Entering its 14th year, Maryland Film Festival is an annual four-day event that takes place the first weekend of each May, presenting top-notch film and video work from all over the world, with filmmaker in attendance to present their work. Each year the festival screens approximately 50 feature films and 75 short films of all varieties – narrative, documentary, animation, experimental, and hybrid – to tens of thousands of audience members. This year’s event takes place May 3-6. Don’t miss it!
Operations and Development Manager, Rahne Alexander tells us more about the Fest.
Teresa: How are selections determined, and what stage of the process are you on now?
Rahne: The films are determined by the programming committee, which consists of Programming Director Eric Hatch, Programming Assistant Scott Braid, and Executive Director Jed Dietz. In addition to looking at all the films that are submitted through our open call every year, they also go to other film festivals to scout films that might fit our festival. We’re about to finalize our schedule, and will be able to announce our lineup in early April.
What are some of the more obscure areas of the world from which you have received entries?
The great part about the new accessibility of filmmaking tools is that the world seems a lot smaller. It seems like there are fewer “obscure” areas than ever before. Last year we ran a film called VIVA RIVA!, which was the first narrative feature to be produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 25 years, and the filmmaker, Djo Tunda Wa Munga, was in attendance. That film went on to win the first-ever MTV Movie Award for Best African Film.
What can newcomers to the film fest expect of the experience?
The atmosphere of Maryland Film Festival is really comfortable. We set out to make it easy for filmmakers and audiences to connect with each other. We’ve seen a lot of really great friendships sprout and grow through the connections we help make. It’s always delightful to watch these connections flourish. Anyone coming to MFF for the first time should be prepared to have a great time. I’d recommend getting an all-access pass if you can, so you can soak up as many films as possible. Months later, after the films we program finally make it to distribution in theaters or home video, you’ll be able to tell your friends about all these great, unique films we program. Some of the films we’ve programmed — notably The Hurt Locker and Dogtooth – have gone on to be nominated and/or win Academy Awards.
Since MFF always brings filmmakers to town to host the films we run, it’s also always great to be able to be in a screening of a film with the people who created it. Last year’s closing night film was SING YOUR SONG, which was a biopic about Harry Belafonte. At the end of the film, the crowd sang along with “The Banana Boat Song” as it played under the film credits. And then Belafonte stood up for a Q&A with Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch. It was a magical night.
How is the fest grown since its inception?
We started in 1999 with several goals in mind, but particularly in creating a world-class film festival in Baltimore. This will be our 14th edition of the festival, and in that time we’ve been able to bring so much talent and so many groundbreaking films to town. We’ve exhibited hundreds of films and connected so many talented filmmakers with audiences and other filmmakers, and every year we just get bigger and better.
The Maryland Film Festival takes place May 3 through May 6, 2012.