A crowd of about 150 came to the inaugural Bethesda Film Fest on Saturday. With almost as many people shut out of the sold out event, organizers said it could grow by next year.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership and the board of its Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District created and ran the presentation of five short documentaries from local directors at Imagination Stage (4908 Auburn Ave.). After the films, the filmmakers answered audience questions.
The panel of judges — board members of the Arts & Entertainment District, Imagination Stage’s David Stern and American University’s Angelica Das — narrowed down a selection of about 25 shorts to five.
Two films — “The Plan” and “Rights of Butterflies” — touched on topics of local importance that may not have been as apparent to people in Bethesda.
“The Plan,” is a documentary/narrative that looks at gentrification and its effects on black-owned businesses in a rapidly changing Washington, D.C. “Rights of Butterflies,” chronicles a Silver Spring student’s attempt at getting into and paying for a college education despite her undocumented status.
“Oh, I think it definitely opens the community’s eyes,” said Arts & Entertainment board member Debra Moser. “I heard a lot of people say, ‘I didn’t know that. I didn’t realize that.’ It’s definitely the stories within our community people don’t even realize are going on.”
“Into the Lime Light,” follows an up-and-coming junior D.C. boxer as he prepares for a fight. “Baffle their Minds with Bullsh*t, Kerry Leigh,” looks at a New Orleans street performer with a unique product and unique outlook on life. One film with Bethesda ties, “Porchfest,” shows a special kind of block party in a Northwest D.C. neighborhood. It was made by two Bethesda natives.
Moser said the Arts & Entertainment District had the idea for the event last year and worked to gauge interest and make it different from popular film festivals such as the annual SilverDocs at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring.
While Saturday’s event was on a much smaller scale, there was obvious interest for more.
“We had this idea and we tried to figure out, was Bethesda ready for it? Would people respond to it,” Moser said. “I think they did. So I think there’s potential here to grow. We started with baby steps to see if it would have legs.”