The 23rd Washington, DC International Film Festival (April 16 – 26)


The 23rd annual Washington, DC International Film Festival (Filmfest DC) commences April 16 through April 26, bringing the best in new international cinema to the Nation’s Capital. The Festival features over 70 films from around the world including: World premieres, DC premieres, international headliners and award winners, Official Foreign Language Film Oscar Selections, and an assortment of films with topics unique to the Washington, D.C. region. The festival also boasts over 30 international guests set to present their films including many well known directors and producers. Since its inception in 1987, Filmfest DC has become one of Washington’s major cultural events, enhancing the artistic profile of the nation’s capital both nationally and internationally. Filmfest DC is a District-wide event, bringing together the city’s major cultural institutions in a spirit of cooperation and celebration.

“Over the years, Filmfest DC has introduced hundreds of international films to the District of Columbia and scores of filmmakers have shared their insights with us. It is through their lens that audiences enjoy the unique perspective of diverse cultures. That is the beauty of Filmfest DC,” declared Festival Director Tony Gittens. Each year, the festival focuses on cinema from a particular region in addition to presenting strands of films with a similar theme. This year Filmfest DC’s areas of geographical focus include Eastern Europe, with its long-standing and emerging talents, and Japan, a culture of endless gentle beauty and social complexity. World Views, Views from the News, Global Rhythms, and unique film events including free Cinema for Seniors, complete this year’s program. New to Filmfest DC in 2009, is the SIGNIS Award, presented to the film judged to best illuminate and celebrate what it means to be human in a diverse and challenging world. The Festival also incorporates a juried competition of selected films and honors them with the Capital Focus Award. In addition, the Circle Audience Award, sponsored by the Washington, DC Film Society, offers a chance for audiences to vote for their favorite film. The winners for all three awards are announced on Closing Night.

Selected films for this year’s Capital Focus Award competition are:
• 35 SHOTS OF RUM (France/Germany)
• KABEI (Japan)
• SMALL CRIME (Greece)
• SNOW (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

The much anticipated Opening Night film, DEPARTURES, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 2008, Montreal festival’s Grand Prize, and Audience Awards in Hawaii and Palm Springs. The impressive Harman Center for the Arts will host the Opening Night screening Thursday, April 16, at 7:00 PM with Master of Ceremonies, the multi-Emmy Award winner and beloved entertainment reporter, Arch Campbell. A Champagne and Dessert reception will follow the screening. The 2009 Filmfest DC Closing Night presentation, co-presented by the Italian Cultural Institute on Sunday, April 26 at 4:00 PM, features the Washington, DC premiere of Italy’s vastly successful box office hit, WE CAN DO THAT (Si Può Fare), directed by Giulio Manfredonia. The screening at Regal Cinema Gallery Place includes a Q&A; with the director followed by the closing night party at Bar Louis.

SPECIAL EVENTS in addition to Opening and Closing Night Galas include:
An informal discussion with festival guest directors; moderated by News Channel 8’s Kyle Osborne. Saturday April 18, 2:00 PM Free, Borders Books (1801 K Street)
SALUTE TO ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES: SAVED BY ANTHOLOGY A program of classic American avant-garde 16 mm and 35 mm shorts newly restored. Saturday, April 18 at 3:30 PM Free, National Gallery of Art
KINOAUTOMAT The American premiere of the world’s first interactive film. The audience determines the next scene in the plot with voting buttons. In Person: Alena Cincerova, daughter of director Director Radúz Cincera Sunday April 19, 3:00 PM, Regal Cinemas
CINEMA FOR SENIORS LET THE CHURCH SAY AMEN  One church nourishes love and hope in members suffering hardship. In Person: Director David Petersen Tuesday, April 21 at 10:00 AM Free, Avalon Theatre
SHORT CUTS A selection of 6 international short films. Thurs. April 23, 8:30 PM, Goethe Institut Sat, April 25, 5:00 PM, Regal Gallery
BRUCE CONNER: A TRIBUTE Conner was the iconoclastic creator of found-object assemblages and counterculture induced 16 mm shorts that inspired the international art world for five decades. In Person: Film Historian Scott MacDonald Sunday, April 26 at 4:30 PM
Free, National Gallery of Art.

The full festival schedule with highlights can be found on-line at

Special Guests
Filmfest DC is proud to announce a wide variety of guests from all corners of the world set to attend the Festival and host a discussion and Q&A; at their individual screenings. For a complete list of guests, please visit the home page of A sample of Filmfest DC guests include:
• Director Kalthoum Bornaz with The Other Half of the Sky (Tunisia)
• Director Mehreen Jabbar with Ramchand Pakistani (Pakistan)
• Director Philippe Falardeau with It’s Not Me, I Swear! (Canada)
• Directors Brendan Canty, Christoph Green with Ashes of American Flags: Wilco Live
• Director Denis Rabaglia with Marcello Marcello (Switzerland)
• Director Ben Hopkins with The Market: A Tale of Trade (Turkey)
• Directors Mando Alvarado, Michael Ray Escamilla with Cruzando (USA)
• Director José Luis Cuerda with The Blind Sunflowers (Spain)
• Director Benoit Pilon with The Necessities of Life (Canada)
• Director Férid Boughedir with Villa Jasmin (France)
• Director Annemarie Jacir with Salt of this Sea (Palestine)
• Director UroÅ¡ Stojanović with Tears for Sale (Serbia)
• Director Maria Govan with Rain (Bahamas)
• Director Christos Georgiou with Small Crime (Greece)

