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Mr. (Kevin) Smith Goes to Washington, DCIFF Wrap-Up | Arts & Culture

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Mr. (Kevin) Smith Goes to Washington, DCIFF Wrap-Up
Mr. (Kevin) Smith Goes to Washington, DCIFF Wrap-Up

Tomorrow, Tuesday March 15, filmmaker Kevin Smith will be presenting his new film Red State at the Warner Theater. Smith, famous for comedic films like Clerks and Chasing Amy as well as being the quiet half of Jay and Silent Bob, departs from his usual humorous territory to dabble in horror. Red State centers around characters inspired by Westboro Baptist Church and its founder, Fred Phelps. Westboro Baptist has achieved national infamy for its controversial protests at the funerals of U.S. servicemen.

Smith opted not to take the traditional route of selling the film to a distributor and instead is self-distributing as Smodcast Pictures. Mel Gibson was highly successful using a similar approach with The Passion of the Christ.

The film boasts an impressive cast, including newly minted Oscar winner Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Stephen Root, and Tarantino-Rodriguez regular Michael Parks. And Smith's presence at the screening practically guarantees one of his legendary Q&A's, which have become a second career for him. Tickets are available at Live Nation.

Yesterday marked the end of the 2011 DC Independent Film Festival. The closing screening was a presentation of the Sundance cut of The Blair Witch Project. Co-director Ed Sanchez was in attendance and took questions following the film, sharing some interesting anecdotes.

One of Sanchez' stories recounted the distributors' mandate to re-shoot the end of the film. The filmmakers were given $90,000, a sum that exceeded the film's budget several times over, to shoot a “scarier” ending. Sanchez and company returned to the woods and shot several new versions. Ultimately, however, the distributors acquiesced and let them stick with the original ending.

Sanchez continues to reside in the D.C. area and make independent films. He is currently filming The Possession.

Also screening yesterday was Late Rounders, a documentary by another D.C. area filmmaker, Evan Marshall. Late Rounders follows the plight of five college football players as they prepare for the NFL draft. The audience gets a glimpse of how much is riding on the outcome of draft, not just for these young men, but for everyone around them.

Marshall was present for the screening along with three of the subjects from his film: players Alfonso Smith and Aaron Morgan, and agent Tripp Linton. The film details the adversity that Smith and Morgan must overcome. Smith must take time to be by his girlfriend's side as she battles Hodgkin's Disease. He also rescues his younger sister from a life of poverty, supporting her as she earns her GED on the way to enrolling at the University of Kentucky. Morgan overcomes the death of an older brother and his mother's battle with breast cancer to become an outstanding NFL prospect. However, an untimely hamstring injury just before the NFL Combine greatly hurts his chances.

We often think of cocky, over-paid individuals when we think of professional athletes. But Late Rounders shows another side of the coin. For the young men in this film, the NFL Draft represents a do-or-die proposition. The goal is not stardom, but just a spot on a professional team. Nothing is guaranteed for these players. They have spent their young lives developing a talent that they hope will elevate not just themselves, but everyone dear to them.

For Late Rounders, Marshall was recognized by the DCIFF as an outstanding Washington D.C. filmmaker. Find out more about the film at the Late Rounders website.