Gittens is founder and director of Filmfest DC, currently in its 27th year. The international film festival, which features more than 75 films, runs from April 11 to April 21.
How did Filmfest get started?
I had been doing some film exhibitions around the city years ago. Some friends and I got together and said that what Washington needs is an international film festival. It took us about two years to get the funding in place. When it was successful, we said, "Uh-oh, we've got to do this again."
How do you choose the films?
We attend other film festivals. We spend a year culling through what's being presented, seeing what's new, seeing how the audience responds to the films. It's a period of looking and looking and looking -- we see hundreds of films every year. Then we sort out the ones we think will play well here in Washington, ones people here we think would be interested in seeing.
What makes the audience here in D.C. unique?
Washingtonians, of course, want to have fun and see entertaining films, but they're also interested in films that address social issues. It's a very sophisticated, a very well-educated audience, and it's an audience that works. We find that people here are discerning. If a film is weak, we find out about it.
What's new this year?
I think the festival's a little edgier this year, intentionally so. Last year we focused on the Lighter Side -- a series of international comedies. People liked it so much that we're bringing it back. But we're adding a couple things we think will sort of push it a little bit. Our opening night film is called "Underground." It's a feature film about the formative years of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. It's an Australian film about a very controversial person. It's a very Washington kind of film -- people know who he is, and people are thoughtful about subjects like this.
- Matt Connolly