Actress Lee Grant was in town last week to kick off the Congressional Film Festival.

The Congressional Film Festival?

"We use the term 'film festival' loosely," explains Rhoda Glickman, executive director of the Congressional Arts Caucus. "We will basically be holding screenings of films--mainly done by independent filmmakers--throughout the congressional year. We're still considering ideas."

And the site won't be Cannes. It will be the Cannon Caucus Room, or at least that's where it was last week when the caucus screened Grant's effort as a director of a feature film. The movie is "Tell Me a Riddle," a 1980 movie, about rediscovered love between an aging couple.

Grant told the group she was doing independent films because it was difficult to get major studios to do the kinds of films that "we as complex, thinking human beings are in need of."

The film festival is the idea of Rep. Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Arts Caucus, and is intended for members of the House and Senate and their staff members on arts issues. However, there's some precedent for film showing in Congress. One caucus, the Clearinghouse for the Future, "showed 'Atomic Cafe' at the end of the last session in the Cannon Caucus Room," Glickman said. But Downey wants to focus less on the issues portrayed in the films. "He's more interested in the discussion of filmmaking as an art," she said.

Some independent filmmakers receive federal funding from the arts or humanities endowments.

But film isn't the only kind of culture Downey has brought to the halls of Congress. "One of the things the caucus has been doing is bringing the arts to the Capitol and showing the diversity of them," Glickman said.

Country music star Larry Gatlin gave a concert in the House Agriculture Committee Room, and Billy Taylor has given a jazz concert in the House Budget Hearing Room. "The acoustics in the budget room were not bad," noted Glickman.