The spring film season here gets off to a self-reliant start with the D.C. Independent Film Festival. The Festival runs March 4-13 at various venues.
Several films directly address the LGBT experience. “Staccato” (part of the Dramatic Impact shorts screening) is a lush return to the world of Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic novels by Irish director Peter McQuinn. “Outsider” (part of the new PoliDocs series) follows the lives of three Palestinian friends living in Tel Aviv during the Israel-Gaza conflict of 2014 as they explore their national and sexual identities. “Mind/Game: the Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw” follows the openly lesbian former WNBA star as she battles depression and works to overcome the stigma of mental illness.
In addition to dozens of narrative and documentary films (all of which are D.C. premieres and some of which are world premieres), the festival includes a series of seminars and masterclasses by industry insiders, a program of shorts by area high school students, a photography exhibit and an interactive session of Going to the Movies, an oral history project.
Reel Affirmations, Washington’s LGBT film series, continues its monthly screenings. On Friday, March 11, there’s “Beautiful Something,” Joseph Graham’s edgy look at four very different men who spend one sublime night roaming the streets of Philadelphia looking for love and sex. On Friday, April 22, the documentary “A Tough Act To Follow” follows the experiences of Sampson McCormick, an openly gay black stand-up comic and writer. The comic will be on hand to answer questions and mingle with the audience after the screening.
In ”All About E,” Elmira, a sexy lesbian Arabic-Australian DJ, is forced to flee Sydney with her gay best friend (and husband of convenience) Matt when she discovers a secret cache of cash. The Australian comedy screens on May 13. The full festival will return to the historic Tivoli Theatre from October 14-16.
From March 31-April 4, Maryland’s state capitol rolls out the red carpet for the Annapolis Film Festival. The Festival includes 70 films, along with a variety of showcases, panel discussions, Q&As and special events. The Festival opener is “One More Time,” a witty comedy about an aging crooner played by Christopher Walken.
An LGBT showcase there features several narrative and documentary films. The narrative films include “Those People,” a drama about a love triangle on Manhattan’s gilded Upper East Side, and a special screening of the historic 1961 lesbian drama “The Children’s Hour.” Based on Lillian Hellman’s ground-breaking play, the movie looks at how rumors of forbidden love destroy the love of two school teachers (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine).
The festival also includes two excellent full-length documentaries. “From This Day Forward” by Sharon Shattuck (who will be in attendance) examines her father’s gender transition and its impact on her family. “Out To Win” is Malcolm Ingram’s portrait of out LGBT athletes.
With its reliable blend of the latest indie and art-house releases, along with retrospectives on Hollywood and global cinema, AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring is always a reliable destination for LGBT cinephiles. This spring, the series include a salute to the leading men of Hollywood’s golden age and a retrospective on William Cameron Menzies, the designer and director who helped Hollywood make the transition from silent films to talkies. In April, there will be a special look back at the iconic film work of David Bowie.
In addition to these screenings, several LGBT movies will open in wide release this spring. On Friday, March 4, “Eisenstein In Guanajuato,” Peter Greenaway’s exuberant exploration of the famous director’s coming out, will open at the Angelika Pop-Up in Union Market. “Take Me To The River,” opening at the Landmark Theatres on Friday, April 1, explores what happens when a gay California teenager attends a family reunion in Nebraska. Even though “Viva” is set in Cuba, it was the Irish submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Director Paddy Breathnach tells the emotional story of a hair stylist torn between a career as a drag performer and caring for his conservative father, an ailing retired boxer.
Fans of the delusional aspiring opera diva Florence Foster Jenkins can enjoy two movies inspired by her life this year. The first is called “Marguerite” and will open at the Landmark Bethesda on Friday, March 25. Award-winning French director Xavier Giannoli moves the story to 1920’s Paris. Giannoli focuses on how the would-be diva’s passion for her art drives her husband away. Another version starring Meryl Streep is slated for a summer release.
Friday, March 18 will also be a notable release day. Openings include the military thriller “Eye In The Sky,” starring Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman; the wacky romantic Sally Fields comedy “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” and the romantic sci-fi thriller “Creative Control.”
Look for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” on Friday, March 25. It’s being billed as the follow-up to 2013’s “Man of Steel.”
Finally, D.C. Shorts gives you the chance to help program this fall’s festival. On May 11 and May 18 at Penn Social (801 E St., N.W.), the LGBT-friendly festival (founded by out filmmaker Jon Gann) will host Take 2, an interactive evening where audiences can cheer for the underdogs (or dogs) that were not chosen for the annual celebration of short films. At the three-minute mark, a light will shine and the audience can shout “take it” to save the film for later consideration or “leave it“ to stop watching any more. At the end of the evening, one lucky film will be saved and programmed into September’s main festival.