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International Film Fest Opens Doors

Washington is a city that prides itself on its cosmopolitanism and its international population. The annual International Film Festival, beginning today and running though April 25, will allow both devoted cinephiles and casual filmgoers alike to sample films that reflect cultures from across the world.

Now in its 24th year, the festival will screen more than 80 films in theaters around the District, with a special focus on contemporary Italian and Romanian cinema. A diverse cast of directors will be on hand for discussion sessions after screenings, and a new series will showcase films that center on themes of social justice.

Many of the films have already garnered prizes, but in honor of their D.C. premieres, the festival’s organizers will be handing out four more awards. In addition to Romania and Italy, the countries represented range from Chile to Serbia to India. The “Global Rhythms” series, which presents music-themed films, will be returning.

Tony Gittens, the festival’s director, said the event’s organizers chose to focus on Italy in a special series titled “Bel Cinema!” because of a particularly strong set of offerings that run from comedies to more dramatic fare, noting that “the history and appreciation of filmmaking in Italy is long and deep.” He said Romania was chosen for the innovative style of films that explore a culture’s continued struggle for self-definition after the fall of the Soviet Union, which will be captured in the “New Romanian Wave” series.

“Some of the most interesting, cutting-edge films are coming out of Romania in the last few years,” Gittens said. “Romania is a country that is coming out of communism, and that transformative process — from old ways to new ways, from an older generation to a new generation, and how they adjust to that — I find very interesting.”

Gittens described the new “Justice Matters” feature as an attempt to capture the plights of “people trying to live their lives against often overwhelming forces.” Six films will delve into topics such as the role of music in the American civil rights movement and the obstacles that Iranian women encounter.

“We were looking at what would be a series to do in Washington, D.C., that would somehow speak directly to Washington and the meaning of Washington as the capital of the free world,” Gittens said. “So we wanted to look at social justice. How does the government deal equitably with its citizens? Democracy is an experiment, not just here but around the world, and I think Washington is a leader.”

For more information on films and events and to buy tickets, visit

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