Filmfest DC 2014-A Preview

Filmfest DC 2014 might be the last year for the festival, according to Tony Gittens, Filmfest DC Founder and Festival Director. This year marks 28 years of curated great international films in DC.‘It’s taking everything we have to do this year,” said Gittens recently about the viability of the Festival. “A shortfall of $250,000 – I just don’t where that’s going to come. I try to be realistic about these things.” Gittens also said he doesn’t rule out the possibility that an “angel” supporter, new sponsorship or additional funding from the District government might make a way for Filmfest DC to continue.

Filmfest DC 2014.
Filmfest DC 2014.

As one Washington’s signature cultural events, Filmfest DC has become a prominent showcase for filmmakers to show their works to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic movie audiences of our nation’s capital. Opening Night kicked off on Thursday at Mazza Gallerie with Don McKeller’s The Grand Seduction, (an English remake of 2003 Seducing Doctor Lewis), which also included a special appearance and Q&A by the Canadian director.

Built on passion and dedication, the festival with international scope and local flavor has distinguished itself by premiering or featuring the work of a broad array of celebrated directors and award-winning films from around the globe with uniquely themed showcases.This year is no exception, with 71 films representing 54 countries – including four U.S. Premiers and two North American premiers during the ten-day run (April 17-April 27).And, for the first time Filmfest DC will add Landmark Cinema Bethesda Row as one of the Festival nine venue hosts.

Returning to Filmfest DC 2014 is the popular The Lighter Side collection of international comedies. In this series humor is used to better understand the human condition as well as to make fun it.  Crime, espionage, and international thrillers highlight the Trust No One selections, while mouth-watering films on what and how we eat is the Feast Your Eyes series, a new section added to satisfy the foodie in all of us. Other highlights include the fifth year of the juried Justice Matters group of films illuminating social justice issues around the world and the Global Rhythms and World View categories showcasing music and global cinema. Rounding out the programming is the Impact Project directed by Linda Blackaby, Filmfest DC’s senior programming consultant and the annual presentation of the Circle Award, the First Feature Award, and the Filmfest Audience Award.

'The Bachelor Weekend', The Closing Night FIlm.
‘The Bachelor Weekend’, The Closing Night FIlm.

The international festival concludes with the Closing Night screening and U.S. Premiere of The Bachelor Weekend at the Lincoln Theatre followed by a party at Brixton on Sunday, April 27.

Fascinating characters, engaging plots, Film Fest DC is edge-of-your-seat movie fun providing windows into the world in which we live. “We’re pleased by what we have this year,” Gittens says with a smile, “It’s a strong year.”

Here are a few films to look forward to and my “can’t miss picks” selected from the diverse Film Fest themes.  Look for more mini-reviews later this week.


Francois Cluzot in '11.6.'
Francois Cluzot in ‘11.6.’

11.6  (France) In French with English subtitles.

Francois Cluzet (The Intouchables) stars as Tonu Musulin in this existential French heist film based on a true story. Producer-turned-director Philippe Godeauhas made a low key thriller out of the 2009 true crime of Musulin and his ingenious armor car robbery without firing a shot. 11.6 is a character driven thriller reflecting a man of many contradictions and mysterious motives, and this enigmatic drama may leave you walking out of the theatre with more questions about the film than when you started – and that’s not a bad thing.

Sunday, April 20th at 2:45 PM at Avalon Theatre.

Cold Eyes  – (South Korea) In Korean with English subtitles.

Monday, April 21st at 8:45 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.

From Tehran to Heaven  – (Iran/Germany) In Persian with English subtitles.

Tuesday, April 22nd at 8:45 PM at Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema.

Abolfazl Saffary the director of From Tehran to Heaven will be in attendance

The Keeper of Lost Causes – (Denmark, Germany, Sweden) In Danish with English subtitles.

Based on the nail-biting international best-selling novel, and the script and cinematography by Nikolaj Arcel (original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo screenwriter who also directed A Royal Affair), this moody crime thriller follows two rogue cops who latch onto a cold case that will change their lives and careers forever. Convincingly directed by Mikkel Norgaard, Assad (Fares Fares) is assigned to assist homicide detective Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) to the newly formed Department Q after a deadly outcome on his last case and his own near death. As they track the five year old case of the missing, rising politician Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter) who is suspected of suicide by sea, the two determined detectives unveil an unlikely mastermind of evil and imaginable torture. This captivating mystery will keep you guessing until the end, and you can’t help but feel this film has everything it needs to be turned into a television series.

Saturday, April 26th at 9:30 PM at Avalon Theatre.


Excuse My French – (Egypt) In Arabic with English subtitles.  U.S. Premiere

Friday, April 25th at 6:30 PM at Avalon Theatre.

