Since its inception in 1987, Filmfest D.C. has offered a diverse set of domestic and international films, bringing audiences to all corners of the world through the medium of cinema. Thirty years after the first festival, the largest annual film festival in D.C. is bringing another slate of films to local audiences that would otherwise not be available for widespread public consumption.
Taking place from April 14 through April 24, this year’s carefully curated repertoire is headlined by “The Dressmaker” starring Kate Winslet, political satire “My Internship in Canada” and a slew of social justice-themed and Cuban-produced pieces. Each of the pieces included in the festival is carefully researched and chosen by the Filmfest’s creative directors, who consider technical soundness, artistic appeal, diversity of topic and the exciting quality of the narrative. Over the years, Filmfest D.C. has introduced many new international directors, such as Yoshimitsu Morita, and this year does not disappoint with a number of first-time directors submitting projects to the festival. Filmfest has also created a cine cubano component to the event, which is a serendipitous coincidence in light of the warming relations between the United States and Cuba. Each of the three submitted Cuban films aims to tackle a different facet of Cuban society.
Deputy director of Filmfest Shirin Ghareeb said that the films offer an interesting perspective for American audiences.
“With the change in Cuban-American relations, these films will provide a glimpse in that society that an audience may be newly curious about,” Ghareeb said.
International products are not the only concern of Filmfest. There is an entire portion of the festival devoted to social justice issues under the banner “Justice Matters.” This subsection was introduced in 2010, and has grown to be one of the more popular portions of the festival. Filmfest invites directors to the festival to discuss the issues being addressed in their works with the audience.
Additionally, Filmfest offers the opportunity for D.C. high schools to participate in its project, Teaching for Change, which centers on classroom-based discussions about the social issues raised by these films. This current iteration of “Justice Matters” includes “Guantanamo’s Child,” a piece about a Guantanamo captive, and “Ixcanul,” which sheds light on the plight of the indigenous women of Central America.
In light of the increasing influence of streaming companies in the cinematic realm, Filmfest and its directors still believe that festivals of its kind will continue to hold a relevant role in the business of filmmaking for years to come.
Ghareeb believes that Filmfest offers a unique role in the film industry, particularly for the Washington public, as a means for audiences to be exposed to works that they otherwise would not be able to find via Internet streaming or on basic cable. Additionally, Ghareeb paints Washington, D.C., as an “intellectual hub” with an “enthusiastic audience” that will have the opportunity to view films “in an ideal atmosphere in a dark theater, with a huge screen and a live audience.”
“Hundreds and hundreds of films are produced every year, so there are always films we can present that aren’t available to our audience through any other channel,” Ghareeb said.
In light of the changes in world cinema, Filmfest’s creative and managerial team believes it is best to stay true to the proven method that has kept the festival going for 30 years. There will be some opening and closing festivities in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of its founding, but ultimately, Filmfest will remain true to its purpose of providing a diversity of films for D.C. audiences to consume and enjoy.
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