Category Archives: The news

Exclusive Interview with DCIFF Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard


Deirdre Evans-Pritchard, DCIFF Executive Director

Film festivals involve many moving parts: from reviewing submissions and communicating with filmmakers to attracting press and hosting screenings and awards. Arguably, DCIFF offers more than most festivals through its workshops, seminars, and masterclasses, as well as the high-school film competition and Congressional summit (“On the Hill”). Behind every successful organization, of course, is a dedicated team and visionary leadership.

In this post, we meet that leadership, DCIFF Executive Director Deirdre Evans-Pritchard and learn a little bit about her background and vision for the festival. Deirdre leads DCIFF through her expertise in programming, fundraising, and building partnerships.

Join our recent conversation, get to know Deirdre, and through her, DCIFF!

How did you initially get involved with DCIFF?

Many years ago, I was involved in setting up the Anthropos Documentary Festival in LA, the forerunner of AFI Docs, so when I moved to DC I kept linked into film activities. When I met Carol Bidaut, DCIFF’s founder, I felt that I shared her sense of the importance of assuring non-conformist, non-aligned and non-mainstream creative film programming in DC. Several years later, I volunteered to keep the festival alive when Carol left the city. I hope that over the last seven years I have made the festival internationally recognized and respected without sacrificing her original vision.

You’ve helped select several years of screenings, so can you help frame the type of content that attendees should expect to see at DCIFF?

DCIFF is independent not just because the films are indie (and the definition of what is an indie film is murky nowadays as production expands worldwide and Hollywood’s production power dilutes) but because it is not stuck on any one one theme, style or format. Each year will be different but always inclusive, energetic, educational and a chance to meet many filmmakers. Our aim is to be fresh, risk-taking, cutting-edge and willing to turn on a dime. We hope our audiences get caught up in that energy and join our community for the ride. 2018 will, of course, see parties, seminars, and screenings, with a chance to talk to filmmakers. We’ll also celebrate animation and filmmaking by getting everyone involved in making things. This year, we plan to dig into issues of fake news and how to make films in dangerous circumstances.

You’ve spent considerable time in the film industry, shaping film festivals on both coasts and teaching at USC’s Cinema School. Why do film festivals need to happen?

That’s simple: people are making amazing work, but there are limited avenues to see it. DCIFF programs events and holds screenings that highlight and frame great film art in ways that benefit everyone. The impact of watching films together in a big theater and then talking about it or hearing from the artist is still powerful. In fact, now that watching moving images is so mundane, a festival like DCIFF really is a temple to great talent because we select finalists from such a large number of submissions.

Filmmaking is one form of storytelling, set apart from literature, theatre, and television series. What does a concise, on-screen story give us that these other forms of storytelling don’t?

I am a trained anthropologist and folklorist and in all cultures storytelling has always been both visual and aural. To me, film is the way this has continued into the modern world, and it is much more clearly linked to traditional storytelling than the written word. Why do children’s books have illustrations? …because before we are trained to prioritize reading, we link what we see to what we hear. So I think of film as an invention that was just waiting to happen and one that—the complexities of editing and production aside—plugs into our natural way of experiencing the world.

Washington, DC’s film scene includes a long list of film festivals devoted to showcasing work that is specific to one genre, culture, or topic. Yet, we review thousands of submissions from around the world in several categories! How is DCIFF set apart from other area festivals and what do we offer that’s valuable to filmmakers? 

Yes indeed, DC is awash in film festivals, a testament to how many films are out there worth watching. DCIFF is proud to be part of this regional film festival community but we have a very clear mission different from many festivals around us. We are a competitive festival with the mission of forwarding the careers of emerging and established filmmakers of exceptional talent who work locally, nationally and internationally. So we do not curate films (except for our retrospectives or films shown in honor of specific filmmakers). We honestly do not know the lineup of the festival until a couple of months beforehand. It is a surprise for us ourselves, how the programming lines up each year! But, we do always have an educational section—workshops, masterclasses and seminars—and now that so many people are making movies, we find that people interested in getting acquainted with filmmaking attend, not just the film professionals.

We work hard to offer a festival experience that honors filmmakers for their work and rewards them with networking opportunities. For a filmmaker, what are the most valuable and enjoyable aspects of attending?

When filmmakers attend DCIFF they often end up building new networks and sometimes go on to work together after they leave. Also, we pride ourselves on looking after filmmakers as best we can when they attend. But the main thing is always the pleasure of watching your film screened in a big theater with an engaged audience and then answering their questions afterwards. And then of course, this year, it looks as if we will have some cash awards as prizes…and that’s always a draw!

Thanks, Deirdre, for sharing with blog readers—what a pleasure!

Thanks, Daniel, for talking to me about DCIFF and welcome as the festival’s new blogger. We look forward to learning about things filmic of interest to those in DC, other filmmakers and lovers of film.

DCIFF Alum and Director David Burkman shares his film’s path to distribution

It is a great feeling working at a film festival when a selected film goes on to success.  You feel good for the cast and crew plus a little selfish pleasure that DCIFF picked a winner.  So we are delighted that the feature HAZE (USA/2015/106mins) just completed a run at the Laemmle Theater in Los Angeles, was acquired by Gravitas Ventures, is now available on iTunes and the official theatrical trailer was featured on Entertainment Weekly’s website.  For locals, go catch this Metro DC-produced film at The Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse on November 1st: A college freshman’s desire to join the best fraternity on campus is dampened when a pledge is killed in a brutal hazing incident.

We will see if director David Burkman can share how he achieved this distribution at DCIFF 2018, Feb 14-19, but for now, here are questions he answered for us about the post-release life of the film.

