Category Archives: The news

Behind the Submissions Process

Submissions are currently pouring in for the 2017 DC Independent Film Festival. As independent filmmakers with limited funds, choosing which film festivals to apply is a difficult decision. Alison Dooley, Submissions Director, and Deirdre Evans-Pritchard, Executive Director, break down the submissions process and what the festival looks for in selecting a film.

How did you initially get involved in DCIFF? How long have you been with the organization?

Alison Dooley: In 2013, I joined DCIFF as a volunteer usher, primarily because of the free tickets offered to volunteers.  I loved the buzz of the festival and became part of the submissions team a couple of months later.

Do you have a background in film?

AD: My background is in software development, but I’ve always had a love of film.  Becoming a film student a few years ago gave me a deeper appreciation for the technical aspects of filmmaking. I have dabbled in screenwriting, production, directing and editing.

What types of films does DCIFF look for in their selection process? 

AD: We have no fixed ideas of our requirements. We are open to almost anything, but especially appreciate the unusual.

Deirdre Evans-Pritchard: The film really has to be new to the Metro DC area in order for us to be able to generate interest in the film and get some press engagement. We do not review films that have already been publicly screened in DC.

Do you have a student film category?

DE: Yes, there is a submission category that lets students get a good discount on the submission fee. But when it comes to reviewing the films and programming them, the fact that the film is made by a student has no impact on whether it is selected.  Well, that is except for the high school student category which is judged separately. It is entirely free to submit to the high school competition if you are still in school.

In your eyes, what makes a film stand out when deciding to put a film in the program?

AD: We select films that are provocative, inspiring, engaging, challenging, often controversial and sometimes sublime.  It’s very difficult (and subjective) to pinpoint exactly what makes a great film, but creative, risk-taking filmmakers are always refreshing.  Obviously brilliant scripts, acting, cinematography, sound, editing and direction don’t hurt either.

How many reviewers do you have? How big is your selection team? Or do you typically choose the films yourself? Or is it by committee?

AD: We have a team of about 40 reviewers, some of them specialize in specific categories: animation, documentary, narrative features, shorts. We also have a separate team reviewing our high school submissions. Our reviewers create shortlists of recommended films, all of which are screened by Deirdre. She makes the final programming decisions, but reviewers do try to champion their favorites. Obviously, many fantastic submissions do not make the final selection, but we endeavor to curate a balanced program that will appeal to the film lovers of DC while showcasing the best of independent film.

How many entries do you expect this year?

AD: We received over 2000 submissions last year. Even in the few years since I became involved in DCIFF we’ve seen a big increase in the number and quality of submissions received.

In a town more known for its politics than the arts, what type of audience do you typically draw to the festival?

AD: DC has a surprisingly vibrant art community. The average resident is highly educated and discerning, but they also want to be entertained. One of the many strengths of the DC area is the diversity of the population. However obscure the subject matter of your film, there is an audience for it here.

Personally, what are a couple of your favorite films?

AD: Juno, Doctor Zhivago, The Lives of Others

Hurry! Submissions close December 4th.


Will the 2017 Oscars Be a Repeat of #OscarsSoWhite?

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight (2016)

The cool crisp fall weather has overtaken the blistering heat waves of the summer. It signals the end of popcorn flicks and the ushering in of serious prestige films. For the past two years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the presenters of the Oscars, has elicited controversy for their lack of diverse nominees, spawning the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Last year, all twenty acting nominees were white. Will this year be any different? As usual, many of this year’s films carry an indie sensibility. Let’s take a look at the potential contenders that feature actors of color in lead or supporting roles.

During this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Birth of a Nation, sparked a bidding war. The film’s star, director, and writer, Nate Parker, stars as Nat Turner, a slave that starts an uprising. Already in theaters, it didn’t make as big of a splash at the box office as all involved hoped it would.

Another film garnering praise on the festival circuit is Moonlight. It follows Chiron at three different ages, played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, as he grapples with his sexuality. With a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, this film is poised to garner at least indie awards attention.

Based on a true story, Lion (November 25) features Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame as he searches for the family he lost in Calcutta, India after being adopted by an Australian couple. After being separated from his brother playing at a train station, Saroo (Patel) uses Google Earth to track down his past.

