Bethesda Film Fest Selected Films


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IsabellAmor (13 minutes)
Film by David Rochkind

Amor is a single mother building a beautiful life with her daughter in the wake of tragedy. Tyrelle, Amor’s husband, was murdered just weeks before their daughter Ari’a was born. Amor is now using music to heal, fighting through what may seem like insurmountable grief and loss to create the life that she and her husband dared to dream.

Director Biography
David spent a decade working as an international photojournalist, covering issues around the world for outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post and TIME Magazine. He covered Hurricane Katrina, embedded with US troops in Afghanistan and documented political unrest in Haiti. David received numerous awards, including honors from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and The National Press Photographers Association. In 2012 David published Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit, a monograph documenting the costs and consequences of Mexico’s long running drug war. In 2016 he founded Ground Media, a Creative Agency that works with mission-driven organizations to leverage the power of documentary storytelling for impact.

2021 Film_Good CandidateEast of the River (11 minutes)
Film by Amin El Siwi & Phillip Bouknight

Kenilworth Park was formerly a landfill and a site for burning trash from 1942 until 1968 while Washington, D.C. was federally owned. During this time, all the residents of Ward 7 were African American which explains why the area of Kenilworth was chosen to be the city’s dump and receive all of the city’s municipal waste. On February 15, 1968, the city decided to stop burning and transferred the dump elsewhere because a 7-year-old child, named Kelvin Tyrone Mock, got caught up in the fires at the dump and died. The film tells the story of the Kenilworth area from a landfill to a park, and provides a space for the storytellers to share their memories that had a connection to the Kenilworth Park.

Director Biographies
Amin El Siwi is an Egyptian filmmaker based in Washington, D.C. He has a master’s degree in film and media production from American University in Washington, D.C. Currently, he works as a multimedia producer for the World Bank Group in the communications department with a focus on the Middle East and North of Africa. In 2015, he moved from Egypt to Washington, D.C. to work as a producer for the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. In 2019, he won the People’s Voice Webby Award for a short documentary titled Rukiye. Between 2013 and 2015, he worked as assistant producer and assistant director in independent feature films and documentaries in Egypt.

Phillip Bouknight is a second-year Master of Fine Arts candidate in Film and Media Arts at American University. Phil is interested in sharing stories that challenge how we think about marginalized communities and socially oppressed cultures. Phil's previous work has highlighted Haiti's rising infant mortality rate and the growing problem of gentrification in Miami, FL. As a filmmaker, he hopes his work not only evokes empathy but also becomes a catalyst to inspire change in our communities by bridging and understanding the differences which make us unique.

2021 Film_Lipstick&LeatherThe Legacy of Lee's Flower Shop (22 minutes)
Film by Kamilah Thurmon

Lee's Flower and Card Shop is the oldest continuous family-owned flower business in Washington, D.C. Lee's along with the family running it, has seen many transformations within the Washington, D.C. community. Lee's started on the U Street corridor, also known as Black Broadway, when African-Americans were free to own businesses during a time of Jim Crow laws. In later years, Lee's survived major U.S. history moments including the Washington, D.C. riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the George Floyd protest in 2020. Through all of these events, Lee's has serviced all people in the nation's capital by providing flower arrangements to everyone from grandmothers on Mother's Day to U.S. Presidents welcoming international guests.
Director Biography
Kamilah is an award-winning visual storyteller with nearly two decades experience producing unscripted television shows. She has shaped numerous shows from initial concept, through production, to final locked cuts ready-to-air. She has worked in various producer capacities for NBC, HGTV, BET, MTV, VH-1, Bravo, Lifetime and Oxygen. Kamilah's passion is creating content that inspires and encourages people from all walks of life, whether it's a popular television show or a legacy documentary for a family or business. As a HumanitiesDC grant recipient and DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities fellow, Kamilah has developed and produced films to document and preserve the stories and memories of Washington, D.C. Communities.

2021 Film_SqueegeeNever Again Para Nadie (20 minutes)
Film by Justin Reifert & Dan Frank

Never Again Para Nadie translates as "Never Again for Anyone." It means that no one should be a target. No one should be denied their human rights. Never Again Para Nadie captures a moment when a diverse group of activists attempted to peacefully hold a system accountable for holding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees for no other reason than their country of origin. In the summer of 2020, a surge in demonstrations across the country supporting Black Lives Matter and social justice writ-large took to the streets to demand change, often meeting violent opposition.

