Celebration and Cinema – 2014 DC Independent Film Festival


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.



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


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!

manny perez        Indie Filmmakers Toolkit

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.


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.

Guggenheim Productions, Giants in Docs City


While some big hollywood films and productions have come to Washginton, D.C. to shoot big blockbuster fare, the real work has to do with all the docs that come out of here. The capital city should really be called doc’s city because of the sheer number of documentaries that our amazing film community produces. Lots of hard work goes into each of these often films, from pre-production and shooting to editing, transcription and post production.  One of the biggest companies in the field, Guggenhiem Productions has been in the biz for more than 50 years and produced over 500 titles.


Their founder Charles Guggenhiem wanted to be known as a storyteller and sought to create a video production company that had the goal of telling powerful stories with a profound effect on the viewer.  He’s received are several academy awards for his films including Nine from Little Rock, about integration in Arkansas. He’s also notable for being one of the first to employ documentary style video production on American Political Campaigns. Starting with Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, he revealed the character of the candidates in an affirmative way and let the issues speak for themselves.

Guggenhiem passed away after a battle with cancer 2002 but not before spending the last 6 months of his life finishing the film Berga: Soldiers of Another War.

The film tells the story of his fellow American infantryman who were captured and sent to a Nazi slave labor camp during World War 2. Even when his health was fading, he completed the film overseeing all final aspects including  logging, editing, transcription and completed post production. Today his daughter Grace serves as an executive producer for many of  the historical documentaries to come out of the company.

One of the amazing things the Guggenheim Productions prides itself on is it’s dedication to history and using the narrative form of documentary to keep it alive for future generations. To that end, they work with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences/Academy Film Archive to preserve critical titles from the holdings. They have also partnered with National Archives to create the Charles Guggenhiem Center for Documentary Film at the National Archives. Not only does the center celebrate the work of Guggenhiem but also honors other documentarians who have made important differences with their work.

Please check out Guggenheim Productions at http://www.gpifilms.com/index.html


DC Independent Film Festival, one of the longest running festivals in town



Starting a film festival is no easy feat and keeping it going for a successive number of years is downright extraordinary. That’s why the DC Independent Film Festival which will be celebrating it’s 15th year later this week, from March 6 – 10th, is darn impressive. While most film festivals would be resting on their laurels at this point, DCIFF is ramping up even more this year with a greater film variety, world premieres, great master classes, informative seminars, a rockin music line up and more social media connectivity than ever before.


First off let’s start with the films. One of the biggest they will be showcasing is the world premiere of the critically acclaimed film Meth Head. Not only does this cautionary tale about addiction deliver a powerful message, its also being headlined by notable talent such as Lukas Haas. Wilson Cruz and Blake Berris. http://dciff-indie.org/2013-festival/2013-film-selection/narrative-features/meth-head/   Some of the other notable features include two quirky and delightfully dark comedies from the land of Canada.

The First Winterhttp://bit.ly/YQg0m0, tells the story of a Portuguese man facing the cold Canadian landscape and his past. Camera Shy, http://bit.ly/15iTU0e tells the tale of a corrupt politician who is shadowed by a cameraman who may or may not be part of his imagination. For something even more offbeat, the festival has two very notable blocks of short films. First on Saturday is their Amazing Animation block where you can see paper cutting be tuned into a mesmerizing movie experience amongst other delights, http://bit.ly/14lntLo . Saturday night is their chills and thrills block which features banshee’s, evil twin sisters and some deadly surgery, http://bit.ly/12N1mkG  For a complete look at their film  and festival schedule, check out their page here: http://dciff-indie.org/2013-festival/2013-festival-schedule/


Besides film, the festival is offering a huge array of seminars that focus on topics such as entertainment law, casting,  film financing, cinematography, option agreements and fund raising. One of their more unique offerings this year is an oral history panel on the experience of going to the movies which will include an open mike component. If your really in the mood to learn, there will be a few master classes including an acting masterclass led by Blake Berris. Hey, we told you they were ramping it up this year. To see a complete listing of seminars and master classes check out the schedule here: http://dciff-indie.org/2013-festival/2943-2/ 

summit on the hill

Since this is Washington, DC there has to be some political aspect right? Of course there is and that would be DCIFF’s annual Sumit on the Hill program. Each year leading government, industry and key government experts are given the chance to debate such important topics as the impact of tax incentives, production costs and is the US art friendly enough. For full details, check out their page here: http://dciff-indie.org/2013-festival/summit-on-the-hill/      



Accompanying all this is an expanded selection of music that features reggae, soul, DJ Fusion, post punk and goth rock. Some of the names include Waverly Giants, AMIJ, DJ Fusion, Sweetbread Jim’s, Nehemya, Janice B and Queenearth. They will be performing at night to help set the mood and make the happy hours ultra cool. For more info on them, check out the music page here: http://dciff-indie.org/2013-festival/2013-festival-schedule/music/  

So as you can see, there’s a lot of stuff here. Check out their website at: http://dciff-indie.org/     Follow them on facebook at DC Independent Film Festival and on twitter at @DCIndieFilmFest and @JackStrawsLane

Again the dates are March 6-10th, with the majority of events and screenings held at the Navy Memorial right next the Archives Metro Stop