Friendship Heights and The Avalon

The 23rd Annual Filmfest DC may be over, but the Avalon Theater in Friendship Heights is still going strong. Specializing in independent, foreign, and documentary films, as well as commercial releases and film festivals, the Avalon was first built in 1923 and is Washington, DC’s oldest surviving movie house. After passing through many hands throughout the years, the theater was on the brink of destruction in 2001 when neighbors rallied to save the historic landmark.

This year’s Filmfest DC showcased over 70 films from around the world, with a geographic focus on Eastern Europe and Japan. Festival Director Tony Gittens said, “Over the years, Filmfest DC has introduced hundreds of international films to the District of Columbia and scores of filmmakers have shared their insights with us. It is through their lens that audiences enjoy the unique perspective of diverse cultures. That is the beauty of Filmfest DC.”

I was lucky enough to see Small Crimes, a Greek film that introduces us to Leonidas, a police officer on a small Greek island, who dreams of a big city transfer. But when the town eccentric is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, Leonidas teams up with Angeliki, a local girl who has found fame as a TV news anchor, to solve the crime. This charming film examines the crime and the victim from the points of view of the townspeople, revealing the hidden intrigues that lie below the surface of small town life.

The cast was terrific, each part seemed tailor made, with moments ranging from physical comedy to subtly expressed tragedy. The cinematography caught the untraditional beauty of this small island, while the soundtrack specifically mimicked the haphazard and patchwork nature of the story. As my first introduction to Greek filmmaking, I say bravo!

Director Christos Georgiou introduced the film and held a question-and-answer session afterward. Like the film, he is charming, unpretentious, quiet, deep, and has a wonderful sense of humor. I highly recommend seeing this film, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Mr. Georgiou’s future projects.

As we say farewell till next year to the film festival, we can continue to see great films at the Avalon. Check out their website for showtimes and more information.

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