Director Biographies
Justin Reifert is a filmmaker, producer and educator. He is a producer on the feature-length documentary I Can Only Be Mary Lane. The documentary short, Leaving Sharpe, that he co-produced and co-directed won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. He has been an Assistant Professor-in-Residence at Northwestern University in Qatar and Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. He holds Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Russian Language from Michigan State University, a graduate certificate in Documentary Filmmaking from The George Washington University, and an Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media from Northwestern University.

Dan Frank is an award-winning producer/director of documentaries for film and TV, television series, commercials and educational programs. He co-produced documentaries that were screened at Slamdance, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and New Orleans Film Festival. His work has aired on PBS, Discovery, FOX, HGTV, TLC, NBCSN and DIY, among others. Programs include a PBS series about modern architecture in the United States and a documentary about the Boston Marathon. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

2021 Film_WestVirginiaPortrait of MasVusi (5 minutes)
Film by Lindsey Aranson

Washington, D.C.-based drag artist MasVusi proves that nothing can stop her from sharing her art. Whether it's a swollen face, stares, and threats from strangers, or a two-hour Metro ride between her and a gig, the performer and activist does whatever it takes to uplift her community. Join MasVusi for a journey full of humor, queer joy, and plenty of blood.

Director Biography
Lindsey Aranson discovered her passion for social documentary in 2019 while directing a short docuseries on a youth-led gun violence prevention nonprofit, and has since viewed filmmaking as a creative form of activism. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in film production and English literature from the University of Pittsburgh, Lindsey worked as a freelance documentarian on projects related to mental health awareness, cross-cultural relationships, and inclusive community building. She is currently refining her visual storytelling skills at American University, where she is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in film and media arts with a concentration in political, cultural and social impact filmmaking.

2021 Film_WestVirginiaRooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in the Underground Railroad (25 minutes)
Film by George Burroughs, Lauren Giordano & Anthony Cohen

Travel through Adkins Arboretum with historian Anthony Cohen to understand how self-liberators used their knowledge of nature to forge a path to freedom. Their methods for navigating, concealing themselves, finding food, and evading capture reflect a deep connection to, and understanding of, the landscape. Filmed over the course of a year, this film explores Maryland’s Eastern Shore through the seasons and brings history alive in the landscape you see today.

Director Biographies
Anthony Cohen is a historian, author, and explorer of the American past who had retraced 1200 miles of this history by foot, boat, and rail. As founder and president of The Menare Foundation, Inc.—a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Underground Railroad history—Cohen creates vibrant immersive educational programs and trains individuals, organizations, and communities to use history as a spark for community revitalization, race dialogue and human potential. Cohen operates Button Farm Living History Center in Germantown, Maryland. He has served as a historical consultant for documentaries, publications, community forums and school projects nationwide, and trained Oprah Winfrey for her role as Sethe in the 1998 film Beloved.

Lauren Giordano and George Burroughs own and operate Schoolhouse Farmhouse, a creative studio that focuses on exploring humans’ relationship with the world through film, design, and photography. Burroughs, previously the creative director at the Brookings Institution, has written and directed several award-winning projects. He directed Brookings’ first longer form documentary, The Life She Deserves, an intimate portrait of a young epilepsy patient in the United States that finds relief with medical marijuana. Giordano is an award winning art director, who has worked for several national and regional publications, including Preservation—the magazine of The National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Atlantic.

2021 Film_Shi Fu PaulWhat if it isn't a joke (4 minutes)
Film by Grace Sutherland
**High School Filmmaker Category**

When high school students share experiences of sexual assault over social media, one female filmmaker is inspired to come forward.

Director Biography
Grace is a senior in the Baltimore School for the Arts Film and Visual Storytelling Department. She has worked as a production assistant and assistant camera on Turf Valley, Ultrablack and Miya.  Grace enjoys being a one-woman crew for personal film projects. After graduation, she will be attending Johns Hopkins University as a film and philosophy major.