There are plenty of reasons to visit Annapolis, Maryland, but from March 31 to April 3 the best reason to stop by this historic 17th-century city is to experience The Annapolis Film Festival.

That’s when more than 70 critically acclaimed narrative, documentary features and short films from 22 countries–including an Academy Award-nominee and films fresh from Sundance and SXSW–will be shown in unique venues throughout the city.

Locations as diverse as the U.S. Naval Academy, St. Johns College, Maryland Hall, St. Anne’s Parish House, an elementary school and other creative arts venues will be transformed into movie Noon Formation at USNAtheaters for four festive days. Films slated to be shown include 20 documentaries, 18 narrative features and over 40 short films. In other words, there’s something for every movie taste.

Attendance has been doubling at the annual festival every year since its inception four years ago. Maybe it’s because the festival mixes international star power with local talent. Or maybe it’s because diversity prevails–film subjects include the environment, African-American life, global politics, Hispanic, LGBT and Jewish experiences plus sailing, health and education issues. Or maybe because the organizers think globally—films from France, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile and even Slovakia will be shown. Or maybe because the festival nurtures young talent, too. “Inside,” a 12-minute film by student Parker Rouse, is about a young groundskeeper for a wealthy recluse who uncovers a dangerous mystery behind a locked door. (Isn’t this how Stephen Spielberg started??)

Opening night kicks off with Christopher Walken’s witty comedy, “One More Time,” scheduled to be shown at the United States Naval Academy’s Mitscher Hall. Walken plays a faded crooner sulking in his Hamptons mansion over the professional acclaim that has eluded him and the trail of romantic wreckage left in his wake. Matters are complicated when daughter Jude (Amber Heard) arrives with her own problems, including a rivalry with her overachieving sister, a ruinous love life, and a fraught relationship with her famous father. Director Robert Edwards and Producer Ferne Pearlstein will be on hand to discuss the film and answer questions.

Saturday night’s feature, “The Waiting,” starring James Caan, is about two high school filmmakers who decide to create the illusion their unsuspecting neighbor’s house is haunted by using an array of technical tricks. They film his reaction but they pick the wrong guy to haunt.

Tranquility on Ego Alley by Steinbrook PhotographySailing enthusiasts take note: sailing star Gary Jobson has two short films in this year’s festival. “The Magic and Mystery of Sable Island,” about an idyllic place 200 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia is home to seals, wild horses and a few Canadian researchers. The second film, “Ted Turner’s Greatest Race: 1979 Fastnet” features Turner’s life-or-death struggle when this America’s Cup champion entered the 1979 Fastnet race. Jobson adds plenty of star power—this All-American collegiate sailor won the America’s Cup in 1977 as tactician for Ted Turner. He is the Sailing Analyst for ESPN, Editor-at-large for Sailing World magazine and the pre-eminent ambassador for sailing in the U.S.
For serious filmsters, several panel discussions focusing on a wide range of subjects will reveal the nitty gritty of filmmaking. One panel on my “must see” list is “Meet Young Hollywood.” Up-and-coming actors are going to give an inside peek into what really goes on behind the scene.

The festival wraps up with the feature film, “Mustang.” It was nominated for the best foreign language Oscar this year after winning honors at the Cannes Film Festival, AFI Festival, European Film Awards, and festivals in Philadelphia, Hamburg and Palm Springs. Five sisters in Turkey dealing with traditions regarding women face challenges when the oldest sister gets married–the others band together to avoid the same fate.

In between film festival events, stroll along Annapolis’ cobblestone streets lined with more 18th century homes than any other city in America. Hop on a boat at City Dock and explore the Pinkney Street in Annapolis MD CREDIT- VisitAnnapolis.orgChesapeake Bay. Or roam the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy. Before leaving town enjoy Maryland’s famous crab cakes–my favorite way to end a perfect weekend in Annapolis.

Annapolis Film Festival
Tickets range from $12.50 for a single film (Student and senior tickets, $10)
to $115 for a festival pass. The pass includes the Opening Night film and After Party and unlimited films and panels for four days.
www.annapolisfilmfestival.com for more information


Photo credits:
Boating with the Capitol Building, K. Thom
Noon Formation, VisitAnnapolis.org
Tranquility on Ego Alley, Steinbrook Photography
Pinkney Street, VisitAnnapolis.org

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