Sled into the Rosebud Film Fest to break your blizzard cabin fever

November 29, 2020 | WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with festival director Kevin Sampson (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — Who can forget Orson Welles’ Rosebud sled buried in “Citizen Kane” snow?

Well, a different sort of “Rosebud” will help local moviegoers dig out from the Blizzard of 2016.

It’s the 25th annual Rosebud Film Festival, which screens at D.C.’s Navy Heritage Center from 2-8 p.m. Saturday before handing out awards at the Clarendon Ballroom from 7-10 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s been snowing, you’ve been inside the house, cabin fever, so now it’s time to get out and enjoy some great films from our area,” Festival Director Kevin Sampson tells WTOP.

While D.C. Shorts and the D.C. International Film Festival invite submissions from around the globe, the Rosebud Film Festival separates itself by limiting submissions to strictly DMV filmmakers.

“We’re open exclusively to D.C., Maryland and Virginia filmmakers. So this might be the guy that sits in the cubicle next to you, and you just never knew he was a filmmaker. So many of the filmmakers, that’s actually their story. They got their regular 9-5, but filmmaking is what they want to do. So this is just a great time to be able to celebrate them and come see some great films,” Sampson says.

This year’s festival received more than 100 submissions — up from 80 last year — which were then cut to the Top 20 by a panel of judges, including local filmmaker Mary Ratliff, local critics Michael Parsons and Jeffrey K. Lyles, D.C. Web Fest Founder Otessa Ghadar and C-SPAN’s Jonelle Henry.

“It’s a good eclectic mix of people. Those judges know films and they know good films when they see it. … When they were judging, they were sending me emails like, ‘I can’t believe you’re making me do this. This is so hard.’ We have a lot of talent in this area. So if you come out to the showcase on Saturday, you’re going to see some of the cream of the crop in terms of filmmaking in our area.”

The festival kicks off with writer/director Harold Jackson III’s feature “Last Night,” which won the Audience Award at the American Black Film Festival. Similar to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” (1995), the film follows a woman’s (Judi Blair) last night in D.C. before moving to North Carolina with her boyfriend (Benton Greene). Along the way, they encounter a tempting stranger (Danny Gavigan).

“You’ve never seen D.C. so romantically shot. The different spots that you see, whether it’s the Portrait Gallery or just a club, you’re just like, ‘Oh my goodness. This is where I live! Wow, where can I find that spot? What spot was that?’ It’s a pretty awesome film,” Sampson says.

The festival continues with a number of short films, including “The Confidential Informant.” Written by George Pelecanos, directed by Stephen Kinigopoulos and produced by Kyle David Crosby, the film follows young D.C. man who makes one last, desperate attempt to earn his father’s love and respect.

“Imagine that you’re a kid on the set of ‘The Wire,’ your mother is actually the hairdresser, so imagine all the things that you’re going to learn on the set of ‘The Wire.’ … There’s a lot of snow and ice in the film, so it might look like he shot it last weekend, but he didn’t,” Sampson says, laughing.

If you’re more in the mood for a comedy, check out Charlie Puritano’s “Extreme Paleo: A Success Story” about an extreme diet regimine about hunting everything you eat, and Linder Pak’s “Rendezvous” about a middle-aged man who goes on a dinner date with a woman half his age.

The festival wraps with Betsy Cox’s feature documentary “Southeast 67.” Set in D.C. during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s — when Washington was dubbed the “Murder Capital” — the film follows 67 rising seventh graders who are promised college scholarships by a wealthy businessman.

Out of the 20 films screening at the festival, the Top 5 finalists will each receive $1,000 on Sunday.

This year will also introduce Rosebud’s first-ever Audience Choice Award.

“Whoever wins that award will actually receive a great package from Arlington Independent Media with our cinema gear, so they can keep making their films and we can assist them with that.”

The festival is sponsored by Arlington Independent Media, a nonprofit public access station providing resources for local residents who want to create media for radio, television and film.

Festival Director Kevin Sampson poses with the "Rosebud" sled at the 2015 Rosebud Film Festival. (Courtesy Rosebud)
Festival Director Kevin Sampson poses with the “Rosebud” sled at the 2015 Rosebud Film Festival. (Courtesy Rosebud)

“You can make a film with our cinema equipment. You can make a TV show. Anybody who wants to put their voice out there in the world, that’s what Arlington Independent Media is there to do.”

Tickets cost $15 for the five-and-a-half hour showcase at Navy Heritage Center from 2-8 p.m. Saturday. Sunday’s award ceremony is free to attend at Clarendon Ballroom from 7-10 p.m.

Both locations are Metro accessible with the showcase at the Archives stop on the Green and Yellow lines and the awards just off the Clarendon stop on the Orange and Silver lines, respectively.

“We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great time. You can be a star yourself. We’re gonna have the red carpet and step-and-repeat out there. You can take photos, Instagram, instant celebrity over the weekend. And you don’t even have to get out in the snow.”

Click here for more information about the 25th annual Rosebud Film Festival.

November 29, 2020 | WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with festival director Kevin Sampson (Jason Fraley)

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