April 8, 2009


If you happened to be thinking of whether you should travel abroad to experience a different culture, you can do it this month at the comfort of your home town. That is, if you happen to reside in or around Washington D.C. Either way, in hard times cinema is by large the best place to escape the reality of an every day.

(Photo by FilmFest DC)

I often, when travel, find it peculiar that some of my fellow travelers go to see a film in a native tongue when traveling abroad. I, for instance, run around the city I’m visiting, trying to visit all the historic and cultural landmarks there, leaving cinema the last thing on my mind to do when I’m in a foreign country. But others don’t. Again, it depends on how long you are staying in the country, and also – on how well you know the local language.

(Discussions with a film director during Film Fest DC, 2008)

In each of the 16 countries that I’ve been to, I stumbled over a local theatre that played both local and international films, some subtitled or dubbed, and some – not. I was always tempted to walk in a strangely adorable theatre with the local cinema aura to experience the culture of locals watching a film. This is one of my long-lasting fascinations – world cinematography, but I never did with the exception of Rolan Theatre in Moscow, where I saw The Volver in Spanish with Russian subtitles. And again, I did it because first of all, I had all the time in the world - I’ve been staying in Russia for eight months, second of all – I’m fluent in Russian, and thirdly – there are hardly any great Russian movies being made nowadays, with the exception of the last year’s “12” by Nikita Mikhalkov that was nominated for Oscar’s, and is now playing in selected theatres around the country. I would strongly recommend this movie, I’ve seen it about five times, and I’d watch it again.

Last year, FilmFest DC took place April 24 through May 4. We arrived to DC just in time to catch the last show times of the international films during the Film Festival DC. And this is exactly what I and my boyfriend did – we saw a new British film, Mister Foe (Hallam Foe, United Kingdom, 2007) by David MacKenzie, and a French movie, Shall We Kiss? (Un baiser s'il vous plait, France, 2007) by Emmanuel Mouret, which only proved to us that we here, in USA, are very spoiled by predictable endings and that foreign movies refuse to play by the Hollywood “rules,” and they turn the endings in the way that you are either left to wonder “what’s next” or you are left to ask yourself: “What the hell? Is this supposed to be the end?”

(Photo by Drinhelk/Flickr)

The festival never makes an emphasis on any particular country, but shows international and local film award winners and films that have been recognized by critics around the world. And if it happens to be one particular county which movies earned rave and applause from film critics, then most likely you will see them at Film Festival DC. And more often than usually, you will be able to see the films that will not play in a nearby theatre, or be widely available in rental.

As the first film festival was started by Bernardo Mussolini to showcase Italian culture in Venice, it was then soon picked up by French with the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.

And if you are still wondering why so many people stand in line to see the Film Festival DC’s films? To be entertained for sure. But also, to escape the hard time reality of today’s economy – like no other entertainment, films have always been an escapist’s outlet.

Go to the23rd FilmFest DC to see what’s playing this time around. For last year's Film Festival, visit here.

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