Washington West Film Fest returns to Virginia as the most altruistic film festival in the nation’s capital

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Washington West Film Fest (Part 1)

Giving back is the most important thing that one can do in life — and no film festival does it better than the Washington West Film Festival, which returns to The Boro in Tysons, Virginia this weekend from Oct. 12-16.

“We’re passionate about gathering together D.C.’s thought leaders, educators, professionals and art lovers for conversations that change the world,” Founder Brad Russell told WTOP. “We practice what we preach here … This year we’re giving away all of our ticket sale box office to The Children’s Inn at NIH, their pediatric cancer center. We’re also giving our box office to an amazing Virginia-based foster-kid program called Virginia’s Kids Belong.”

Not only does your ticket support a great cause, you can enjoy some entertaining movies as well. The lineup kicks off Thursday at the ShowPlace Icon with the opening night film “Anna,” starring Ciarán Hinds and Jason Isaacs.

“It’s the true story of Anna Politkovskaya,” Russell said. “She was the Russian journalist who started calling out the Russian government during the Chechen War. It’s a great, great film. This is a rare opportunity to see a film even before it world premieres. We’ve been told this has to be called an ‘exclusive pre-screening.’ It’s going to be a major motion picture distributed all around the world in 2024 and this will be one of the first audiences to see it.”

Friday brings two special short-film blocks, interspersed with dinner and dessert at the ShowPlace Icon.

“We have toyed with this idea and we’re going for it this year,” Russell said. “Instead of simultaneously screening our primary short film programs, we are putting them in front of the same audience. We’re calling it Short Film Friday. Short Film Program 1 will screen seven films, we will all exit after the Q&A and have dinner together with the filmmakers, then go back into the theater for Short Film Program 2, then we’ll all have dessert together.”

Saturday returns to the ShowPlace Icon for the George Mason University Student Showcase, a “director’s choice” long-form shorts showcase and the feature films “Patrol,” “Escaping Ohio” and “This is Not Financial Advice.”

“(‘Escaping Ohio’) is a coming-of-age story love story,” Russell said. “We love it. I think this is going to end up being distributed like ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty,’ a must-see for 18- to 20-year-olds. … ‘This Is Not Financial Advice’ is a fantastic documentary, maybe the best at Tribeca. This is not only an entertainment film, but really educational. There are laugh-out-loud moments, shocking moments about the way seemingly smart people risk their money.”

Sunday brings the documentaries “Black Barbie” and “Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes” at the ShowPlace Icon.

“I gotta admit when I heard this, I thought we’re gonna be all Barbie’d out this year, but this is really fascinating,” Russell said. “I thought I’d watch 15 minutes of this and get kind of a sense, but I watched the whole film. It’s about the impact of the first Black Barbie that was made. A lot of fascinating people interviewed in this documentary. Then, the Max Roach documentary is about his life and career, the famous, legendary drummer and composer.”

It all wraps Monday at Reston Community Center with Ron Howard’s food documentary “We Feed People.”

“There will be a really great Q&A with a Restonian from Reston, Nathan Mook, who’s one of the executive producers,” Russell said. “It’s about the passion of José Andrés and World Central Kitchen’s impact on feeding those who suffer from food scarcity. This is an inspiring, inspiring film from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.”

Tickets range from $15 to $25 with the entire box office going to help local children’s causes.

“We hold ourselves accountable to being a festival that’s really about making a difference by giving away the ticket sales that come in,” Russell said. “When somebody buys a ticket to the Washington West Film Festival, all of those proceeds are used to make change real in our world.”

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Washington West Film Fest (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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