LIKE TOWN, like festival: Press materials for the fourth annual Takoma Park Film Festival refer to it as "age-defying, non-conformist and radically creative" -- an apt description of Takoma Park itself. Accordingly, Friday through Sunday, the festival will screen a hodgepodge of films, from quirky comedies to more serious works, from documentaries about local history to animated shorts for and by local children.

"The film festival committee decorated my green pickup truck for Takoma Park's famous Fourth of July parade and distributed 1,500 fliers requesting film submissions," says the festival's communications director, Jeannine Mjoseth, speaking of how the movies -- more than 50, ranging from 10 seconds to 101 minutes -- were chosen. "We received more than twice as many submissions as we have in years past and won second prize for a themed float in the parade." All the films, Mjoseth adds, are "made by people who live, work or consider Takoma Park their spiritual homeland."

On opening night, the festival will screen two short films as well as Michael Horelick's coming-of-age story, "Pee Stains and Other Disasters," about two teenage boys' quest for girls and skateboard glory. (Note: The full-length feature contains nudity, sex scenes and profanity.) Parents looking for kid-friendly fare can head to "Future Filmmakers of America" on Saturday afternoon, when a long roster of shorts -- some just a few seconds long -- will feature wacky animated stories about robots, aliens, break dancers and more. Highlights include brief films by third- and fourth-graders from Friends Community School in College Park, whose art teacher, Laurie Stepp, will give a demo on stop-motion animation. Then sit back and enjoy such irresistibly titled fare as "The Duckbilled Aliens From McDonalds."

That evening you can see "Generation Engaged," which Mjoseth calls "a program of films with an activist voice." Then local history will be examined in four documentaries, including "Duel: Hamilton Versus Burr," by Lynn Falcon, actor Richard Dreyfuss and Chris Intagliata. The film was produced by Dreyfuss's Takoma Park production company, Illumine.

Sunday puts local activists, artists and athletes in the spotlight with the festival's final program, "Committed." Mjoseth describes the collection of films as being "about interesting, sometimes idiosyncratic, characters both real and fictional."

The Takoma Park Film Festival is at the Takoma Park City Council Chambers (next to the library) at 7500 Maple Ave. The opening-night screening is Friday at 8; "Future Filmmakers of America" is Saturday at 2; "Generation Engaged," Saturday at 7; "Landmarks Reborn," Saturday at 9; "Committed," Sunday at 2. Free; for information, call 301-891-7259 or visit

Louis Malle on Screen

It took the combined efforts of AFI Silver Theatre, the National Gallery of Art and the French Embassy to jointly host "Risks and Reinvention: The Films of Louis Malle," a major salute to the groundbreaking French filmmaker's work, which begins Sunday and continues into January. AFI's programming director, Todd Hitchcock, says the collection "was a large enough retrospective that it demanded that we split it up between us and the National Gallery." (The French Embassy is showing Malle's "Phantom India" series.)

The series includes many new 35mm prints, "a lot of titles that haven't been here in a long time, or may never have screened in D.C. at all," Hitchcock says. Among the best of Malle's work are his steamy, controversial Jeanne Moreau vehicle from 1957, "The Lovers"; 1978's "Pretty Baby" with Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon; and "Au Revoir les Enfants," Malle's 1987 autobiographical account of his childhood during World War II.

"Risks and Reinvention: The Films of Louis Malle" runs Sunday through Dec. 18 at the National Gallery of Art (free; East Building, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW; 202-737-4215), Dec. 1 through Dec. 15 at the French Embassy ($5; 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW.; 202-944-6167) and from Wednesday through Jan. 10 at the AFI Silver Theatre ($6.75-$9.25; 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring; 301-495-6720).

Chilean Cinema

Andres Wood's acclaimed new drama, "Machuca," which opens Friday at the Avalon (see review on Page 42) is but one recent Chilean film inspired by the 1973 military coup of Augusto Pinochet. Others can be found at the National Gallery of Art through Dec. 31 in a series called "Cine Chileno -- Forty Years of Film from Chile."

Among the most dogged documentarians of the coup and its aftermath is Patricio Guzman. Saturday at 4, the director will introduce his 2004 work, "Salvador Allende," a portrait of the ousted socialist leader.

Also this weekend, in conjunction with "Machuca's" opening, the Avalon will feature two speakers: On Friday at 8, author and Columbia University professor John Dinges -- who wrote "The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents" -- discusses the political climate in Chile in the 1970s. On Sunday at 3, the Chilean Embassy's economic counselor, Alex Foxley, and American University chaplain the Rev. Joe Eldridge will discuss religion in Chile during the same period.

"Cine Chileno" will be at the National Gallery of Art's East Building Auditorium through Dec. 31 (free; Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW; 202-737-4215). The talks and screenings at the Avalon (5612 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-966-3464) are $6.75-$9.50.

-- Christina Talcott