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Filmmakers Turn Their Lens to Our City

The offerings at the day-long screening of D.C.-based documentaries include "The Tivoli: A Neighborhood Landmark Reborn," "Ready to Play," and "Blue Line: Destination Christylez."Clips courtesy directors Walter Gottlieb, Jennifer Crescenzo, and Gemal WoodsDirector's Cut (Post, Feb. 3, 2008)

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Yes. That we had one of the first racially integrated neighborhoods in the entire country, Shepherd Park, in the 1960s.

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JES THERKELSEN 27, Mount Pleasant

Documentary: "To Steal a Bicycle" (2007), a humorous and touching short film about people who have had their bikes stolen in the District.

When did you start making films?

Almost four years ago.

What was the first movie you made about?

I was living in Greece when the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. I made a photo-documentary about the anti-Americanism I experienced living there. My next film was about my family.

Why did you decide to make a movie about stolen bikes?

I don't own a car, and I bike everywhere in this city. Everyone I've talked to either has had a bike stolen or knows someone who has had a bike stolen.

Have you ever had your bike stolen?

Kind of. I gave my sister two of my bicycles. Both were stolen. I've never (knock on wood) had a bike stolen.

What was your film budget?

Nothing, really.

How much time did you spend making this doc?

About three months.

What did you learn from making this movie?

Blowtorches do not work as well as hacksaws when attempting to steal a bike.

What's the best thing about filming in the District?

There are plenty of open spaces, and people tend to ignore you if you have a smaller camera.

What are you working on next?

I'm finishing up a film called "Seize This" about an eminent domain case that took place in Norwood, Ohio. It deals with a few families who fought a developer and local city council for the right to their property. I'm collaborating with a number of other local filmmakers to produce a documentary about the current dating scene in D.C. Each filmmaker will direct a chapter in the film; I'm focusing on speed dating.

Who is your favorite director?

I really like the documentaries of Alan Berliner. He makes it look so easy.

Is Washington a city that inspires you as a filmmaker?

Some people who live in Washington inspire me. I often get more inspired by the people in a city than the city itself.

What documentary has meant the most to you as a filmmaker?

"Nobody's Business" by Alan Berliner. It inspired me to make a film about my family, which ultimately led me to quit my job and move to D.C. to pursue documentary filmmaking.

What makes Washington unique from a filmmaker's perspective?

There is a strong community here of local filmmakers who are fun and easy to collaborate with. You don't get that in a lot of other larger cities.

Is there anything about Washington that every resident should know?

There's probably lots of secrets just waiting to be found out.

GEMAL WOODS 35, Lamond Riggs in Northeast

Documentary: "Blue Line : Destination Christylez" (2004), a mesmerizing film that follows Christon Bacon, a.k.a. Christylez , a writer, rapper, artist, musician and more. The Anacostia resident and Duke Ellington School of the Arts student is described as a Renaissance man.

What was the first movie you made about?

My first "movie" was a short shot in 2003, about a guy who was riding the No. 4 train in New York. He had to go to the restroom really bad. The title: "Urine a Hurry."

How did you find out about Chris?

I happened to be involved in a show performed at a local middle school. His group from Martha's Table performed after we finished. I was very impressed. He then joined the arts collective I was involved in. We became good friends.

What was your budget?

Hard to say, but transportation, food and such . . . around $600.

How much time did you spend making this doc?

Around eight months from start to final cut.

What did you learn from making this movie?

Chris is unique. However, I believe if more youth just let go of all the pressures from popular culture, they could attain so much. I learned how defiant the human spirit can be. Environments play a role in our development, but ultimately we have the power to define ourselves.

What's the best thing about filming in the District?

D.C. has so many stories. The fabric of this great city is a large, multi-patterned quilt. I am looking for another documentary subject, so it shouldn't take long to find another diamond in the rough.

What are you working on next?

I am currently doing quite a bit of music videos. I plan on doing two short films in the next three months, then working on a feature film in the summer, a very gritty street drama titled "Knife to a Gunfight."

Who is your favorite director?

Hmmm. Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese.

Is Washington a city that inspires filmmakers?

While there is a plethora of stories, the atmosphere is a bit political, and at times it can be counter to video production (e.g., national security). So while the inspiration, the stories can exist, the making of the film can be a challenge. I'm here because I love the city and I believe there is room for change.

What documentary has meant the most to you as a filmmaker?

"The Boys of 2nd Street Park" and "Hoop Dreams."

What makes Washington unique from a filmmaker's perspective?

Right now, it's the transformation of the city. The "poor" are moving out, and a new class of "urban professionals" are the hotly desired citizens. Every square foot of development is "luxury condos." It is the most incredible event I have ever experienced. I'm from Pittsburgh, for God's sake, where neighborhood change is trash going out on Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

Is there anything about Washington that every resident should know?

I believe that everyone should see the "quilt" in this city and embrace it. While the neighborhood should be clean, crime-free and progressive in many ways, blanketing the city with a generic latte-induced haze isn't the only way. We all have something to offer in this amazing city. Say hello to the kid on the, uh, Blue Line train, with the headphones on, drawing in his sketch pad. He might be one of the best people you'll ever meet.

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