Filmfest DC returns virtually with ‘Go-Go City’ and ‘A Tale of Three Chinatowns’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Filmfest DC (Part 1)

Get ready for 60 films from 35 countries over 10 days for one great festival.

Starting this Friday, the 35th annual Filmfest DC returns from June 4 to June 13.

“We would rather be in theaters and we wanted to do it this spring and summer, but there was no clear message about whether movie theaters would open or if people would feel comfortable, so we decided to go virtual again,” Tony Gittens, founder and director of Filmfest DC, told WTOP. “We did two virtual festivals last year with success, so we weren’t too concerned about that.”

He said he was pleasantly surprised by the quality of films in this pandemic year.

“People are still pounding out good films,” Gittens said. “The technology has allowed for more good films to be made, so we had a hard choice finding the films, selecting them and narrowing them down from all of the submissions. … We have a very strong presentation.”

Tickets are $9, including the opening night flick “Love Affair(s).”

“It’s a French romantic comedy about a young lady whose boyfriend asks her to watch his cousin while he’s at work,” Gittens said. “They start talking about their past relationships, things that didn’t work in the past. … We wanted to start with something very light.”

The second half of the slate kicks off with “The Marriage Escape.”

“It’s about a man who has a wife who is overbearing,” Gittens said. “He puts down a glass, she picks up the glass. He wants a newspaper, she gives him the newspaper. She figures out what clothes he’s going to wear, all out of good intentions. It becomes too much for this guy. He decides he’s going to feign dementia to get into a mental hospital to get away.”

The closing night film is called “One Careful Owner.”

“It’s a film from Spain, a light comedy,” Gittens said. “It’s about a woman who wants to purchase an apartment [from] an older woman, who says you can have the apartment for a very good price, but you can’t take it over until I die. The woman says, ‘OK, this woman is old, she’s gonna fall at any moment,’ but she doesn’t. She lives and lives and lives.”

In between are categories like “World View,” including “In Balanchine’s Classroom.”

“George Balanchine was one of the innovators in ballet,” Gittens said. “It’s a beautiful film. You don’t have to be a ballet fan to appreciate it. We’re happy to get the world premiere.”

Local viewers will enjoy “DC4Reel” with “Go-Go City” and “A Tale of Three Chinatowns.”

“[The former] is about go-go [and] gentrification in D.C.,” Gittens said. “[The latter] is about D.C.’s Chinatown, the history of Chinese immigration [and] how Chinatowns are beginning to disappear. Chinese don’t live in Chinatowns any more because of gentrification.”

You can also watch social themes in “Justice Matters,” including “Executive Order.”

“It’s a feature film about a point in the near future where the Brazilian government sends all Black people back to Africa and how there’s a natural resistance to that,” Gittens said. “It’s a film that deals with those issues, but it’s also a pretty thrilling sci-fi film.”

If you want to laugh, check out “The Lighter Side,” featuring “Love Type D.”

“We’re doing a screening at The Wharf,” Gittens said. “This film is a scream! [A woman is] in a restaurant waiting for her boyfriend to come. This young guy, maybe 12 or 13, shows up. Her boyfriend has sent him to tell her he’s breaking up. … She goes to a strange doctor who says, ‘You have the ‘D’ gene, which means all of your relationships are doomed.'”

Thriller fans will enjoy the “Trust No One” category, including “Dawn of War.”

“It’s from Estonia,” Gittens said. “The Nazis are coming into Estonia. There’s a code book that if the police in Estonia could get ahold of, they have a chance of fighting back. They pull this policeman out of retirement and his job is to go and find this code book.”

While virtual festivals are convenient, Gittens hopes to be back in theaters next year.

“People who go to film festivals are true believers,” he said. “We who can sit through three, four, five films a day are a special breed. That’s what film festivals are for. You want people around you when you run for popcorn, chat with friends, compare notes. When we come back next year, we expect to be in movie theaters and all of that will come back.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Filmfest DC (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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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