You do something often enough and people start to anticipate it. That’s the kind of buzz Filmfest has generated. Filmfest is D.C.’s largest international festival. There are people who say “What about Silver Docs” at the AFI Silver Theatre. Well, that’s a subway ride to Silver Spring, but it’s still Maryland. Filmfest is D.C.’s born and bred. For 10 days, the world of film comes to Washington.
When international films were in little movie art houses long gone from the D.C. scene today, Filmfest pumped up the volume bringing in features and documentaries from countries that were part of the old “axis of evil” guard like propaganda films from Vietnam. Filmfest is in its 23rd year, still under the direction of Anthony Gittens.
This year’s opening night film is “Departures” by Yojiro Takita of Japan (which is also playing in the Tribeca Festival in NYC). “Departures” won an Academy Award for best foreign language film of 2008. This is one of several films from Japan, one of the regional focuses of this year’s festival as well as Eastern Europe.
Music is a theme emerging. There are two documentaries about two Cuban legends, Celia Cruz (“Celia the Queen“) and Bebo Valdez (“Old Man Bebo“) under a Global Rhythms banner. Seniors get a shout out as well as “Views from the News” featuring films that explore the role of government in daily life.
Unlike most festivals, Filmfest is not a market. It doesn’t court the Hollywood players. It courts audiences, and many of its events sell out. It also connects with D.C.’s diplomatic community. The embassy community has been one of the festival’s biggest supporters.
Like most festivals Filmsfest does give out audience awards and this year introduces a new Signis festival award presented to the film judged by the Signis jury to best illuminate and celebrate what it means to be human in a diverse and challenging world.
Filmfest runs through April 26. For a full schedule visit www.filmfestdc.org.