Screens, green and summer heat

Trains, the Oscars, “Saturday Night Live” and numbers. Ranging from the red carpet to railroads, themes from this summer’s D.C film festivals span every genre.

The NoMa Film Festival, one of at least seven outdoor film series in D.C. this summer, will present 12 films from May 18 to August 3, all of which will adhere to a common theme: trains. Each NoMa selection features a train in some context, whether in the title, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” as a getaway vehicle for rogue transvestites, “Some Like It Hot-” or to modernize ancient epics, like Homer’s “The Odyssey” in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Many of D.C.’s film series have chosen themes for their festivals, including Capitol Riverfront Front Row Films, which will present “Casablanca” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” as part of a “Best of the Oscars” theme. The Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival, which will show “Tommy Boy,” “Anchorman” and “Groundhog Day” as part of their “SNL in the Movies” theme.

The U Street Movie Series will feature D.C.-themed movies, from the political classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” to the more recent action-adventure, “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.”

Crystal Screen, an outdoor film festival taking place near the Crystal City Metro station, took a more numerical approach with their numbers theme. The films range from “Air Force One” and “Oceans 11,” to “16 Candles” and “(500) Days of Summer,” offering an ordinal title from every genre.

“It’s kind of fun to see them in like a big crowd,” said senior Nancy Barry, a native of Austin, Texas, who has attended past film series as part of Austin’s revered summer film festival. “It’s interesting that a lot of them are modern movies. They have to be good choices.”

Mount Vernon Campus Life has held outdoor film screenings on the Mount Vernon quad for the past seven years, welcoming not only students but also members from the community to their “Films on the Vern” events.

Senior Colby Anderson, undergraduate marketing assistant for Mount Vernon Campus Life, said he “felt a real sense of GW community” at the screenings. He described seeing young children running around the grass as families enjoyed films from last year’s festival theme From Page to Screen.

Carole Bernard, communications director for Rossyln Business Improvement Districts and Rossyln Renaissance, which organizes Rossyln’s film series, said outdoor film festivals are a positive contribution to their community.

“The goal of the film festival is to provide a wonderful community event for residents and the business sector,” Bernard said. “We would love and encourage students from area communities to come down and take part.”

Screen on the Green, a past event conspicuously absent from the 2011 list of D.C. outdoor film festivals, has yet to finalize a deal through HBO, and is still “awaiting word on 2011,” Jesse B. Rauch, president of Friends of Screen on the Green, said.

Every year since 1999, HBO has presented Screen on the Green, which attracts thousands of residents and visitors to Monday night film screenings between 4th and 7th streets NW on the National Mall.

Two years ago, when inadequate funding nearly canceled the event, the local community helped secure additional sponsorships through hand-written letters, Twitter and Facebook groups that Rauch assisted in creating. The community group, Friends of Screen on the Green, advocates preserving the film festival, which Rauch called “a landmark summer event in the District of Columbia.”

“How often can we get on the National Mall, beneath the Capitol buildings, beneath the Washington monument, and watch a movie?” Rauch said. “There’s no other place like that in the world.”

If HBO renews Screen on the Green for 2011, it will provide a welcome escape from the midsummer heat of D.C. politics.

“When political discourse can get pretty nasty in this town, there’s none of that with Screen on the Green,” Rauch said. “It’s pretty inspiring. It’s pretty awesome.”

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