News / USA

FilmFest DC Draws Sophisticated Crowd

Distinctive films appeal to an already discriminating audience

Unlike major film festivals, FilmFest DC does not focus on film distribution. Its purpose is to entertain and educate an already discriminating audience.
Unlike major film festivals, FilmFest DC does not focus on film distribution. Its purpose is to entertain and educate an already discriminating audience.

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Penelope Poulou

Each year, a film festival in the nation’s capital presents an eclectic collection of films by known and unknown filmmakers from more than 20 countries. Although FilmFest DC is not one of the larger festivals in the United States, it's unique and has its own benefits.

In his film "Flamenco Flamenco," the acclaimed Spanish director Carlos Saura offers a world of movement, light and sound while exploring  traditional and modern forms of Spanish dance.

Saura’s film is one of many that screened recently at FilmFest DC.  The Chinese epic drama "Aftershock" was another.  "Aftershock" sweeps across three decades of contemporary Chinese history, including two of the most severe earthquakes in known history. It depicts the pain as well as hard choices people have to make. A mother has to pick which one of her two children - a boy or a girl - should be saved from the rubble.

The Chinese epic drama 'Aftershock' depicts two of the most severe earthquakes in known history.
The Chinese epic drama 'Aftershock' depicts two of the most severe earthquakes in known history.

"Aftershock" is the most successful Chinese film inside China until now, but it just debuted in Washington DC.

The Filmfest DC celebrated its 25 th anniversary at the district’s historic Lincoln Theater. Few outside of the DC area are familiar with this yearly event. And for a reason.

Unlike major film festivals, FilmFest DC does not focus on film distribution. Its purpose is to entertain and educate an already discriminating audience, says Shirin Ghareeb, deputy director of the festival.

"Washington, DC is the capital. It’s very cosmopolitan. We have people from all over the world here. We have the embassies," she says. "So we know that whatever film we bring from wherever we bring it, we’re going to have a very healthy audience."

Many of the more than 80 films showcased this year - such as Ali Samadi Ahadi’s "The Green Wave" - have already received international praise and could be Oscar contenders next year.

"The Green Wave" combines animation with documentary footage to chronicle the 2009 Iranian demonstrations and the subsequent government crackdown. Other films, like the British comedy "Drummond Will," poke fun at the absurdity of life.

Two brothers, after their father’s funeral, inspect his dilapidated estate and discover an old family friend in a closet clutching a bag of money. The more the brothers work to uncover their father’s past, the more things unravel around them.

Producer Tobias Tobell came to DC for the first time to introduce this film. He says the festival has helped put his movie on the map. "Because the good reviews, the good responses get us into more festivals. And the more festivals we play, the more chance we have of distribution."

FilmFest DC attracts about 25,000 people each year, mostly locals but also tourists.

"It does help economically because everybody comes into the city to become patrons of the theater to have an evening out, dine at the restaurants," says Ghareeb. "So I think that it is beneficial in that sense. And, especially in these economic times, it is a form of entertainment that is affordable."

But ultimately, FilmFest DC is about the films - each of which stands out for its cultural distinctiveness, depth and beauty.

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