It's fitting that the opening-night selection of this year’s Filmfest DC is Underground, an Australian made-for-TV drama about Julian Assange, the eccentric founder of WikiLeaks who in his de facto incarceration in London’s Ecuadorian embassy has become a cypher for one’s feelings about the American hegemony. Filmfest, after all, aims to offer a taste of international mystery and sophistication, regardless of one’s politics or point of view, by surveying the world’s vast cinematic middlebrow.
In its 27th year, Washington’s annual general-interest film festival will take a look at the underbelly of the zeitgeist. Among the more than 80 selections this year is “Trust No One,” a showcase of espionage movies, crime flicks, and other tales of global grittiness—films that span the black markets of Paraguay (7 Boxes), the aftermath of an Italian terrorist attack (Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy), the treacherous reaches of global banking (The Lithium Conspiracy), and other dark corners of the world.
Elsewhere in the program, Filmfest’s showcase of comedies, “The Lighter Side,” returns for a second year. (Its unfortunate program description: “Politics Isn’t the Only Thing Funny in Washington!”) Other showcases highlight films about social justice and three of Washington’s sister cities: Beijing, Seoul, and Paris.
And as always, there is the usual battery of anticipated films that savvy audiences can catch before they make their way to D.C.’s art houses: Kon-Tiki, a Scandinavian ocean adventure that was nominated this year for best foreign film at the Oscars; biopics on Pierre-Auguste Renoir and the philosopher Hannah Arendt; Museum Hours, the latest feature film from Fugazi documentarian Jem Cohen; and Midnight’s Children, which Salmon Rushdie helped adapt from his 1981 magical realist novel.
We surveyed a representative portion of this year’s slate, noting our favorites along the way. As for the highlights among the films we couldn’t review: For now, that’ll remain a mystery.