The Hatchet visits: The D.C. Independent Film Festival

The D.C. Independent Film Festival got off to a roaring start last Thursday night, March 6, at GW’s own Jack Morton Auditorium, located inside the School of Media and Public Affairs building. This year’s festival, spanning 11 days, will feature a total of 108 films, 24 themed-film showcases, daily receptions, film seminars and various musical acts. This festival, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, serves as a venue for area public to experience independent film culture, says executive director and festival founder, Carol Bidault de l’Isle.

“DCIFF celebrates the vision, creativity and highest level of independent filmmaking through film screenings, filmmaker discussions and seminars – a true film destination,” Bidault de l’Isle said. She further stressed the importance of the independent film industry within the nation’s capital as it is often “a city better known for politics than film.”

Trader Joe’s sponsored an opening-night reception, which featured a musical performance from American jazz composer, David Amram. Throughout his life, Amram has worked with the likes of legendary jazz musicians Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker – as well as Beat generation icons Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Having written many works for Kerouac and Ginsberg, Amram reminisced of their friendships and recounted stories from his own life “on the road.” Amram has also composed numerous Broadway scores as well as those heard in the films “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) and “Splendor in the Grass” (1961). Amram played two original pieces, receiving rounds of worthy applause from the audience. And just before exiting the stage, Amram offered his advice to the filmmakers present by wishing that they “stay independent.”

A brief set of films followed Amram’s performance. Most notably, D.C. filmmaker Laurence Arabias’ “Dust Off and Cowboy Up!” (2007), which offered a look into the image of cowboys from old Westerns through use of some clever animation.

Following Arabias’ film was the night’s feature presentation: British director Alex Cox’s “Searchers 2.0” (2007). Cox is highly regarded in independent film circles as a legendary director for his films “Sid and Nancy” (1986) and “Repo Man” (1984).

In “Searchers 2.0,” Mel (Del Zamora) and Fred (Ed Pansullo) are two middle-aged child actors who embark on a road trip from Los Angeles to Arizona’s Monument Valley: the setting of a Western film that they both acted in as children. Their trip has a rather specific aim: finding the film’s screenwriter and beating him senseless for mistreating them as kids. Since they both lack means of transportation, Mel convinces his daughter Delilah (Jaclyn Jonet) to drive the two of them. The film follows their journey through its mishaps and tribulations, using witty humor to keep the story fresh. “Searchers 2.0” (Cowboy Outfit) delivers a few funny punches, however it may not resonate with those lacking an appreciation for spaghetti Westerns.

Cox stuck around after the film’s end for an extensive Q & A session. He discussed the difficult process in which “Searchers 2.0” was filmed, since the rights to the portions of desert needed for filming were disputed between the government and the Navajo Native Americans.

The festival will continue through Sunday, culminating with the much-anticipated “The Clash Live: Revolution Rock,” at 7 p.m. Tickets for this specific show are $25, $20 for students. A full schedule of all films is available at www.dciff.org.

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