Festival to screen global fare

Annapolis: Event to offer nearly 40 shorts, documentaries and features from all over the world.

February 12, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

For a city of about 30,000 residents, Annapolis has a surprisingly international film festival opening tonight on the St. John's College campus with a dramatic Israeli documentary on the 2003 Columbia space shuttle explosion.

The Annapolis Reel Cinema Festival, a weeklong affair, was the brainchild of Noi Mahoney, 30, who said he envisioned the third annual global film fest as something like "Cannes on the Chesapeake."

Nearly 40 films, from shorts to full-length features, will be shown, most of them foreign-made.

"One of my ideas was that Annapolis is an educated, cosmopolitan town even though it's a small city," Mahoney said as he sipped coffee recently at the Hard Bean bookstore cafe facing City Dock.

"It's like running a circus," the festival director said cheerfully. Mahoney's business card identifies himself as "head film guy." He said he relied on a small band of volunteers to help him choose films and staff the event.

Much of his organizing work over the past several months, he said, was done on his cell phone and laptop as he divided his time between his native Texas and Maryland. He is a former reporter for the Capital newspaper.

Columbia: The Tragic Loss is an English-language story of an Israeli national hero aboard the ill-fated space shuttle. The film will make its East Coast premiere at the festival, Mahoney said. Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon kept a flight diary that fell to earth and was recovered, its pages of handwritten Hebrew remarkably intact.

A deadpan tale of personal desperation is told in a Scottish film, The Tree Officer, about a man with a dead-end job inspecting city trees.

Other movies are set in countries as diverse as Australia, Japan and war-torn Bosnia.

The Annapolis Film Festival, another recently established festival, is held in the fall. That festival screens a monthly series of independent films - animated films, shorts and documentaries - in "mini-festivals" leading up to the November event.

Mahoney said he does not see the fall festival as a direct rival.

"The more the better for everybody," he said. "I try to show films people wouldn't ordinarily see. And they come, from teeny-boppers to senior citizens."

In exchange for using St. John's Francis Scott Key auditorium, Mahoney said, students of the college are admitted free to the film festival.

Midshipmen at the Naval Academy also are given free admission but, Mahoney said, "They never come." He hopes this year will be different, given that one of the American astronauts who died in the Columbia explosion, pilot William McCool, was an Academy alumnus.

The Feb. 19 finale will be a 2 p.m. screening of the crowd-pleasing children's classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory hosted by the director, Mel Stuart. Afterward, he'll discuss making the 1971 movie.

Tickets are $7 for one film and $45 for an eight-day pass to all the festival's offerings. Venues are St. John's College campus and the Crown Harbor 9 at Annapolis Harbour Center.

Information: www.annapolis film.com.

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