Film Festival Looks at D.C. Life: More Than Politics

Subjects Vary From Cupcakes to Redskins

“Step back, doors closing,” says the automated female voice on the Metro intercom. How many times do Washingtonians hear that every day?

Or how often do folks pass by the pyramidal pinnacle of the Washington Monument or the Dome of the Capitol?

Kendra Rubinfeld gives local residents a reason to appreciate and celebrate the daily sights, sounds and tastes of the place we call home. She organizes the annual Our City Film Festival, a daylong marathon of documentaries about life in the District.

“I get sick of seeing movies that feature New York City and Boston and LA in the background,” said Rubinfeld, a proud D.C. native and director of programming at the affordable-housing nonprofit Yachad. “It’s never Washington unless it’s a political thriller, and there is more to D.C. than politics.”

This year’s festival is Sunday at the Goethe Institute (812 Seventh St. NW). A dozen short to full-length films on topics ranging from racial segregation to Georgetown Cupcakes will run.

It may take some serious digging through the memory banks, but remember when Washington Redskins fans jam-packed RFK Stadium and shook the stands in excitement? D.C. native Walter Gottlieb does. His film “The Washington Redskins: Winning Years” complies interviews with former players, cheerleaders and broadcasters from the team’s glory days in the 1980s.

One seven-minute narrative titled “Audiofiles” follows a D.C. yuppie munching cold pizza for breakfast and blasting his iPod on the Metro. 

The film, which runs against the backdrop of songs by local bands, won the best short narrative award along with “Community Harvest,” a documentary about a dilapidated parking lot that was turned into a community garden in Columbia Heights.

“We wanted to share this story with the greater D.C. community,” said “Community Harvest” co-director Lance Kramer, who considers himself an environmentalist. “It might inspire development in other parts of the city.”
Rubinfeld said film directors would attend the festival. Some are looking for sound feedback on their creative shots; others will take questions.

The famous Georgetown Cupcakes sisters, Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis, are scheduled to drop by the festival at 7:30 p.m. for the screening of their TLC show’s second season premiere. The sisters will host and judge a cupcake-decorating contest and hand out pink sparkling wine.

Festival features are broken into five screening blocks, each priced at $10. Proceeds will go to Yachad projects that build houses for the poor.

In the first block, “She’s a Sensei” follows Carol Middleton, a taekwondo black belt and founder of the DC Self Defense Karate Association. She teaches Washington children on the run-down wooden panels of an old local gym. 

The 40-minute film “Letting in the Jungle” draws attention to D.C.’s wildlife, including coyotes, squirrels and deer.

Later in the day, one 11-minute film tells the story of the first African-American high school rugby team, which started in Northeast D.C. Another will remind locals of their city’s struggle with racial segregation, taking viewers back to the 1960s when Columbia, Md., developer Michael Chabon received death threats for envisioning a neighborhood open to all races.

The festival’s main feature, “Babylon Central,” runs at 3:15 p.m. and is the only full-length 101-minute fictional piece. The film by Eric Hilton of D.C. DJ duo Thievery Corporation frames the District in a more negative light. The film invites viewers to ask themselves: “Would you trade freedom for security?” The movie follows a young local DJ who gets caught in a power struggle between a Saudi Arabian prince and the U.S. government.

For the full schedule and to view trailers, go to ourcityfilmfestival.com.

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