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.




Silverdocs No More

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A New Partner

Silverdocs, the premiere documentary festival in the Washington DC area, as well as a huge boon to the Silver Spring area, is getting some major changes. Its new iteration, which was announced just last week, will be known as AFI Docs Film Festival and will be backed by car manufacturer Audi instead of Discovery Communications. The new festival, running from June 19–23, will have an expanded presence as well as panels with greater focus on politics and other D.C.-centric issues. The festival will no longer take place solely in its home base of Silver Spring but will be presenting films at DC venues such as the Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History.

Changing Sponsors

The change is a consequence of the festival’s rising prominence on the national documentary circuit, as well as Discovery Communication’s change in corporate focus that has seen it move away from documentary storytelling, according to festival director Sky Sitney. Sitney sees the change in sponsors as positive and thinks it will help the festival to grow and gain an even more vibrant topical focus as it moves further into the heart of DC. She also said that, rather of thinking of it as scattered, instead think of it as incorporating two compact campuses.

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The festival was started in 2003 as a joint venture between Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute. It should be noted that both of these organizations were major catalysts in the rejuvenation of the Silver Spring Area.

The Silver Spring Community Reacts

While it’s being stressed that the festival will still have important events and screenings in Silver Spring with no plans to leave it behind, the reaction locally has been mixed. Many locals as well as those in the production and documentary community feel that something is being lost with the expansion and name change. For years, the fact that the festival took place entirely in this one area has made it an important part of the community. The festival, which has grown to be the pride of Silver Spring, helps shine the spotlight on independent filmmakers and the important stories they have to tell. Smaller companies such as Word Wizards Inc., which thrives on transcription footage and the talking heads footage that are the meat of most documentaries, think it important these festivals go on, even if they’re in new forms.




Annapolis Film Festival Wrap Up

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This past weekend the Annapolis Film Festival kicked off to some pretty critical acclaim. The festival, which ran from the 21 – 24, seeks to establish the city of Annapolis as a prime breeding ground for different filmmakers to come and show different perspectives through their work to hungry audiences. A previous incarnation actually existed from 2003 to 2006 and was produced by Ken Arnold, Maria Triandos and Demetrea Triantafillides. The founders of the present version hope that in the long term it will bring both cultural and economic growth to Annapolis and the surrounding area. The festival showcased all types of films from gripping fictional tales to thought provoking documentaries. Word Wizards especially loves documentaries because transcription, captioning and logging are among our core business capabilities.  During the weekend, more than 90 films which covered various topics were shown in addition to educational panels and various film showcases.

After the festival, the winners as voted by audience members were:

Best Feature Narrative: Exquisite Corpse Project

The Exquisite Corpse Project, directed by Ben Popik and directed by Joanna Popik, is the result of a challenge given to five members of a former comedy troupe, all good friends. Their task is to each write fifteen pages of a movie script having only read the previous writer’s last five pages. This one-of-a-kind narrative-doc crossover is hilarious and touching.

Best Feature Documentary: Charles Bradley: Soul of America

Charles Bradley: Soul of America, directed by Poull Brien, chronicles the story of 62 year old aspiring soul singer and James Brown impersonator who becomes a star. After a life of abandonment, homelessness and tragedy, his debut album rockets on to Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of 2011. Mr. Bradley will giving a concert at Ram’s Head OnStage, West Street, Annapolis on April 12th.

Best Narrative Short: The Silk

The Silk, directed by Nathalie Boltt and Clare Burgess, is from New Zealand. Fifty years before, Herb had brought home from the war a length of beautiful silk. As he approaches death, his wife, Amy, takes out the scissors and undertakes a project which transforms their sorrow.

Best Documentary Short: Good Karma $1

Good Karma $1, directed by Jason Berger and Amy Laslett, tells how Ad guru, Alex Bogusky collects signs from homeless people asking for money, wondering if he can help them get their message across better. It turns into a lesson in generosity and humility.

Some of the highlights of the festival included an environmental showcase where a panel of leaders and filmmakers discussed various environmental issues. The festival also celebrated the young filmmakers of tomorrow with their Student Showcase which shows short films from young filmmakers from all around the world. It’s these young people that will be the face of the video production and media industry and bring us films, documentaries, powerful stories and put the spotlight on important issues. Other noteworthy topics at the festival included a panel on the African-American Experience and Segregation in the American School System as well as a shorts program thematically looking at women’s issues.

With the festival having attracted over 2,000 people, that’s great news for independent cinema as a whole. It shows that there’s a desire for it in Annapolis and a generally strong one in the region itself. More importantly it’s yet another exampe of how our production community comes together to celebrate our hard work and support each other. With such a rich pool of talent in the DC/MD/VA area and the sheer number of productions and documentaries that we produce, it’s vital that festivals such as Annapolis thrive. They are not just a showcase for great work but are serve as an important venue for those not from te area to see the type of outstanding video work our professional  community does.

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For more info on the festival, check out the link here: http://www.annapolisfilmfestival.net/