Pair of independent films hits the road

Annapolis is among stops for Maryland directors

October 21, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Film Festival drew large crowds of movie lovers to Baltimore when it opened in April. Now organizers are taking the two festival films on tour and bringing them to a theater near you.

"Mom Mom Loves Herbert" and "Weekend Getaway," both made by Maryland directors, are part of a weeklong film festival that begins tonight in Columbia, and will be at Maryland Hall in Annapolis on Monday.

Independent films, such as the "Blair Witch Project," have risen in popularity in recent years, and local interest was clear during the state festival, which drew about 8,500 people to the Senator and Charles theaters over four days.

Organizers for the spring festival planned the tour to generate interest in filmmaking and in next year's event and to make works of local filmmakers accessible to people who might not ordinarily seek out independent films.

"I think people are going to be surprised at how accessible [the films] are to a mainstream audience," said Gabe Wardell, programming consultant for the festival. He said the films have themes that relate to many people.

"Mom Mom Loves Herbert," by Baltimore resident Paul Zinder, is a documentary that explores his parents' Jewish-Catholic marriage through three generations of his family. The 71-minute piece was shown at the Rhode Island International Film Festival this year and next month will be part of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival.

Roland Park native Elizabeth Holder says her 15-minute "Weekend Getaway" is a "twilight zone romantic comedy" about a city businessman who stops in a country bar for a beer and discovers the woman of his dreams. The film, starring Jill Hennessy of "Law and Order" fame, was shown in January at the Women in Cinema Festival.

Both pieces were "buzz makers" at the festival in the spring, dubbed among the crowds as "must-see" pictures, Wardell said.

"We wanted to show quality films and these were both well received at the festival," he said.

The tour begins at 7 tonight at Slayton House in Columbia, then heads for the mountains for a 7: 30 p.m. screening tomorrow at the Weinberg Center in Frederick.

Annapolitans can catch the show 7: 30 p.m. Monday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis before the tour ends on the Eastern Shore at a 7: 30 p.m. screening Wednesday in the Avalon Theater in Easton.

Zinder and Holder will be at all four screenings of the tour, offering audience members a chance to ask questions and give feedback.

"You can go to the multiplex this weekend, but one thing you're not going to get is an opportunity to ask the director, `What were you thinking?' or `Why did you choose this actor?' " Wardell said.

Mainstream films are also often shaped partially by corporate overseers who want to make sure the money they put into the film is made back at the box office.

"Hollywood follows a formula and to see a film that doesn't follow that formula is exciting," said Zinder, 28, who teaches film at Towson University. He said his film -- titled to show how his Catholic grandmother came to love and accept his Jewish father -- is "about my family, but it's like a lot of Baltimore families. A lot of folks who've seen it said it was nice to hear the old accents and see old Baltimore again. Very few people ever get to see their own street on film."

Holder said both the pieces take on themes that lots of people can relate to.

"The stories being told are not mainstream, but they have mainstream themes [like] the idea of being fearless in the face of your dreams," she said. "Independent film doesn't have to be some self-indulgent, avant-garde boring thing. It's a chance to be entertained by something they're not going to see on television or in theater."

And a chance to meet the filmmakers before they themselves become stars.

"Who knows who's going to be the next Barry Levinson or John Waters?" Holder said.

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