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The 9th Annual BOTU Film Festival took place last Friday at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. How did I miss the previous eight? Well, most of them took place in organizer Rich Bernett‘s house. “Sometimes in restaurants,” added his wife, Carmen. The 10th will undoubtedly be back at the Drafthouse, or a larger venue, because the line was around the block as about 200 folks nearly filled the theater. This with competition from the DC Independent Film Festival and the premier of Black Snake Moan.
“I didn’t expect any of this,” said Rich by way of introduction. Indeed, official ballots ran out and later-arriving attendees were handed torn pieces of paper or the backs of last year’s ballots to jot choices for the winners. BOTU (“Birthday of the Universe”) has simple rules: “Nothing of a serious nature,” but no porn, no “Jackass” stunts. “Basically, make us laugh and you’re in the running,” says the festival’s site.
BOTU gives out three awards: Best in Show, Almost Best in Show, and a feature that should be de rigueur for all film festivals, the WTF Award. Bernett demonstrated that if the film made you show your “What the Fuck?” face, it qualified. There were several contenders, though the WTF winner, DeWayne Austin‘s Shwarma was utterly deserving.
BOTU is basically a popularity contest, so hometown teams triumphed over some stiff competition from California filmmakers. Announcing the runner-up, Adam Kirk‘s Two Keen Fellas, a Lazy Sunday: Chronicles of Narnia-style white-rapper embarrassathon, Bernett snorted, “I hated that one—-and hated the guy who did it.” We think he was kidding about the second part of that sentence.
The winner was Gabe Uhr‘s Venti Vice, cleaned up in the hours since its premiere at last year’s 48 Hour Film Project. Uhr got a framed copy of the festival poster, framed by Carmen Bernett moments before Uhr got to the stage to accept it.