Filmfest DC returns for its 27th year


“Underground,” which tells the story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, kicks off this year’s Filmfest DC on Thursday. (Matchbox Pictures)

In the 27 years of Filmfest DC history, the lineup has changed, but the motivation remains the same. “If people limited their diet of moviegoing to Hollywood,” says festival founder Tony Gittens, “they’d be missing incredible treasures from around the world.”

Over the years, Gittens has honed his eye for selections that would appeal to a D.C. audience, including last year’s festival closer, the French feel-good film “The Intouchables.”

This year’s festival, which begins Thursday, includes more than 80 movies from around the globe. The impressive slate includes recent Oscar nominee “Kon-Tiki” and an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children,” which will be followed by a talk with the author and director Deepa Mehta. Here are a few other films to consider.

(For a full schedule and ticketing information, visit www.filmfestdc.org.)

‘Underground’

The opening-night film takes a nail-biting look at the young life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Australian movie features American television fixtures Rachel Griffiths and Anthony LaPaglia as two people with very different opinions of Assange — his mother and the police officer aiming to take him down. “Here in D.C. we’re so used to polarizing figures, we thought he’d fit right in,” Gittens says. Thursday at Regal Cinemas Gallery Place.

‘Stories We Tell’

Child actress Sarah Polley proved her writing and directing skills in “Away From Her” and “Take This Waltz.” Now she’s trying her hand at documentaries. In this film, Polley investigates her family lore, unraveling mysteries and bringing secrets to light in an effort to tease out the truth from the storytelling. April 14 at Landmark E Street Cinema.

‘A Hijacking’

This year, Filmfest DC features a number of espionage and crime dramas as part of its “Trust No One” series. This Danish procedural thriller, which earned raves on the festival circuit, follows the uneasy negotiations that unfold after a ship is taken hostage in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates. April 15 and 16 at Landmark E Street Cinema.

The ‘Paradise’ Trilogy

Gittens says one of his goals is to challenge filmgoers. So it only makes sense that iconoclast arthouse director Ulrich Seidl is on the bill. His three films, “Paradise: Love,” “Paradise: Faith” and “Paradise: Hope,” are “not about human beings at their best,” Gittens says. Rather, they focus on a middle-aged woman on a promiscuous trip through Africa, a self-flagellating Catholic medical technician and a woman who takes her teenage niece to a fat camp. These characters may be hard to watch, but good luck looking away. April 15-20 at Landmark E Street Cinema.

‘Wasteland’

Although the British heist genre automatically conjures images of Guy Ritchie’s filmography, the first feature from writer-director Rowan Athale has an artful style all its own, with the requisite twists and turns. This carefully paced thriller, about an ex-con who leaves jail with payback on his mind, got good marks at the Toronto Film Festival. April 15 and 17 at the Avalon.

‘Highway’

Not all of the festival movies are heavy. The first Nepalese movie in Filmfest DC history is part of the “Lighter Side” series of comedies. This road trip film is about a busload of passengers desperately trying to go in different directions. Things get all the more tense — and hilarious — with each new obstacle. April 16 and 17 at the Goethe-Institut;director Deepak Rauniyar will be on hand to discuss the film.

Washington-area native Stephanie Merry covers movies, theater and art for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. She’s also the section’s de facto expert on yoga, gluten-free dining and bicycle commuting.
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