What to see at Filmfest DC 2014. It’ll (probably) be your last chance.
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For its 28th and likely final year, Filmfest D.C. is sticking to the same ol’. Back are familiar programs of films like Justice Matters, Trust No One, Global Rhythms, and the Lighter Side—whose comedy lineup includes the rather serious (and rather awful) mob movie The Mafia Bookkeeper, which is at least a good example of how misguided FilmFest can be. With its broad slogan “For People Who Love Movies,” the annual gathering has once again thrown together a wide-ranging slate of art-house reliables (Mood Indigo, the new film from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry), middle-brow comedies, thrillers from across the globe, and the odd bit of Washington bait, like Nicholas Wrathall’s documentary on Gore Vidal. There are more than 80 films, including the opening night selection of The Grand Seduction (a Canadian tickler starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch whose plot strongly recalls Northern Exposure) and closing-night film The Bachelor Weekend (an Irish film about, well, a bachelor weekend). Conflict, whether political, religious, or familial, is as always a prevalent theme, with films such as Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine, Excuse My French, and Half of a Yellow Sun attempting to dissect and perhaps bring enlightenment to divisive and often violent clashes within society.
As for your own Filmfest conflicts, our overview of this year’s slate should at least give you a fairly balanced no-go list. Soak it up: Next year, if you want 10 days of cinema you can’t see elsewhere, you’ll either have to hit up AFI Docs, itself struggling with its identity after moving half its slate downtown after years in Silver Spring, or assemble your own Filmfest from the city’s dozens of smaller, niche film gatherings.
Unless, of course, Filmfest finds a savior. Organizers had to dip into reserves to fund this year’s event, and have projected a $250,000 deficit if it goes ahead with a 2015 festival, Filmfest Director Tony Gittens said in February. As costs like venue rentals have risen and funds have shrunk, staging Filmfest each year has become more difficult, with employees having already taken a pay cut this year. (The festival is funded through a combination of ticket sales, city and foundation grants, and individual donations.) A white-knight donor could still emerge—Gittens would like to see D.C. government increase its aid—but it hasn’t happened yet. “My board reminds me there’s always a possibility. No one’s stepped up as yet,” Gittens said.
In Filmfest’s promotional materials, Gittens writes that “good movies make the world a better place.” No doubt. Unfortunately, we may soon get to find out what kind of place the District is without a Filmfest D.C.
—Tricia Olszeswki and Jonathan L. Fischer
Filmfest DC takes places April 17 to 27 at AMC Mazza Gallerie: 5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW; Avalon Theatre: 5612 Connecticut Ave. NW; Embassy of France: 4101 Reservoir Road NW; Goethe-Institut: 812 7th St. NW; Landmark E Street Cinema: 555 11th St. NW; Landmark Bethesda Row: 7235 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; National Gallery of Art East Building Auditorium: 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street. Most tickets are $12. filmfestdc.org