Loving showcases Ruth Negga as one half of the interracial married couple sentenced to jail for breaking the law by getting married in 1958 Virginia. Another film based on a true story, it set up a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Movie star Will Smith leads Collateral Beauty (December 16). In this drama, he plays an advertising executive who encounters three women —  love, time, and death — that encourage him to move on from the death of his daughter. The trailer attempts to pull at our heartstrings for a heartwarming holiday film.

Denzel Washington plays Troy in this film adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences (December 25). The most well-known of Wilson’s plays, the story follows the story of an African-American family as it struggles with race relations in the 1950s. Viola Davis, playing Troy’s wife, could also be a contender for a nomination.

Hidden Figures (December 25) puts a trio of leading ladies front and center in this true-life tale. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monàe play mathematicians at NASA instrumental in helping to launch the first space missions.

Districtland Podcast

At DCIFF 2016 we sat down with five DC residents to talk about what DC means to those who are from here and those who have moved here. Stimulated by the screening of the web series pilot, Districtland, the conversation touches on themes of gentrification, belonging, racial divides, and sense of place. We recorded the conversation and bring you this podcast in the hope of starting a discussion around these important topics and how they affect you as a resident, or a visitor, of Washington D.C.

Districtland couples the sense of place established by many web series (Portlandia, The Wire, Sex in the City) with explorations of identity, work, life and love by 5 young professionals housing together in DC. As the podcast shows, everyone experiences the city differently and our panelists are split on whether anyone who isn’t born in DC (and that is a large percentage of the residents) can ever really understand its true soul.

Our moderator for the podcast has made DC his home. Writer and professor Suleiman Osman, adds: “I had a very interesting conversation with three millennials born and raised in District and the director. The three Washingtonians had just watched the pilot and had a range of reactions. The conversation started with a discussion and debate about DC identity. How long does someone have to live in the District before one can claim to truly be “from DC”? Does one need to have spent their childhood in the city? What can someone new to the city do to justly claim a DC identity? The conversation moved into a discussion about gentrification and whether the show captured well the complexity of the topic. We also had a spirited discussion about diversity in television shows, particularly the plethora of shows about young millennials in center cities. All in all, it was a very illuminating conversation”

Are you from DC? Have you watched it change? Are you a newcomer to the city? What does it mean to put down roots in a place? What does it mean to identify with a place? How does one engage with the history of place that was before one’s time? We welcome your comments and hope the podcast serves to keep the conversation going.


claire-douglassClaire Douglass is a proud DC native and resident. Professionally, she works in the nonprofit field on climate and energy issues. She also executive produced the documentary short Drill, Spill, Repeatnarrated by Alexandra Cousteau.

johnjohnsonJohn Johnson is a native Washingtonian, playwright and actor. He’s currently working on Anacostia Unmappedwhere he interviews residents East of the River and explores and uncovers the hidden treasures in our great city.

suleimanosmanSuleiman Osman is Associate Professor of American Culture at GWU, where he specializes in U.S. urban history, the built environment, U.S. cultural & social history, race & ethnicity, and how urban spaces both shape and are produced by culture and politics.

rahimariceRahima R. Rice is a writer/director from Washington, D.C. Through her company, The 4208 Group, she has produced several plays, a short film and the upcoming web series Room 513.

russellmaxsimonRussell Max Simon is a filmmaker living just outside DC. Writer and Producer of Districtland, he has written and directed four shorts and one feature, currently in post-production. He also founded 7k Films, a grant for ultra low budget filmmakers.

humanities_logoDCIFF thanks the DC Council on the Humanities for its generous support of the discussion, taping and sharing of this podcast.


Best Narrative Short Film
MINISTRY OF GUILT, Directed by Detsky Graffam (UK/2015/10mins)

Best Documentary Short Film
LAST DAY OF FREEDOM, Directed by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman (USA/2015/31:50mins)

Best Animation
THE STORY OF PERCIVAL PILTS, Directed by Janette Goodey (Australia/2015/8mins)

Best Documentary Film

Best International Film
A STRUGGLE FOR HOME: THE CRIMEAN TATARS Directed by Christina Paschyn (Ukraine, Qatar/2015/45mins)

Best Feature Film
HAZE, Directed by David Burkman (USA/2015/106mins)

Best of Metro DC Film
KARA, Directed by Dippen Zinzuvadia (USA/2015/80mins)

Best of Fest
THE EYE OF ISTANBUL, Directed by Binnur Karaevli and Fatih Kaymak (Turkey/2015/61mins)