Filmfest D.C., Offering a Round-the-World Ticket

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To the rest of the world, April in Washington means cherry blossoms and checks made out to the IRS, but to local movie fans, it means Filmfest D.C. For a fortnight at theaters and cultural institutions throughout the city, cinephiles can sample some of the most popular films on the festival circuit, as well as attend one or two premieres.

Filmfest D.C. has long been a famously eclectic survey, but every year a few areas of focus emerge. This year, Japan and Eastern Europe are exceptionally well represented. "Departures," Yojiro Takita's film that was the big upset at this year's Oscars, winning the award for Best Foreign Language Film, will open the festival on Thursday. "Kinoautomat," a cinematic artifact from 1967 that might qualify as the first-ever interactive movie (viewers control the plot by push buttons), will have a rare screening on April 19.

Altogether Filmfest D.C. will screen more than 100 films through April 26. For times and locations, visit or call 202-234-3456. Herewith, a sampling of what will be on offer.


Reviews by Ann Hornaday


(Directed by Michal Rosa, 2008, 89 minutes)

Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak delivers a mesmerizing performance in this taut, twisty drama set in post-communist Poland. Jankowska-Cieslak plays Joanna Kocjan, whose contented marriage to Jan (Krzysztof Stroinski) is unsettled when an anonymous acquaintance sends them a video suggesting that Jan was an agent of the Polish secret police "assigned" to Joanna to spy on her dissident father. At first the couple laughs off the allegation as outlandish slander, but in time the idea makes its insidious way between the two, thoroughly upending Joanna's assumptions about her happy life. Comparisons to the stunning 2006 German film "The Lives of Others" are inevitable, but Rosa has created a unique investigation of the lasting effects of oppression at even the most intimate, genuinely heartbreaking, level.


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