/director based in New York. His most recent film is ONE MORE TIME (aka WHEN I LIVE MY LIFE OVER AGAIN), starring Christopher Walken and Amber Heard, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015. A graduate of Stanford University’s Master’s Program in Documentary Film, Edwards won a 2001 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his first script, LAND OF THE BLIND, which in 2006 became his directorial debut, starring Ralph Fiennes and Donald Sutherland. As a screenwriter, he has written scripts for directors including Bennett Miller, Mark Romanek, and Mike Newell, and for producers such as Plan B, John Davis, and HBO. He is currently at work on a 7-part miniseries about the Flying Tigers for executive producer John Woo and collaborating on a new script with director Ray Tintori. For his own next film, Edwards is developing THE BOMB IN MY GARDEN—based on his adaptation of the memoir of the chief scientist in Saddam Hussein’s uranium enrichment program—with Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil.


Film Website | Facebook



Short Narrative  |  Runtime: 8:53

Country of Origin: New York, USA

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Synopsis: A drama about three close friends who mourn the loss of their friend over dinner one night.


Director: Michael Cannova

Michael Cannova, born in Alabama, spent a decade working in New York ad agencies infusing narratives into his work. His love for story above all shifted his focus to directing. Formerly a Creative Director, he makes his directorial debut in 2017 with the short film BARE.

Co-Writers | Co-Producers: Adriene Brathwaite, Sophie Overwater, Makenzi Koyen (in attendance)

Makenzi Koyen, Sophie Overwater and Adriene Brathwaite all met at their current acting studio, Anthony Meindl's Actors Workshop where they were prompted to create a film for the studio's film festival. The film was written when they gathered one night for dinner and began a discussion about grief. They were inspired to share a story highlighting a new perspective they felt they had not seen before. 




directed by Ferne Pearlstein (NY, USA)

Preceded by Short Film:

  • "Bare" directed by Michael Cannova (NY, USA)

Following the film, there will be a Filmmakers Q&A with the attending filmmakers, and the RIFF Woman in Film Ceremony.

Director of "The Last Laugh", Ferne Pearlstein, will be honored as this year's Woman in Film Honoree in a ceremony after the film screenings. For more info, please visit here.

*All Gala tickets, Day, & Weekend passes include admission to the Opening Night After-Party. All festival tickets include free admission to the Sunday Awards Ceremony. Come join the fun!

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***For helpful information such as tickets, directions, parking, handicap access, and where to eat/stay, please visit our Attend page.

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