A pair of Bethesda natives are bringing a short documentary about a unique D.C. neighborhood tradition to the first ever Bethesda Film Fest in March.
And they’re excited about what the event could mean for the Bethesda arts scene.
Lance Kramer and brother Brandon Kramer made “Porchfest,” a seven-minute look at the one-of-a-kind block party Lance Kramer and a couple neighbors helped organize in 2011 in their Mt. Pleasant D.C. neighborhood.
The Hobart Street Porchfest will be celebrated for the third time this year, a “community showcase” of sorts that encourages neighbors to get to know each other through food, art, music and culture displayed on porches of the street’s homes.
The film emphasizes the vibrancy and potential of a city neighborhood, a topic Kramer and neighbor Tony Harvin discuss in the documentary as something typically associated with suburban communities. Kramer, who grew up in Bethesda, attended Walt Whitman High School and moved out of the area before returning to Hobart Street, said bringing the film to Bethesda represents “this life circle that I hope people really appreciate.”
“Aside from the day I was born, I grew up in Bethesda,” said Kramer, who was born in D.C. and whose grandfather and great grandfather lived in D.C. “For me, in a sense I felt like I had my own personal roots, my family roots. There was that personal part of me that really hatched together this idea to have a festival, which is really just kind of coming out of this love of the street.”
Harvin, a musician who spent his early childhood in a house on the street, came up with the idea after walking down the street and hearing kids and adults playing instruments in their homes. He got together with Kramer and others involved in established neighborhood social events and developed a simple framework.
“It was a little bit of a gamble, in that sense it was definitely a surprise to see all the ideas,” Kramer said. “There was a craft brewing station, somebody rented a moon bounce, there was a blues band and finger painting. Someone who I didn’t know set up a photography presentation. This event was basically saying, take something that you’re proud of, that you want to share or showcase that people might not know or appreciate about you and bring it out into the street so people can experience it.”
Kramer said he’d be shocked if the Bethesda Film Fest, the Bethesda Urban Partnership-sponsored event that will feature five short documentaries at Imagination Stage, doesn’t end up a big success.
“I think there’s already a strong film-going culture in Bethesda, now to take it one step further I think is really good,” Kramer said. “If you look at film festivals, they become these really good cultural catalysts. There’s something in the DNA of a film festival that I think has this really amazing power to do that.”