It’s back. It always is. I don’t mean Congress, which is taking one of its ill-timed breaks in advance of another possible government shutdown. No, I’m referring to Washington DC’s oldest independent film festival (DCIFF), which returns February 25th to March 1st with a slew of world, U.S., and regional premieres amongst its narrative feature, documentary, animation, shorts, experimental, and high school competitions. Many directors, cast, and crew will be introducing their films and holding post-screening Q+A sessions. The festival is cozy enough that it’s real easy to schmooze with most of them, too. While many screenings and events are scheduled at the US Navy Heritage Center, including the opening night documentary features—the east coast premiere of Noel Schwerin’s “In an Ideal World,” which examines the racial issues within our prison system, and the world premiere of John Rowe’s “Omo Child: The River and the Bush,” documenting Lale Lubuko’s mission to change the ancient practice of killing “mingi” children in Southwest Ethiopia—other, some nearby, venues around town have been added. (Keep your Google Maps app up and running.) A pre-screening reception, with music, is included for those attending “Omo Child.”
The Jack Morton Auditorium at George Washington University will host the Thursday, February 26th, unreelings of Vikram Jayanti’s high profile documentary “The Secret Life of Uri Geller—Psychic Spy” and the east coast premiere of “The Other Barrio,” Dante Betteo’s noirish tale of death, corruption, and a beautiful dame, based on a story by San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia. This latter film repeats Saturday afternoon at BloomBars, a non-profit community theater/performance space in DC’s historic Columbia Heights neighborhood.
Festival patrons can choose from amongst multiple programs on Friday night. “Southeast 67,” at the Barracks Row Theater Church, is Betsy Cox’s feature following the lives of 67 local seventh graders 20 years after being promised college scholarships by businessman-philanthropist Stewart Bainum in the late 1980s. At the fest’s main locale are Frank Hall Green’s Alaska-based adventure drama “WildLike;” Brandon Slagle’s “House of Manson,” his fictionalized backstory of a young Charles Manson starring Ryan Kiser; and, in the Presidents Room, four horror-themed shorts collected as a “Somewhat Edgy Mix.” The shorts repeat Saturday night.
Saturday the 28th runs an exhaustive (seven features, three shorts collections) schedule, an afternoon high school film competition (with 14 finalists), plus a reception by the Embassy of the Netherlands in advance of the U.S. premiere of Martin Beck’s debut Dutch feature “Littekens (Scars),” a nightmarish story of a young woman’s search for her biological father. The world premiere of producer-director Elissa Leonard’s first feature “Sally Pacholok,” is the early evening attraction. It looks to be a uplifting winner in the “Erin Brockovich” vein, based on the real life nurse who blew the whistle on the worldwide problem of medical misdiagnosis, with a touch of romance tossed in. The mid-afternoon film, at the District Architecture Center, is “Teenkahon (Three Obsessions)”, an art film from India and debut feature of Bauddhayan Mukherji. It incorporates three different stories in triptych format which delve into changing social and moral issues in Bengal. FYI, DCIFF spans two venues within one block’s walking distance all day Saturday.
Festival attendees can start Sunday afternoon with a 2+ hour viewing of a dozen short films in an “Amazing Animation” collection. Or, for the thirsty craft beer geeks in the area, there’s a one-hour tasting of beers from Adroit Theory, The Brew Gentlemen, Backshore, Forge Brew Works, and Full Tilt Brewing, followed by the world premiere of “Blood, Sweat & Beer,” an incredible look at two regional start-up breweries (Shorebilly Brewing in Ocean City, Maryland, and The Brew Gentlemen of Braddock, Pennsylvania) and the impact they have had on their communities. Prost!
Two other films follow: Isa Qosja’s Kosovo-Serbia production “Three Windows and a Hanging” (an East Coast premiere, following last month’s presentation at the Palm Springs International Film Festival), about a male-centric Kosovar village, just after the war with Serbia, and the secrets that tear at its existence, followed by the world premiere of Steve Flynn’s “Eye of the Hurricane,” a journey of discovery into the life and music and singer/songwriter David Wilcox (who will perform following the film). The closing party and awards presentation start at 9:15 PM.
Aside from the screenings—there are nearly 50 films (9 features, 9 documentaries, 14 animated films, 17 shorts) in competition for more than a half-dozen awards, there are other hands on events.
This year’s “On the Hill Summit” will be on Wednesday, February 25th, a free admission event beginning at 10AM in Room 122 of the Cannon House Building. Hosted by the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus, the session will take a look at UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles a.k.a. Drones) and the coming FAA rulings on their commercial and private use, particularly discussing the special waivers being requested by several businesses offering these devices for use in film and television production. DCIFF Executive Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard and Congressman Brad Sherman will introduce and welcome the speakers.
There will also be an opportunity on Friday and Saturday to experience the virtual reality film “Snake River,” a 30-minute heist film involving mercenaries, a biological weapon, a Russian mobster, and each viewer (who has to watch the film via a special headset). Oscar-winning director Vikram Jayanti (“When We Were Kings” and “Born Into Brothels“) will be the focus of this year’s DCIFF Spotlight, who will be present at the screenings of three of his films and lead a masterclass. There are nine seminars (5 on Saturday, 4 on Sunday), covering such topics as screenwriting, low budget and documentary filmmaking, acting, and entertainment law.
For more information, visit the festival website at http://dciff-indie.org/