Eventizing the 25th Annual Maryland Film Festival: What To See This Weekend

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BmoreArt’s Picks: April 30 – May 6

After a year’s hiatus, the Maryland Film Festival will achieve a historic milestone: its 25th anniversary. From May 2-5, the festival will center around the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theatre in Baltimore’s Station North Arts District and offer a diverse array of feature films, shorts, panels, and talks, as well as events: receptions, after-parties, and CineTech, a curated exploration of cinema and emerging technologies.

“To celebrate 25 years of the Maryland Film Festival we’re looking back to look forward, celebrating our beloved and storied festival with special retrospective screenings, filmmaker alumni, and by showing appreciation for all of the hard work and audience love that has gone into making MdFF the Mid-Atlantic’s preeminent film festival,” said KJ Mohr, MdFF’s Festival Director & Director of Programming. “We will be celebrating filmmakers who are Baltimore born and raised, as well as the extraordinary talent that is currently drawn to and who have adopted Maryland as home. Plus, after watching films all day, we invite audiences to get out of their seats and turn up at one of our many nightlife events happening in the surrounding neighborhood.”

Since its inception, MdFF has showcased independent, international, and local cinema. The festival has been hosted annually, over the past 25 years (except for 2023), and continues to evolve to embrace new filmmakers, cinephiles, communities, and technologies. For one weekend each year, screenings offer an opportunity for audiences to engage directly with filmmakers, building on a communal viewing experience and centering the voices of artists.


This year’s cinematic highlights include the traditional Opening Night featuring a tribute to Luther Vandross, screening Dawn Porter’s film Luther: Never Too Much, which explores the formative years of Luther’s musical career, back to the epicenter of black culture, Harlem’s Apollo Theater. The opening night afterparty will feature a live performance by Jonathan Gillmore.

On Saturday, this year’s “John Waters Presents” features the Pope of Trash and Tyler Cornack’s 2019 film, Buttboy, a “jaw-dropping, deadpan, bowel-bonkers thriller about a heterosexual dad who after a routine visit to his proctologist becomes a serial killer and inhales his victims up his ass.” How very John Waters!

In 2019, BaltiShorts became a signature MdFF program, highlighting movies made by DMV creators or films about the greater Baltimore community. This year’s BaltiShorts program features docs, narratives, experimental work, and animation spotlighting quintessential Mid-Atlantic stories and sensibilities, including a documentary about a local Baltimore bakery. In addition to its curated selection of films, the 25th MdFF will feature “Art Work Shorts” featuring artists and followed by filmmaker conversations.

This year’s festival offers a Pride section, highlighting narrative and documentary shorts about LGBTQ+ love, including Amy Oden’s 2023 The World According to Pussy Noir, a DC native performer, with a Trans Shorts program presented by Mickey R. Mahoney and Lilly Wachowski, followed by a Q Mixer and Trans Shorts Under the Stars screening outside at Current Space’s Garden bar.

Also, you won’t want to miss Emmy award-winning filmmaker Ilana Trachtman’s(Praying with Lior, Black in Latin America, The Pursuit) groundbreaking documentary feature film about a 1960s civil rights protest hosted in DC’s historic Glen Echo Park, Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round, a world premiere on May 5 at 5.15.

Closing night will feature short films by emerging and established filmmakers, including The Steak, a 2023 film by Kiarash Dadgar Mohebi, and The Shadow Wrangler, a 2023 film by Grace Rex, with a wrap party on Sunday May 5 at The Garage, included with tickets to closing night.

Q. Ragsdale, curator of CineTech, said that this year the MdFF will highlight filmmakers working with emerging technologies, with an emphasis on local and global impact, putting Baltimore-based filmmakers’ works in conversation with classics and global trends.

On CineTech, Ragsdale says, “We hope audiences will embrace this opportunity to dive into the future of storytelling, where technology blurs the line between viewer and story, creating unforgettable experiences. Whether exploring new worlds in VR, bringing stories to life with AR, immersing yourself in multidimensional narratives, or taking control of your journey in interactive games, CineTech offers something for everyone. We’ll be stepping beyond the screen and into the story.”

You can purchase tickets to attend individual screenings or an all access pass for the weekend. More information is available at the MdFF website. Happy screening, Baltimore!!


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