HERE’S TO THE LOW­ER­CASE-‘M’ MAR­VELS

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUMMER ARTS PREVIEW - