April 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm EDT | by Brian T. Carney
FilmFest D.C. returns with stunning diversity, LGBT content
FilmFest D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

‘Close-Knit’ is a familial drama with trans themes screening at the 32nd annual FilmFest D.C. (Photo courtesy Nikkatsu)

The statistics behind FilmFest D.C. are amazing. Returning for its 32nd year of international cinema and cultural discovery, the festival runs for 11 days (April 19-29) and includes 80 films from 45 countries. Most of the films are Washington premieres. Additional events include Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, panels, workshops and special programs for families.

As usual, most of the films are divided into several thematic categories, including World View (international), Trust No One (thrillers), Justice Matters (social justice) and a new section called Cine Latino with films from Latin America. Full details on tickets, locations and show times are online at filmfestdc.org.

The fascinating films offered in Global Rhythms (music and dance) focus on a diverse group of performing artists including “Bolshoi,” about the legendary Russian Ballet company; “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,” a portrait of the fabulous model/singer/actress and cultural icon; “How They Got Over: Gospel Quartets and the Road to Rock and Roll,” about how these groups influenced the history of American music and battled segregation; and “Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba,” a powerful tribute to the famous singer who also played a crucial role in dismantling apartheid and fighting for social justice around the world.

In addition to the full-length movies, FilmFest 2018 also features several creative collections of short films. Shorts offers two slates of films by international directors. Metro Shorts highlights several short films by local filmmakers with films about two African-American girls preparing for a city-wide chess championship, the U Street punk scene and, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.

FilmFest DC is also working in partnership with Lunafest to present an international showcase of “short films for, by and about women.” Founded in 2000, Lunafest is a global all-women traveling film festival that hits the screens and amplifies the voices of strong women everywhere. 

Two festival highlights for LGBT audiences will be “Disobedience” and “Close-Knit.”

Based on the award-winning debut novel by Naomi Alderman, “Disobedience” is a richly layered story of sexuality, secrets, gender, faith and family set in an Orthodox community in London. The film was helmed by Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Leilo, who directed the ground-breaking Academy Award winning “A Fantastic Woman.” Leilo also co-wrote the screenplay with Rebecca Lenkiewicz.

Rachel Weisz stars as Ronit Krushka, who fled the restrictive community and who now works as a photographer in New York. She returns to London following the death of her father, a rabbi, and is reunited with her childhood friends Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (Rachel McAdams) who got married after Ronit left. Dovid has become like a son to Ronit’s father and is expected to succeed him as rabbi. Esti and Ronit had an affair when they were younger. Their passionate reunion throws the community into disarray and forces the three friends to reexamine their lives.

“Close-Knit” is a Japanese film (with English subtitles) that also explores gender norms and familial ties with great delicacy and charm. Eleven-year old Tomo has once again been abandoned by her mother and goes to stay with her uncle Makio, who lives with with Rinko, a trans woman. The cast is rounded out by Makio’s mother who is living in the senior care facility where Rinko works; Rinko’s overly enthusiastic mother; Tomo’s schoolmate Kai, who is struggling with his sexuality; and, Kai’s judgmental mother.

Both films feature nuanced acting and exquisite cinematography and provide fresh insights into prejudice and resistance.

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