Ready for Close-up
The Frederick Film Festival Celebrates Movies From all Over the World
The great detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler once said, “The making of a [motion] picture ought surely to be a rather fascinating adventure. It is not; it is an endless contention of tawdry egos, some of them powerful, almost all of them vociferous, and almost none of them capable of anything much more creative than credit-stealing and self-promotion.”
If this is true (and, by all the evidence, it appears as accurate today as it did in 1945 when Chandler said it), it explains the existence of film festivals like the one we enjoy every year here in Frederick. Film “buffery” embodies the same kind of passion enjoyed by every other art form; a love for the medium, a fascination for the minutiae surrounding every aspect of the medium and endless energy for promoting and talking about the medium.
But before we get too far into the plot, let’s back up and start with the opening credits.
In the mid 1990s, Walter Chalkley began volunteering at the Weinberg Center for the Arts on its Movie Time Committee, which screened old movies to the general public. At the time, the Weinberg Center wouldn’t allow any movie 25 years or newer to be shown. Chalkey wanted to show moremodern movies than the committee for the Weinberg was willing to screen, so he helped create an organization called Cinema Arts.
THE FREDERICK FILM FESTIVAL KICKS OFF ON JUNE 28, STARTING A THREE-DAY CELEBRATION OF THE CINEMA THAT COMBINES FILM SCREENINGS AND LIVE MUSIC.
Cinema Arts began showing films every other Tuesday in 2004. The audience response was strong, but Chalkley and his partner decided to reduce the number of screenings to once per year, and thus was born the Frederick Film Festival.
This year, June 28-30 marks the fifth festival, a kind of tipping point for an event of this type. The first Frederick Film Festival kicked off in 2009 with a speech by Baltimore filmmaker John Waters, and featured films from all over the world. Each successive festival has continued in that vein, mixing film screenings and even live music in new and creative ways.
As you might expect, Chalkley himself is a film buff ’s film buff, extremely passionate about the movies he chooses and thoughtfully walking that thin line between being an advocate of independent film while, of necessity, holding the responsibilities of “gatekeeper” for the aspiring filmmakers who want to show their work.
For this year’s festival to happen, Chalkley and his board of directors had to view hundreds of hours of film to pick the 25 to 30 films that will eventually make the cut. And before the first ticket can be torn, the festival requires the support of organizations like the Weinberg Center, Cinema Arts and the Maryland Film Office. Frederick Magazine is also proudly sponsoring this year’s festival.
“A good story, well-told, is what we’re looking for,” Chalkley explains. “We have a film this year about a culture similar to the whole maskwearing Mexican wrestling thing with these Bolivian female wrestlers, and, you know, if anyone had ever told me I’d get to present a film about this …” He shakes his head, laughing. “Well, I just wouldn’t have believed it.”
Another filmmaker who grabbed Chalkley’s attention, with his documentary about the Grammy Award-winning New York City band The Klezmatics, was Erik Anjou, a writer/director known for making documentaries and feature films mainly in the Los Angeles area.
THE FESTIVAL SELECTS AN ECLECTIC MIX OF FILMS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. “A GOOD STORY, WELL-TOLD, IS WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR,” CHALKLEY EXPLAINS.
“I got my start making films in college and one day, well, lightning struck and I’ve been doing film ever since,” Anjou says. “Living in L.A. for 10 years, in a funny way, brought me back to [my native] Philadelphia … after that, various things occurred that brought me back to my Jewish roots, and I decided to nurture certain feature film projects through this kind of realization.”
Anjou had grown weary of the L.A. scene. “I discovered through documentary films that you could actually make a movie instead of sitting around talking about making movies. I’d had Frank London from The Klezmatics record the soundtrack for my movie, The Cantor’s Tale, and we became friendly and everything went from there.”
The Klezmatics documentary came out in 2010, “They’re an extremely fascinating group of people to watch, and really, the worst thing was that this movie took four-anda- half years to make. And really, the best thing was that this movie took four-and-a-half years to make! Production-wise, it was demanding, but I got to hang out with this group of musicians through some very rough times and got some very good material and some good friends out of it at the same time. When Walter got in touch with me and asked for the movie, I was overjoyed because we’d had some ‘traction’ with some of the other festivals, before we lost a little. This is really wonderful because this band really deserves it. And it’s thrilling to know that the band is going to play at the festival, too.”
The Frederick Film Festival kicks off on June 28 with the showing of the film Led Zeppelin Played Here from director Jeff Krulik, examining the Maryland legend that a 1969 Led Zeppelin concert took place at the Wheaton Youth Center. After the show, viewers with a F3 pass will be able to attend an after party at Brewer’s Alley for food, drinks and entertainment by Hard Swimmin’ Fish.
Other events for the weekend include a June 29 concert at the Weinberg Center by The Klezmatics, the band featured in one of the films. On June 30, the documentary New River: A Family Musical History Tour will close the festival, followed by live music from Zane and Hugh Campbell who will showcase their flatpicking, hillbilly music skills to the crowd.
For a movie schedule and complete listing of festival events, go to www.frederickfilmfest.com.