Celebration and Cinema – 2014 DC Independent Film Festival

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One of the most successful and enduring film festivals to call DC home, the DC Independent Film Festival celebrated its 16th year as one of the area’s longest running festivals. The DCIFF mission includes supporting and showcasing talented filmmakers from around the world. And by exhibiting world premiere screenings, hosting timely seminars and workshops, as well as sponsoring discussions with the United States Congress, DCIFF offers independent filmmakers unparalleled opportunities to be heard and seen. This year the festival ran from February 19 through the 23rd at the Naval Heritage Center, and screened films from 30 different countries including China, Russia, Austria, Croatia and India.

Premieres

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The festival kicked off with two important features, Partners for Peace and Toastmaster. Partners for Peace follows a group of 13 women—led by Nobel Peace Laureates Jody William and Mairread Maguire—as they embark on a mission to the Middle East to examine the Israel and Palestine conflict and  empower the women of the region to work toward peace. A lively Q&A between the audience, Jody Williams, activist Jaclyn Friedman and director Ed Kucerak followed the film.

Toastmaster examines the Armenian traditions of toasts at family dinners and how they are passed down from generation to generation. Fittingly, the opening night party toast followed the film.

To add some star power to the festival, Jennifer Lynch, daughter of the Hollywood director David Lynch was scheduled to attend the premiere of Despite the Gods, her Bollywood horror-style film. Although she had to cancel, she participated in a Skype session with the audience following the screening.

Future Filmmakers

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Committed to promoting the star filmmakers of tomorrow, DCIFF began The High School Film Competition. Over 200 high school students from DC the area submitted their short films. The festival selected 10 entries that were presented in a competition at the Gala Theatre in Columbia Heights.

Master Classes, Workshops and Seminars, Oh My!

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The DCIFF festival also offered exciting seminars, workshops and panels including an acting workshop with actor Manny Perez boasting roles in Cold Case, Law and Order and Homeland. Local talent took part as panelists including Brian Grundstrom, President of TIVA (Television Internet Video Association), who taught music scoring to the delighted crowd and dissected film music cues. Another workshop combined cinematography and technology. Documentary filmmakers Richard Chisolm and Paul Moon discussed the latest gear for Indie filmmakers while experimental cinematographer Alexander Porter displayed the RGBDToolkit, an open source hybrid filming & 3D scanning technique.

Big Winners Party On

Feature films, documentaries and animated shorts played to receptive crowds and enthusiastic judges. A big draw was local filmmaker Tim Gordon’s Blood and Circumstances. His film is a psychological thriller centering on a prison inmate’s mental examination to learn if he is fit to stand trial.

DCIFF Award

The closing night party attracted a large crowd on Sunday, the 24th and featured the film This Ain’t No Mouse Music! The documentary looks at different categories of music like the blues, New Orleans R&B, country and Cajun and how they have been collected and preserved by sound detective Chris Strachwitz. Following the film, a live New Orleans Mardi Gras band escorted the audience out of the theatre and into the closing night party where the festival awards were announced. Some of the winners were Greencard Warriors for Best Feature, Ofir for Best Documentary and 3 Mile Limit for Best International Film. To read about the rest of the winners, check out the DCIFF site: http://dciff-indie.org.




Returning Marines Find New Careers In Media

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With Memorial Day soon upon us, our thoughts go to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to defend our country. I’ve also been thinking about those other brave individuals who fight in combat and are wounded but are able to make it home back to the U.S. What are they supposed to do when they get back after seeing all the chaos of war and how are they supposed to get used to a regular life again? Fortunately, there are some truly great organizations that are more than happy to help train these individuals in new lines of work so they can start to rebuild their lives. One of these groups is the Wounded Careers Marine Foundation whose media boot camp trains returning and wounded marines for new careers in video and media production.

Learning To Shoot Video

Documentary filmmaker Kev Lombard first had the idea to start the program when he was asked to film the stories of wounded veterans at military hospitals in 2006. He wanted to teach them how to tell their stories and decided to partner with his wife Judith Paixao to create the program. The couple uses a mix of corporate and private donations to fund the media course which is composed of two weekly sessions that both last ten weeks. The Wounded Careers Marine Foundation Media Program is headquartered in a camouflage-painted building on a San Diego production lot. While the expectation isn’t to turn out the next great film visionary like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg, the aim is to give these heroic veterans the proper skills to become a camera or boom operator and earn a well-paying job.

Expert Advice

Students learn all about the production and video business from 30 film professionals who are happy to pass on their knowledge. Some of the teachers include Amy Lemisch of the California Film Commission, Barry Green, an Emmy award-winning producer and Levie Issaaks, a Vietnam war veteran who is now an Emmy award-winning director of photography with work that includes Malcom in the Middle. These instructors have the veterans use equipment such as Panasonic HD Camcorders and MacBook Pros to learn skills such as editing, cinematography, lighting and sound design. The students learn nuts-and-bolts coursework that leaves them with solid skills not found in many college film schools, almost like an apprenticeship. Word Wizards Inc. thinks these kinds of programs are great since they really give back to those who have sacrificed a lot to fight for our country.