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The Future of Filmfest DC

by Prince Of Petworth April 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm 4 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rukasu1

The following was written by ‘Going to the Movies’ contributor and Mount Vernon Triangle resident, Catherine Taegel.

Filmfest D.C. isn’t the area’s only international film festival, it was the first and it’s certainly the biggest. This year the festival is 27 years old and movie showings span over two weeks and eight venues. Last week Tony Gittens, the Director and founder of the DC International Film Festival, released a statement regarding the future of Filmfest D.C. Unfortunately, for D.C. and the surrounding metropolitan area, right now the future looks grim.

Even with 23,000 filmgoers attending in 2011, economic times are tough and ticket sales don’t cover even half of Filmfest D.C.’s budget. Around 60% of D.C. Filmfest’s budget is made up of donations. The big donors include the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and the D.C. government. According to the statement, both donors provided less than expected funding and Mr. Gittens didn’t see it coming. Costs continue to rise and D.C. Filmfest had been diving into reserves even before the untimely cut in funds.

Continues after the jump.

D.C. natives are acutely aware that we are not L.A. and we are not New York, but it’s fair to say we hold our own. We have great theaters with shows that appeal to all styles and wallets (Woolly Mammoth’s deals can’t be beat); a diverse, interesting, and growing food scene (Daikaya is really good); and a weekend can’t go by without events at the Verizon and Convention Centers. And oh yea, DC has over a dozen free museums and countless monuments. Just take a ten minute walk downtown and you’re bound to find something interesting to see and do. D.C. may not be inherently known for film, but we hold our own there too. We all know E Street Cinema and AFI Silver Theater, but there’s also West End Cinema, Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse, Avalon Theater, and, the historical landmark, the Uptown. Embassy’s and local cultural centers (Goethe Institut) often host film screenings as well.

Films are important not just because they entertain us, but because films are part of our historical record. They capture our times and not only help us escape from the every day, but can be powerful enough to teach us. Those of us in the D.C. metro area often take for granted the pure access we have to so much diverse cultural offerings. There’s just so much of it. With something like the D.C. Filmfest being around for 27 years, our expectation is to see it again next year.

However, this cultural cornerstone is actually in danger, and as active members of our community it’s on us to help the film scene continue to hold its own. With that being said, I’ll leave you with Mr. Gittens final plea:

“We call upon city officials and the Washington business community to consider the tremendous benefits the Washington, DC International Film Festival makes to our city. Contributions from individuals (filmfestdc.org) and supportive letters to government officials (copied to [email protected]) are also appreciated. The city will lose a great asset if the festival is unable to continue and we need your help to ensure that does not happen.”


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