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Maryland International Film Festival-Hagerstown kicks off its second year

April 06, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • This undated publicity film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Bryan Cranston, left, as Jack ODonnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in "Argo," a rescue thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. "Argo" will be shown the opening night of the Maryland International Film Festival-Hagerstown followed by a Q&A with the real life Tony Mendez.
Claire Folger / AP

It's a cinephile's dream: three days, 54 films from 11 countries.

And it all takes place in downtown Hagerstown.

The second Maryland International Film Festival-Hagerstown kicks off Thursday, April 11, and continues through Saturday, April 13, with films shown at three downtown venues — The Maryland Theatre, Bridge of Life and Academy Theater.

Nearly 220 movies were submitted to the festival, of which only 54 made the cut, according to Tom Riford, president of the festival's board of directors.

"We anticipate 5,000 film festival visits," Riford said, which he explains is the number of tickets purchased over the days.

The first MDIFF was held in the fall of 2011, which sold more than 1,000 tickets, Riford said. The 2012 event was bumped because there were too many events on the local calendar, Riford said, including one of the biggest last fall — 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. Moved to April this year, he said the festival might find a permanent home in the spring.

One of the changes for 2013 was to make sure that the three venues were within walking distance in downtown Hagerstown, he said. That also meant more downtown businesses and organizations could partner with the festival — a reception Thursday night at Washington County Arts Council, after parties Thursday night at 28 South and Friday night at Bulls & Bears and a wrap party Saturday night at The Gourmet Goat & GG's Restaurant & Martini Bar.

Tracie Hovey, vice president of the festival's board, said the board worked with the Downtown Alliance to ensure the festival would be more than just at the venues.

"Everything's in walking distance," she said. "It brings a sense of excitement to downtown."

Riford anticipates Thursday night's showing of "Argo" followed by a Q&A by Tony Mendez, whose real-life accounts of his time as a CIA agent was the basis of the film, to be a big draw. Mendez will be accompanied by his wife, Jonna, who also worked for the CIA.

The evening, Riford said, will include "special surprises" at that time, but he kept mum specifically what those surprises might be.

One of the hopes for MDIFF is that it will become an important festival, where filmmakers want to make sure their films are seen and maybe be named alongside the likes of other festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca.

"The idea is to continue to grow the film festival and that it stays true to its mission. I think the mission we have for the Maryland International Film Festival is a good one: by filmmakers, for filmmakers and, therefore, for the fans," Riford said.

One way festival officials hope to make that a reality is by partnering with director Joe Carnahan ("The Grey") as the festival's creative director, Hovey said.

Riford, who is also president of the board of directors of the Maryland Film Industry Coalition, sees MDIFF as just one more way to support the film industry in Maryland. Although not all the films are from this state, Maryland lawmakers approved $25 million in tax credits for the film industry, encouraging more films to be made in Maryland.

"We have films that are shot in Washington County, some are small independent film, some have been contracted by History Channel or the Smithsonian Network," Riford explained.

That's one reason Riford said the festival is looking ahead to hosting more film-related events in the county, including a few events this summer.

But what the officials hope will happen for MDIFF this year is for people to enjoy themselves.

"My biggest hope will find it as fun and engaging as I do," Hovey said.

And mostly, she said, "to really fall in love with the festival."



Maryland International Film Festival-Hagerstown schedule

THURSDAY, April 11

5 to 6:30 p.m.: Opening reception and red carpet ceremony at Washington County Arts Council, 34-36 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown; free

 6:45 to 9:30 p.m.: "Argo" screening and Q&A with Tony Mendez, The Maryland Theatre, 21 S Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown; $10

After Party at 28 South, 28 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown, following "Argo" Q&A; free admission



FRIDAY, April 12

10 a.m. to noon, student film screenings and high school competition, Bridge of Life,     14 S. Potomac St, downtown Hagerstown; free

noon to 5 p.m. film screenings Bridge of Life and Academy Theater, 58 E. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown; $5

6 p.m. reception, Academy Theater
7:30 to 9:30 p.m. film screenings, Academy Theater; $10

After Party, Bulls & Bears, 38 S. Potomac St., Suite 1, downtown Hagerstown; free admission



SATURDAY, April 13

10 a.m. to noon, children's event, Discovery Station, 101 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown; free admission

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. film screenings, Bridge of Life and Academy Theater; $5

6:30 to 9 p.m. feature submission and red carpet, Academy Theater; $10

9 p.m. awards, Academy Theater

Wrap party, The Gourmet Goat & GG's Restaurant & Martini Bar, 41 N. Potomac St, downtown Hagerstown; free admission


* A three-day festival pass costs $50. For a complete schedule go to MarylandIFF.com. Tickets can be purchased online at www.mdtheatre.org or by calling 301-790-3500.

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