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Two Screenings and a Sendoff for Paat

One value we tout highly at DCIFF is helping our films live past the festival. In the past two months, we have been fortunate to partner with BloomBars in Columbia Heights to rescreen Paat twice. If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing the film yet, Iranian director Amir Toodehroosta’s feature film debut is not to be missed. Paat follows the titular character, a charismatic canine with a three-foot view of society’s discretions.

Both screenings drew intimate crowds followed by highly engaged discussions led by Executive Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard. While it is nearly impossible for Toodehroosta to receive a travel visa to the US, the filmmaker preemptively sent his own Q&A prior to the screening, providing excellent background and color to the discussions.

paat 2For example: to some it is general knowledge that in the Islamic world dogs are considered unclean and to call someone a dog is one of the worst insults. It may come as no surprise that it is actually illegal to keep dogs as pets in many Islamic countries. A unique cultural aspect to keep in mind while watching the film is keeping a dog as a form of rebellion or as Toodehroosta said in his Q&A, “dogs are at a loss between tradition and modernity.” Toodehroosta intelligently uses his film to make this point by juxtaposing human behavior with Paat, “Which is really impure? The dog or some humans around us?”

paat 3During filming, Toodehroosta faced several issues. “Some producers, as soon as they were informed of the film’s theme, refused to invest because they were afraid the film might be banned.” This fear led Toodehroosta to even keep his actors in the dark about the film’s duration which he originally told them was going to be a short “because we didn’t want them to have to stress for a feature.” They were informed the day before filming.

Unsurprisingly, the film was banned in Iran so many of Toodehroosta’s own countrymen haven’t seen the film and it is difficult for him to tour the film. Here at DCIFF, we were glad to do our little part. We look forward to seeing Paat prosper on the festival circuit and wish Amir the best in his career moving forward.

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Day Two at DCIFF 2014

Before we jump into yesterday’s activities, we want to highly encourage everyone to join us tonight for the DC Premiere for 3 Mile Limit. With your ticket, you can join our happy hour at the Navy Memorial from 5:30 to 7:15pm including New Zealand wine and beer, meat or veggie patties from Kiwi Cuisine and 60’s rock and roll music. It’s going to be a blast!

Day Two was an action-packed day here at the DC Independent Film Festival. First, we held our annual “On the Hill Summit,” including a panel discussion about options for addressing the needs of independent film and media production as impacted by U.S. regulations for crowd-funded enterprises.

We opened Wednesday with the short film Handle with Care and then held the East Coast Premiere of Despite the Gods. Though director Jennifer Lynch could not make the festival in-person, we were delighted to be able to host a Skype Q&A session at the Navy Memorial Theater.


Family, friends, filmmakers and film-goers then arrived for Red and the World Premiere of DC-native Marcus Richardson’s Sons of the City, followed by a lively Q&A with filmmakers and stars. Be sure to check out all our images on our Flickr page and hope you can join us this weekend.



Opening Night at DCIFF 2014

Last night was the first official night of the 2014 DC Independent Film Festival. All the hard work finally has paid off and we were able to show two amazing feature-length films and two shorts at the Navy Memorial. The first was Partners for Peace, a documentary highlighting the invisible efforts of Israeli and Palestinian women working together to advance peace. Following the film, director Ed Kucerak, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams and women’s media activist Jaclyn Friedman (WAM!) joined our festival director Deirdre for a Q&A that was so popular, discussions continued after the film.

Following Partners for Peace, we packed the house for the East Coast Premiere of The Toastmaster  along with screening of two wonderful short films, animated Girl Meets Boys and live-action The Well.


Director Eric Boadella along with cast member Sevag Mahserejian and others involved in the film’s creation joined Deirdre for another Q&A covering the Armenian Toastmaster tradition, working with child actors and location scouting, just to name a few topics.


Deirdre then called up a professional local Toastmaster on stage to read a lovely poem and ring in our Post-Screening Toasting Party.


The party carried into the night as the filmmakers, actors and festival attendees joined us for our Toasting Party, provided by our many wonderful sponsors. Be sure to check out all our wonderful photos from the event on our Flickr page and check back for more updates as the festival goes on.


DCIFF Filmmaker Series: Ron Judkins

Leading up to this year’s festival, we will be highlighting the fascinating stories behind our 2014 filmmakers and their submissions.

For director Ron Judkins, the phrase “it takes a village” could not have been truer than during the production of his feature film Finding Neighbors. Ron’s village consisted of those near and far with the help of 313 different backers on Kickstarter and his local neighborhood of Atwater Village in Los Angeles.

“Our original goal was to hit 200 Kickstarter backers, assuming family, friends and crew members would contribute. Then it started expanding and we began gaining support from people we didn’t even know,” Ron explained. “One of our largest backers was a complete stranger; Sam’s story really spoke to him.” Finding Neighbors follows a stay-at-home graphic novelist, Sam Tucker, battling a mid-life crisis and forming new relationships with his next-door neighbors, while trying to preserve his marriage.


Ron also felt a personal connection to his main character. After winning two Academy Awards® for Best Sound (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan), Judkins brought his first directorial film The Hi-Line to Sundance in 1999 and gained a distribution deal with Showtime. He hoped his success would parlay into some larger films but instead, they were continually delayed in development.

Ron decided to take matters into his own hands. He approached his longtime Atwater Village neighbor, Judy Korin, with a finished screenplay and she immediately agreed to join the project as a producer along with his wife, Jennifer Young. Judy wasn’t the only one in Atwater Village to embrace Finding Neighbors. “When obtaining film permits to shoot the film, we would go door-to-door and apologetically explain we were shooting Finding Neighbors throughout Atwater. We expected people to be upset but were surprised at the moral support and offers of help from the neighborhood,” Judy said during a phone interview.


One such example was makeup artist Kelcey Fry, whose work appears in The Artist and The Pirates of the Caribbean films. Kelcey volunteered her time to mentor Finding Neighbors’ makeup artists, both of whom were just getting started in their careers. Another neighbor had a sound studio in his backyard and helped saved post-production costs by letting the crew do some of their ADR work there. Says Judkins, “This film would not have been possible without the generosity of our Atwater Village neighbors.”

Finding Neighbors will be making its East Coast première at DCIFF on Sunday, February 23rd at 5pm. Be sure to check out the Finding Neighbors website for great behind the scenes clips including a look into how animation was integrated into the film, as well as a listen in on the soundtrack. You can also sign up for Ron’s production sound masterclass at DCIFF, starting at 2pm on Sunday.