Letters to the Arts Editor

Filmfest DC Director Tony Gittens Responds

Gittens says the film festival is
Gittens says the film festival is "a proven event." (By Rebecca D'angelo For The Washington Post)
Sunday, May 6, 2007

To the Editor:

On Filmfest DC's opening night, I was knighted by the government of France for my work in the cultural community, especially for my success with the Washington, D.C., International Film Festival. Ten days later, on the last day of the festival, I was criticized by Washington Post reporter Desson Thomson for being an inadequate, part-time film festival director. In between these ironically opposing bookends, tens of thousands of people of all backgrounds from across the metropolitan area attended festival screenings and events. They repeatedly told us how much they enjoyed and admired what we were doing in bringing international films to the city. Business at nearby restaurants soared, the parking garage overflowed and our theaters were full.

But for some reason this was not enough for Mr. Thomson. While he notes our attendance is higher than other festivals in this region and our infrastructure is solid, he thinks we should include more movie stars, become better known nationally and spend more money. We have never intended to be a Hollywood movie star festival and we have learned from painful experience that it is prudent and responsible to watch every dollar.

When we have hosted Hollywood personalities, it has been because they had something of substance to say and present to our audience. Peter Bogdanovich and John Malkovich introduced their first directorial features to our opening night audiences. Sydney Pollack flew his own plane to Washington to present his work and discuss highlights of his career. Charlize Theron paid her own way to Washington to present her production on hip-hop music in Cuba. Mr. Thomson did not cover any of these appearances.

Frankly, we have often been offered Hollywood stars if we feature their latest film and bear their travel expenses. We have generally passed because we thought the films did not fit our objectives and standards.

It continues to be a privilege for me and the more than 250 staff and volunteers to present Filmfest DC. It is a great festival for a great city and a proven event looked forward to every spring. I can't wait to get started on our next festival and look forward to seeing you at Filmfest DC 2008.


Executive director, D.C. Commission on

the Arts and Humanities, and director,

Washington, D.C., International Film Festival

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