The staff of the first annual D.C. Underground Film Festival planned to hold the fest’s inaugural film-screening fundraiser at the end of this month. “But then I heard that neo-Nazis were marching on the Capitol, and I had to reschedule so I could go counterprotest,” explains festival director Allyson Kapin. Because Kapin is presently the burgeoning festival’s only organizer, a change in her weekend plans can have a big impact on logistics.

After attending the New York Underground Film Festival in March, the 27-year-old returned to D.C. determined to create a comparable event here. “D.C. does a decent job showcasing political documentary work and local stuff,” says Kapin, who also works as an online editor with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “But we are ready to see independent films from all over the U.S. and abroad that just never get shown here.”

Kapin doesn’t see the DCUFF as a rival of the Georgetown Independent Film Festival, now in its second year. “I don’t think we need to compete. The underground film community as a whole is so small that we need to support each other,” she says. “And I’ll be looking for films that are more experimental in terms of types of media, like digital video and animation.”

After recently working to bring the Philadelphia-based Lost Film Festival to the District, as well as serving on the film and video committee of Ladyfest D.C., Kapin began connecting with festival organizers and filmmakers all over the country. Six weeks ago, she put out an informal call for submissions to several e-mail lists. Though the deadline is not until December, submissions have already begun to arrive, including works by filmmakers Mark Street and Lynne Sachs, which Kapin sees as strong contenders for inclusion in the two-day festival, scheduled for April 2003.

Until a judging committee can be set up, Kapin is selecting the first round of entries for judging in February. She has not yet sent out formal invitations to judges, but Kapin says she would “love to see all the directors of the different film fests in D.C. come together for this and bring diverse points of view to it.” There are also plans for Marc Vogl of San Francisco’s hi/lo Film Festival to curate a short program.

Though the DCUFF was inspired by the NYUFF, the local fest hardly promises to be “a nipple-pierced Sundance.” With Kapin at the helm, the DCUFF will instead have a social conscience. “I am concerned about how smoking is glorified in both mainstream and indy films, as well as alcohol and the degradation of women, so that’s something that I’ll pay attention to while curating the film programs,” she says.

But what’s an underground film festival without John Waters-esque sleaze? “I don’t support films like that,” she says. “There are so many other important films that aren’t considered shocking enough that are saying important things and need to get out there.” —Shauna Miller

For more information, visit www.dcuff.org.