My Sweet Pepper Land – (Kurdistan, France, Germany) In Kurdish with English subtitles.

Defying all expectations of the western genre, My Sweet Pepper Land is an original take on the showdown between the good and the bad Returning to his native Kurdistan, director Hiner Saleem (Vodka Lemon) continues making films with his trademark of intelligent absurdist humor. Kurdish independence war hero Baran (Korkmaz Arslan) is a capital city sheriff who is transferred to a town near the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. There he discovers a lawless atmosphere and a menacing local warlord (Tarik Akreyi) invovleved with smuggling drugs, alcohol, and other  ills of no good. Baran meets Govend (Golshifteh Farhani ), the village school teacher, and she like Baran represents another law, that of the young and autonomous Kurdish state. You’ll be entertaining by the music, the moments of humor, and the inventiveness of this  new take on the Spaghetti Western.

Saturday, April 26th at 6:15 PM at Landmark E Street Cinema.

Viva La Liberta – (Italy) In Italian with English subtitles.

Monday, April 21st at 6:30 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.            

Wednesday, April 23rd at 8:45 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.


Love and Lemons – (Sweden) In Swedish with English subtitles.

Wednesday, April 23rd at 6:30 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.           Thursday, April 24th at 8:30 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.

Paulette  – (France) In French with English subtitles.

Wednesday, April 23rd at 8:45 PM at Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema.

Friday, April 25th at 6:30 PM at Embassy of France.


Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine (USA)

Tuesday, April 22nd at 8:45 PM at Goethe-Institut Washington.

Wednesday,  April 23rd at 6:30 PM at Landmark E Street Cinema.

Director/Producer Connie Field will be in attendance for both screenings.

Lakshmi – (India) In Hindi with English subtitles.

Thursday, April 24th at 8:45 PM at Landmark E Street Cinema.

Friday, April 25th at 6:30 PM at Goethe-Institut Washington.

Director Nagesh Kukunoor will be in attendance for both screenings.


The Circle Award is named in honor of Ted and Jim Pedas, founders of Washington’s Circle Theatres, which set the standard for innovative quality film programming. The Award jury led by Writer/Producer Susan Baracos is a juried competition of accomplished film professionals who selected films deserving of increased recognition.

Bad Hair – (Venezuela) In Spanish with English subtitles.

Friday, April 25th at 6:30 PM at Landmark E Street Cinema.

Director Mariana Rondon and Producer Marite Ugas will be at the April 25 screening.

Saturday, April 26th at 6:00 PM at Landmark E Street Cinema.

Half of a Yellow Sun – (UK, Nigeria) In English and Igbo with English subtitles.

Sunday, April 20th at 7:30 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai – (Hong Kong) In Mandarin with English subtitles.  North America Premiere.

Sunday, April 20th at 7:15 PM at Landmark E Street Cinema.

Tuesday,  April 22nd at 8:45 PM at AMC Mazza Gallerie.


The Busboys and Poets First Feature Award for the best first films in the festival. The winner selected by a jury of experts, recognizes and encourages the important contributions of new filmmakers.

Remote Control – (Mongolia, Germany) In Mongolian with English subtitles.  North American Premiere.

Wednesday, April 23rd at 8:30 PM at Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema.


AMC Mazza Gallerie  Metro: Red line to Friendship Heights. Three hours of reduced-rate parking validation available in garage.

Avalon Theatre  Metro: Red line to Friendship Heights. Street parking available on side streets and on Connecticut Avenue.

Embassy of France,  Street parking available.

Goethe-Institut Washington, Metro: Red, Yellow, or Green Line to Gallery Place-Chinatown and exit toward 7th and H Streets. Street parking available.

Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema Take Metro Red line to Bethesda Metro station.

Landmark E Street Cinema, Metro: Red, Orange, or Blue Line to Metro Center. Theatre entrance on E Street between 10th and 11th Streets. Three hours of reduced-rate parking available in adjacent garage with validation Monday through Friday after 6 pm and anytime on weekends.

Lincoln Theatre, Take Metro Green Line to U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo.

Brixton, Take Metro Green line to U Street/ African-American Civil War Memorial/ Cardozo.


Festival Trailer.

11.6 Trailer.

The Keeper of Lost Causes Trailer.

Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine Trailer.

Lakshmi Trailer.

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Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also serves as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA. Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best describe Sydney-Chanele's approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, 'Modern Love is Automatic' premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated - 'The Wonderful Woes of Marsh' - which is rounding the film festival circuit. In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit,Neil Simon's Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater, Her next producing effort in 2014 is Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky' for Port City Playhouse. Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival,and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She is active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions - [email protected] [Note: Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.]


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