Eastern Europe Now!
From the first-time Bulgarian filmmakers behind the widescreen genre thrill ride ZIFT (the 2009 Official Oscar selection from Bulgaria), to the welcome return of Polish enfant terrible Jerzy Skolimowski with his darkly funny psychological thriller FOUR NIGHTS WITH ANNA, the cinemas of Eastern Europe are alive and well. Filmfest DC’s snapshot survey of the region catches a number of countries in the midst of an economic resurgence providing opportunity to young filmmakers: Hungary’s current production boom has resulted in such original work as Attila Gigor’s labyrinthine caper film THE INVESTIGATOR, while first-time writer-director Aida Begic’s contemplative SNOW (2009 Official Oscar section from Bosnia), about a Bosnian village struggling to survive after most of their men are lost in the 1990s conflict, has invited comparisons to Iranian cinematic icon Abbas Kiarostami. The dazzling, effects-laden fantasia TEARS FOR SALE typifies the deft balance of black comedy and serious drama that is a hallmark of regional cinema. From the Czech Republic comes KINOAUTOMAT: ONE MAN AND HIS HOUSE, the world’s first interactive movie. Originally screened in a specially equipped theater at the Czechoslovak Pavilion at Montreal’s Expo ’67, the film was shelved by the Communist government in 1972 and is only now seeing the light of day. Finally, although he’s been making features steadily since 1970, Goran Markovic’s hard-hitting yet sublimely funny THE TOUR, the 2009 Official Oscar selection from Serbia, neatly sums up the survival instinct of Eastern European cinema: through war, economic uncertainty, and human eccentricity, the show must go on.

New Japanese Cinema
While much has changed since Japanese filmmaking’s golden age, the six movies in this series show that its sensitivity endures. Most of these films are, like DEPARTURES, concerned foremost with family. Kiyoshi Kurosawa earned his reputation with apocalyptic
thrillers like Pulse, but his new film, TOKYO SONATA, depicts the un-supernatural breakdown of a Tokyo household. A family struggles without its jailed patriarch in KABEI, by 77-year-old Yoji Yamada, one studio veteran who’s still active. And Shunichi Nagasaki,
who’s known for his raw super-8 films, reveals a gentler touch with THE WITCH OF THE WEST IS DEAD, the tale of a defiant teenager who’s mellowed by her grandmother. Also featured is MEGANE, in which a young woman is soothed by Okinawa’s tropical
rhythms, and ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE, the story of an aspiring artist. The former is by Naoko Ogigami, one of Japan’s new female directors; the latter is by Takeshi Kitano, whose dual careers as popular comedian and art-film director exemplify the complexity of Japanese culture.

Additional Film Series
Filmfest DC prides itself on creating diverse elements within its festival each year. This year the festival will once again present World View, a selection of recent cinema from around the globe including the Official Selection, Venice FF ’08, and Toronto FF ’08, 35 SHOTS OF RUM from France’s Claire Denis (Chocolat); ELDORADO, the 2009 Oscar Selection from Belgium by the multi-award winning director, Bouli Lanners; Canada’s NECESSITIES OF LIFE, their 2009 Oscar submission by acclaimed documentarian Benoit Pilon; and
Palestine’s 2009 Oscar submission, SALT OF THE SEA from Annemarie Jacir. Film productions with Washington, DC connections include BREAKING NEWS, BREAKING DOWN the moving and personal documentary by veteran broadcast journalist, Mike Walter; the rocking music documentary, ASHES OF AMERICAN FLAGS: WILCO LIVE by Trixie imprint founders Christoph Green and Brendan Canty (drummer for Fugazi); and the inspirational BONECRUSHER by Michael F. Fountain. Global Rhythms, the Festival’s popular music-on-film series presents features and documentaries from Singapore, Brazil, Senegal, Argentina, Hong-Kong/Taiwan, Spain and the USA. CAFÉ DE LOS MAESTROS where twenty-two “maestros,” singers, musicians, and composers from tango’s glory days are brought back for a grand performance and recording session; CELIA THE QUEEN, a loving tribute to the great Celia Cruz featuring everyone from Gloria Estefan to Wyclef Jean; YOUSSOU NDOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE, chronicling the difficult journey Ndour undertakes to assume his true calling; and THE DRUMMER, a beautifully shot, multi-award winning audience favorite featuring a compelling storyline and Chinese Zen drumming. Selections from Views from the News include I.O.U.S.A. which boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States; from Pakistan, RAMCHAND PAKISTANI, derived from a true story about the accidental crossing of the Pakistan-Indian border during a period of war-like tension; A WEDNESDAY, a taut thriller focused around a retired Mumbai police commissioner Rathod as he recounts his most memorable case; and BEDFORD: THE TOWN THEY LEFT BEHIND, an incredible documentary recalling the solemn place in history given to this small town after WW II with a contemporary context: the directors connect Bedford’s bravest soldiers from WWII to those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan today.


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