DC-area filmmakers shine in free, virtual Chesapeake Film Festival

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Chesapeake Film Fest (Part 1)

Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay might be one form of social distancing.

Another great one is streaming the Chesapeake Film Festival virtually.

The 13th annual event arrives free of charge this Thursday to Sunday.

“Once we realized we were going to go virtual, [we] thought, you know what, let’s just provide this festival as a gift,” festival board member Irene Magafan told WTOP. “A lot of people are struggling financially. Why do we want to charge people for this?”

This year’s slate includes 46 independent narrative, documentary and short films.

“We’ve always known this to be a grassroots festival,” Magafan said. “It’s really a film festival for the people. We love to focus on filmmakers and films from our wonderful state of Maryland, specifically local stories on the Eastern Shore, but we’ve been getting a lot of international submissions and submissions from all over the country.”

Environmental highlights include “Never Too Small” by Mason Mirabile.

“It is a short documentary produced and directed by a 10 year old … from Arlington,” Magafan said. “It’s a story about climate change. He made his film all by himself through his school, and he actually came to World Wildlife Fund to do a couple of interviews with our experts. He edited everything himself. I was just super inspired.”

Likewise, Micaa Thomas delivers the animated film “Our House is On Fire.”

“She is local to Bowie,” Magafan said. “Her area of expertise is actually CGI, so there are a lot of special effects in her film. The film also features [activist] Greta Thunberg, so we’re really excited to have her join us. She’s very, very passionate about global warming and wants people to understand that our planet is heating up.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Chesapeake Film Fest (Part 2)

You can also check out the environmental film “Unbreathable.”

“This is a feature documentary on the Clean Air Act,” Magafan said. “This film is produced and directed by a very beloved local professor from American University named Maggie Stogner. … She runs the Center for Environmental Filmmaking.”

Meanwhile, there are 15 films on the topic of social justice, including “Emanuel.”

“A 21-year-old white supremacist opened fire in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church [in Charleston, South Carolina] and nine African Americans lay dead,” Magafan said. “This film features intimate interviews with survivors and family members [in] a poignant story of justice and faith, love and hate and the healing power of forgiveness.”

A different shooting is chronicled in the documentary short “After Parkland.”

“We all remember the horrific events that happened in Parkland,” Magafan said. “This is the intimate and moving story of families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School navigating their way through grief and searching for new meaning in the immediate days, weeks and months after the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead.”

Another social justice standout is “First Lady of the Revolution.”

“While visiting an aunt and uncle in the exotic countryside of Costa Rica, a young southern belle from Alabama accepts a ride on the back of a motorcycle belonging to a charismatic local farmer,” Magafan said. “It really dives into connections with people that you may not think you would ever connect with.”

Best Short Film went to “Wake Up” by a Hollywood star.

“[It] came to us from Sundance and is directed by Olivia Wilde,” Magafan said. “This is a short film about a woman who wakes up to a world where people are connected and completely consumed with their screens and technology and have virtually no connection to other humans.”

Best Documentary Feature went to “You Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout Groove City.”

“In the mid-1970s, a musical revolution with roots in the emerging New York City hip-hop scene explodes on Pine Street in Cambridge, Maryland,” Magafan said. “So we’re very, very excited to have that, considering it was filmed in Cambridge.”

Listen to our full conversation

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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