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The head of the annual Filmfest D.C. said last spring that the annual event was on the brink of shutting down. Today, a press release makes it official: This year’s 28th Filmfest D.C. will be its last.

Last year, the festival’s director, Tony Gittens, told the Washington Post that because of rising expenses and shrinking funds, the 2013 festival could be the final one. The festival has managed to make it work for one more year, Gittens tells Arts Desk, but “unless we get an incredible amount of contributions to push for next year…this could be it.”

Currently, Filmfest D.C. is projecting a $250,000 funding deficit for a 2015 festival, Gittens says. “We have pulled together everything we have to mount this year’s festival. For next year’s festival we won’t have those resources.”

The 2014 festival is funded through a combination of ticket sales, city and foundation grants, and individual donations. The festival also exhausted its reserve for this year’s festival, Gittens says, and board members increased their usual donations. Still, this year’s version will have to cut some costs: Gittens says it may use one fewer venue; its employees, including three full-timers and a number of seasonal staffers, will see pay cuts; and the festival will probably fly in fewer guests.

Last year, when Gittens went public with the festival financial woes, he hoped more city and individual funding would emerge. And while donors have been generous this year, the city’s arts commission actually decreased its contribution to Filmfest D.C. “I think we’ve done due diligence to make people aware of our situation,” he says, including approaching councilmembers and the mayor’s office. He says the festival’s costs have increased over the years while its funding has shrunk. (Those costs include airfare for guests, printing, and renting theaters, although Gittens praises Landmark, which runs E Street Cinema, for supporting the festival by decreasing its rental fees.)

As for a white-knight donor that could help Filmfest make up for its $250,000 shortfall:  “My board reminds me there’s always a possibility. No one’s stepped us as yet,” Gittens says.

While Gittens says the festival remains committed to promoting film within D.C., for now he’s exhausted his funding options. “There’s only so much we can do,” he says. “There’s no more we can do.”

And this year’s festival? It will feature more than 80 fiction and and nonfiction entries. While the full slate hasn’t been announced, the release below contains some of the films that the festival screen this April.


April 17 – 27, 2014

WASHINGTON – The Washington, DC International Film Festival (Filmfest DC) returns to the nation’s capital for the last time April 17 – 27, 2014, celebrating nearly three decades of bringing award-winning movies to Washington, DC theater goers. Among its extensive program of over 80 features, documentaries, comedies, shorts, award winners and discoveries, the District’s premiere film festival will highlight audience favorite series Trust No One: Espionage and Thrillers, The Lighter Side and Justice Matters. Feast Your Eyes will be a special series of full-length features whose fun, inventive and original stories all revolve around the theme of food. Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema has been added as a festival venue this year.

Now in its 28th and, final year, Filmfest DC is back to celebrate nearly three decades of bringing thousands of entertaining and thought-provoking films to Washington and to thank the hundreds of thousands of DC film fanatics and volunteers who have attended the festival over the years.

Confirmed films include:
From Tehran to Heaven- Abolfazl Saffary, Iran/ Germany
Love and Lemons -Teresa Fabik, Sweden
Lakshmi – Nagesh Kukunoor, India
The Grand Seduction – Don McKellar, Canada
King Ordinary- David Dietl, Germany
My Sweet Pepper Land – Hiner Saleem, France-Germany-Kurdistan
Casa Grande- Fellipe Barbosa, Brazil
Gare Du Nord- Claire Simon, France
The Great Passage- Ishi Yuya, Japan
Ilo Ilo – Anthony Chen, Singapore
Ladder to Damascus – Mohamed Malas, Syria/Lebanon/Qatar
White Lies – Dana Rotberg, New Zealand

Cash awards will be given in the Justice Matters and First Feature sections. Competition films, as well as a complete list of films, special guests, and events will be announced at a later date.