Columbia launches inaugural film festival

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Robert Friedman

The black and white sci-fi film The Recursion Theorem pays homage to the classic television series “The Twilight Zone.” It is one of two dozen films — several by local filmmakers — being screened at the inaugural Columbia Film Festival, to be held on June 24 and 25 at Howard Community College.
Photo courtesy of Columbia Film Festival

The Columbia Film Festival — the first of what organizers hope will be an annual event — gets underway Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 with two dozen films from around the world screened at Howard Community College.

The films, from movie makers as far away as Korea and Japan and as close to home as Ellicott City, helps winds up this summer’s Columbia Festival of the Arts, which got underway June 10.

The last day of the festival, Sunday, June 26, will feature a live performance of the film-related play, Orson Welles/Shylock, which is described as “a roller coaster ride through time, space and the mind of Orson Welles.”  

Todd Olson, executive director of the arts festival, said he hopes to make the film festival a permanent, important part of Columbia’s yearly summer celebration of the arts and entertainment.

The word has spread rapidly about the film festival, both in local and international cinema circles, Olson said. “We had 50 or 60 films submitted in just the first time out,” he said.

Varied offerings

The 24 works chosen for screening are an eclectic mix, from the 34-second experimental 11th Hour, a very quick look at an end game in chess, to films of feature length. The shorts and longer films run the gamut from comedy, to crime, drama and science fiction.

Also scheduled are two feature length documentaries, including Since the Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the story of the unjust treatment received by the families of the 270 victims aboard Pan Am Flight 103. The New York-bound jet, which took off in London, was blown up in flight by a terrorist’s suitcase bomb on December 21, 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland. (The bomb was later determined to have been placed by Libyan intelligence. Libya’s ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, later accepted responsibility and paid compensation to the families of its victims.)

Local filmmakers

Among the films by area filmmakers set for screening are:

Lightyears, a “dark cerebral science fiction” short by Ellicott City filmmaker Matthew Myslinski, a 20-year-old University of Maryland student. Lightyears was screened earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, though not in competition.

Cordially Invited, an eight-minute “dark comedy” about a community considering a murder, was scripted by Jamie Nash, a 44-year-old software engineer who also lives in Ellicott City. The work was chosen “Best of Baltimore” in the 2013 Baltimore 48-Hour Film Project Contest. The film crews in the contest had a weekend to write, shoot, edit and score their works.

The Recursion Theoremis a sci-fi “homage to the Twilight Zone,” the great TV series of the past. The 28-minute work was written, directed and produced by Ben Sledge, 39, a resident of Gaithersburg and a videographer, photographer and designer.

My Brother is a Zombie is listed as an eight-minute, 48-second comedy-drama-fantasy about a pre-teen girl and her zombie kid brother, who acts up, or down, at the breakfast table. Russell Yaffe, a 27-year-old film editor from Bethesda, will take the praise — or blame — for the film.

All the entrants are up for one of three awards: Best of the Fest, Best Director and Audience Choice. The awards will be bestowed at the closing reception, taking place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on June 25.

The films will be shown at the Monteabaro Theater in the Horowitz Center of Howard Community College, located at 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Admission is $15 for a one-day pass; $25 for both days. For a full schedule, go online to www.ColumbiaFestival.org.

Orson Welles play

The play about Orson Welles will be performed by a cast from Syracuse, N.Y., hometown of the author, Matt Chiorini.

The play is described as a “docu-fantasy radio play.” While Welles’ all-media-encompassing career is looked at, the play is centered on the Citizen Kane actor-director’s “life-long obsession with Shylock,” said festival director Olson.

Somewhere in his many travels around Europe, Welles supposedly lost the reels of the film version he was making of The Merchant of Venice, in which he played the highly controversial Shakespeare character of the Jewish money lender. Part of the film has since been found, and a truncated version has been shown.

The play relates the many unsuccessful attempts by Welles to play the role. The dialogue includes language from quotes, interviews and reviews concerned with the effort. A festival release notes “the surprising and haunting ways” that Welles’ life overlapped with that of the Shylock character.    

The 90-minute performance will start at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 26, at the Studio Theater in the Horowitz Center. Tickets are $20.