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Maryland Film Festival wrapped

The competition-free Maryland Film Festival wrapped up its seventh annual festival in Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday, May 8 with the Closing Night screening of SWIMMERS from writer/director Doug Sadler followed by the Closing Night Party. The film was hosted by Sadler along with cast members Robert Knott, Michael Mosley, and Tara Devon Gallagher; the film also stars Shawn Hatosy, Cherry Jones, and Sarah Paulson. SWIMMERS was developed at the Sundance Labs, won the annual Maryland Filmmakers Fellowship in script stage, and screened at Sundance 2005.

The festival ran four days, beginning on May 5 with the Opening Night Shorts Program, which featured eight short films hosted by their directors who traveled from Bulgaria, Puerto Rico, and various towns around the United States. In what has become a distinctive trademark of the Maryland Film Festival, this is the third year that it has given Shorts the coveted Opening Night slot.

Festival Director, Jed Dietz, commented that the MFF consistently advocated for Shorts: “Whether they come from new directors like Aaron Ruell (Kip in NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) or Joshua Leonard (Josh in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), or seasoned artists like Bill Plympton, it is an honor to use our Festival in a special way to advocate for movies the marketplace overlooks.” The Opening Night Program consisted of:

DREAM CATCHER (Dessislava Stoycheva)


IN TIME (Maurice A. Dwyer & Adetoro Makinde)

MARY (Aaron Ruell)


S.O.S. (Francisco Serrano)

SPIRAL (W.P. Murton, represented by producer Bill Plympton)

THE YOUTH IN US (Joshua Leonard).

On Friday, May 6 the festival presented its second annual “Show and Tell” event where director Jonathan Demme discussed his career with film critic Michael Sragow using clips from some of Demme’s films.

Another MFF feature is the annual “John Waters Hosts,” which this year was LA CHATTE À DEUX TÊTES (PORN THEATRE) from director Jacques Nolot. While an annual occurrence at his hometown’s film festival, John Waters’ picks have been booked at other film festivals and other special screening events. A television series is being developed from the idea.

The Guest Host Program, a unique feature of the festival that allows individuals from outside the film world to present one of their favorite films, also proved to be a popular feature this year: Olympic Champion figure skater Dorothy Hamill presented MARY POPPINS SING-ALONG, Senator Barbara Mikulski presented TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and comic book author Harvey Pekar presented THE BICYCLE THIEF.

A new print of a 3D film (GORILLA AT LARGE) and a silent film (Alfred Hitchcock’s BLACKMAIL) with live musical accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra were also screened.

The festival screened 43 feature films and 89 short films throughout the weekend including some emerging films – 9 SONGS, THE ARISTOCRATS, THE BOYS OF BARAKA, THE DYING GAUL, ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, MURDERBALL, PALINDROMES, and STREET FIGHT. All feature films are typically hosted by a representative from the film; most often the director, but others were hosted by cast members, producers, or executives from distributors. THE EDUCATION OF SHELBY KNOX, LIPSTICK AND DYNAMITE, and REEL PARADISE were hosted by their filmmakers and their subjects. For a complete list of films that screened at the 2005 Maryland Film Festival visit the website at

Final attendance figures from the festival are not yet available, but advance ticket sales exceeded the previous year’s advance sales by 74%. The 2006 Maryland Film Festival will be held in May, though specific dates have not yet been set. The festival is already planning their year-round Friends of the Festival screenings.


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