HAZE_BTS_David Burkman

What has the festival circuit experience given you? Has it been valuable? The festival experience was tremendously rewarding and valuable. The supportive environment at festivals was such a positive start to the launch of the film. Making an independent film is so hard and the gratification is so delayed, to finally be able to screen the film for a supportive audience is a major boost. The DC Independent Film Festival stood out as one of our very best experiences. Because we shot the film in the DC area, we felt like we were home. The audience was terrific, and the Q&A stood out as especially rich and meaningful.

You worked with a group of young talented actors.. have the film’s journey involved them in some way too? Yes. The actors and crew bonded very tightly during the making of the film, and these friendships have remained very strong.  Many of the cast members have been a part of the promotion of the film, joining us on the festival circuit, at theatrical screenings for Q&As, and they are at the center of our social media campaign. I think so many of them feel a special connection to HAZE.  They are not only extremely talented, but also just wonderful people.


How are audiences responding  to the film? Now that we have screened the film on nearly 50 college campuses, at 10 film festivals, and are currently on our theatrical screening tour, people of all ages and walks of life are responding well to the film. For example, we recently screened in NYC at the famed Talking Movies screening series and found that a generally older audience had a lot to say about the film, the issues it raises, and the complex themes is explores. And we have also found that college students have strong opinions about the movie and seem to really relate to it.

Any words of advice for filmmakers debuting their first feature?  Off the top of my head I would say, be open minded to feedback and advice but also stick to your vision. And know that while Hollywood tries to get everyone to conform to a specific way of doing things, there is no one right way to do anything. One of our mottos when making HAZE was “Whatever it takes.”  I think being as creative in how you produce a film is as important as the creativity you pour into the storytelling. By that I mean find clever, new ways to get around obstacles and make things happen. And finally, if you believe in what you are doing, never, ever, give up.

Learn more about the film HAZE at:

2017 DCIFF Awards


Service to Man (USA/2016) 
Directed by Aaron Greer and Seth Panitch


One Penny (USA/2017) 
Directed by Michael DeVita


Free to Ride (USA/2017)
Directed by Jamaal Bell


SON (Luxembourg/2016)
Directed by Cyrus Neshvad
SALT (Brazil/2016)
Directed by Diego Frietas


The Night Watchmen (USA/2017)
Directed by Mitchell Altieri


Killing the Fiddler (USA/2016)
Directed by Barak Barkan

Painted City (USA/2017)
Directed by Caitlin Carroll


New York City Sketchbook (USA/2016)
Directed by Willy Hartland


Fishwitch (UK/2016)
Directed by Adrienne Dowling

High School Film Competition

Makoda (Canada/2016)
Directed by Callahan Bracken

To Serve and Protect? (USA/2016)
Directed by Alula Abraham, Zenab Abubakari, Alyssa Berrios, Rediet Betru, Kaleb Dagne, Abel Demiss, Oliver Hulser-Morris, Angelica Moreno, Alix Swann

Reflections (USA/2016)
Directed by Kevin Gordon

Announcing the DCIFF 2017 Documentaries

Feature Documentaries

Free to Ride (USA/2016/59:31mins), Directed by Jamaal Bell
The story of the relentless spirit of community members from across Dayton, Ohio who overcame a suburban contingent opposed to the expansion of public transit along a commercial corridor, and the system of checks and balances that allowed justice and reason to prevail.

Desert Wounds (Israel/2016/58mins), Directed by Nili Dotan
Christian African Women from Sudan and Eritrea, seek asylum in Israel but know that their journey is far from being over.

Masoumeh (Iran/2016/70mins), Directed by Sona Moghaddam
MASOUMEH ATAE is attacked brutally by acid by her ex-husband’s father 1.5 years after divorce. Despite losing her sight and severe burning, she tries to obtain the custody of her son.

Pigheaded (USA/2015/90mins), Directed by John Kinhart
Pigheaded tells the provocative life story of underground cartoonist and subversive satirist Skip Williamson. His unapologetic art exemplified the spirit of the 60s counter-culture movement.

Spectres are Haunting Europe (France, Greece/2016/98mins), Directed by Maria Kourkouta and Niki Giannari
The daily life of refugees (Syrian, Kurdish, Pakistani, Afghani, and other) in the camp of Idomeni. People waiting in queues for food, tea and doctors; waiting to cross the border between Greece and Macedonia. One day, Europe closes its borders for them once and for all.

24 Hour Comic (USA/2016/69mins), Directed by by Milan Erceg
8 Artists confined to a comic book store, partake in Scott McCloud’s 24 Hour Comic Challenge. Each attempts to write, draw, and complete a 24 page comic, in 24 hours.

Short Documentaries

Alex (USA/2016/9:32mins), Directed by Brian Inocencio
After a near fatal car accident, Alex’s life completely changed. This is a conversation between Alex and his mother Janet.

Contigo (USA/2016/6:54mins), Directed by Dan Boord and Luis Valdovino
Contigo is a waltz with family and tradition, close to the South Texas border.

Hartom (UAE/2916/10:39mins), Directed by Arkus
A window into the professional life of Andy who is far more than just a performing magician.

Painted City (USA/2017/25:40mins), Directed by Caitlin Carroll
An exploration of Washington, D.C.’s community murals and the preservation issues they face in rapidly changing neighborhoods by following one local woman’s efforts to study and conserve them.

Property (USA/2016/4mins), Directed by Allison Otto
A day in the life at the National Wildlife Property Repository where wildlife items confiscated at US ports of entry are stored.

Single Asian Female Online (USA/2016/7:30mins), Directed by Jaime Ekken
The true unfiltered online messages received by one Single Asian Woman…..

The Learning Alliance (Pakistan/2016/8:39mins), Directed by Muhammad Umar Saeed
Three brothers are changing their future by studying while selling garbage in Lahore, Pakistan.