It may be the end for Filmfest DC, Washington’s celebration of international movies


“The Bachelor Weekend” is an Irish film about a low-key bachelor party that’s goes awry. (Tribeca Enterprises)

Filmfest DC is facing its final reel.

One of the area’s longest-running festivals, Filmfest is under such financial pressure that — barring an angel with a $250,000 check — D.C. will have to say goodbye.

“It’s going to take everything we have to put it on this year,” says Tony Gittens, director of the international film festival, now in its 28th year. “If there is a way to do this the following year, we’ll do it, but it’s going to take someone stepping up.”

Though Gittens and his team are facing the end, consistency, he says, is still key. “We always want to present an outstanding event,” Gittens says. “We’re celebrating film and we’re very happy we’ve been able to continue doing that for 28 years. But the films speak for themselves. We bring in good films every year.”

In a city that has become a hub for film festivals (sometimes it seems there’s one every week), Filmfest is one of D.C.’s largest and the only one that focuses on the best in current international film.

“There are hundreds of films made around the world every year and the directors of those films are very well-known at home, but not necessarily in the U.S.,” Gittens says. “One of the benefits of having a festival such as ours is we can show people there are great films all over the world.”

Even if the festival itself fades to black, Filmfest will always be a cultural touchstone when it comes to the arts in D.C., proof that Washington can be an ideal location to celebrate international film.

“When we started, this was before the Internet, before Netflix, before so many of the ways people can watch films today,” Gittens says. “I think our contribution to the city has been that we have, without all of those conveniences, brought great, great films to Washington, and have been doing it for 30 years.”

Starting to See a Theme Here?

While most of the more than 80 films to be shown at Filmfest DC this year aren’t linked to one another, there are four themed tracks that highlight certain categories. Let’s have a look:

“The Lighter Side,” featuring comedies including “The Bachelor Weekend,” an Irish film about a low-key bachelor party that’s taken over by the bride’s debauched brother.

“Trust No One,” encompassing espionage, crime and thrillers, including South Korea’s “Cold Eyes,” about a young detective with a photographic memory on her first big case.

“Feast Your Eyes,” where the films are all about food, like “Love and Lemons” from Sweden, about a chef who gets fired and dumped on the same day and then sets out to start her own restaurant.

“Justice Matters,” which examines the impact film can have in the quest for human rights. Featured in this group is an American film, “Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine,” about a Christian gospel choir that puts on a musical about Dr. King in the West Bank.

Filmfest DC; Thu. through April 27; see filmfestdc.org for times, prices and screening locations.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby · April 16