The 27th Annual Washington, D.C., International Film Festival opened with a brave choice, Robert Connolly’s "Underground: The Julian Assange Story," that depicts the Australian born hacker in his early years escaping from a cult leader father to developing a propensity to uncover diplomatic secrets with two sidekicks. The film is insightful about the motivating factors in Assange’s righteous mission of government disclosures. The evening was capped with a most unusual question and answer session as Assange talked by phone from his asylum location of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange complimented the film and explained how he is running for office in England after finding the loophole that if you are a voter in the commonwealth you can run in England. The self-declared champion of government openness was however not fully forthcoming when asked about the subject of his next book. Festival director Tony Gittens, who has run the festival since its beginning, said that the film has not been picked up in the States.
Among the great foreign fare offered at the festival was Deepa Mehta’s epic "Midnight Children," based on the Booker Prize winning book by Salman Rushdie, who also scripted the movie. Tracing the storylines of two young boys born and switched at birth on the Independence Day of India from Britain on August 15, 1947, the sweeping film captures their upbringing and misfortunes as India and Pakistan face political challenges and separation.
The director talked after the screening about being attracted to working with Rushdie because the storyline deals with a search for identity by her native country. She answered questions about why only certain plotlines of the book made it into the script since, "a film is never a facsimile of a book.” She asserted that both Rushdie and she were in agreement on what to concentrate in the film. Mehta also liked that the script had strong female characters. Even without Rushdie in attendance there it was a love fest as she admitted, "it was lovely to work with Rushdie." She explains how he handed her the script and proclaimed, "there is only one director." This film will open in America in May.
As it does annually the festival lives up to its reputation of being an international film festival. However as it faces funding challenges in its late twenties it is hoped that corporations or individuals will come to the rescue as the festival serves the diverse community living in the Washington area.