2 film festivals double the fun

April 07, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Area movie lovers will face some hard choices next month, with two film festivals scheduled for the same weekend.

Both the fifth annual Maryland Film Festival and the inaugural Heritage Black Films & Black Filmmakers Showcase are set to run May 1-4. And while cinephiles may curse the necessity of choosing between the two - one's in downtown Baltimore, the other in Towson, so flitting between them could prove difficult - organizers insist they did not set out to pit one movie showcase against the other.

"It was not intentional," insists Michael Johnson, founder of Heritage Shadows of the Silver Screen, which is moving to a new location, on Taylor Avenue in Towson, and is marking its opening there with the festival. "It just gives people choices. I think there's a community that will go to one festival, and a community that will go to the other."

Johnson had served on the advisory board of the MFF, but resigned after a dispute over payment for the use of his old facility, on North Avenue just three blocks from the Charles Theatre, for several festival screenings last year. "My selection of this particular date had nothing to do with the Maryland Film Festival," he said. "We would always want it to be known that it's not about us and them, this is about choices."

The Heritage Festival, which will unspool at the former Hillendale Theatre on Taylor Avenue, kicks off May 1 with a 1 p.m. screening of Raisin in the Sun. The schedule includes 30 films, ranging from major studio classics to recent independent films to premieres from area filmmakers. Closing night, May 4, will feature Go Tell It on the Mountain, the 1985 TV-film version of James Baldwin's novel, starring Alfre Woodard, Paul Winfield and Ruby Dee.

For his part, the MFF's Jed Dietz said he doesn't see the Heritage Festival as competition, but rather as another chance for audiences to see films that aren't normally booked into movie theaters.

"I'm all for as much movie activity in Baltimore as possible," Dietz said. "I've always wished Michael well. We loved the partnership with the old Heritage, when it was in the city, and the new one in Towson, I hope it does great."

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