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Since its founding in 2010, the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza has strived to bring the best of emerging, small-scale cinema to Washington. Artsier and slightly less refined than better known local festivals like SilverDocs and Filmfest DC, RIFE draws from a host of genres to fill out its weeklong schedule of features and shorts. The lineup for its third iteration, which begins Friday, skews toward the austere and downcast: political documentaries about race riots and questionably convicted prisoners, domestic dramas about terminal illness and molestation, and, of course, an art film involving body modification. (For Blood Film, Lara Salmon and Kevin Walker painted 80 feet of film with cups of their blood and manipulated the results into a short movie.) Still, there are moments of levity interspersed with all the gloom: Oxygen for the Ears looks outward from Washington, D.C., to ponder where jazz came from and where it’s going, while The Cardboard Bernini follows one man’s attempt to build an entire sculpture in the style of the Renaissance artist out of cardboard.

The Reel Independent Film Extravaganza runs through October 18 at West End Cinema, 2301 M Street, NW. (202) 419-3456. reelindependentfilm.com.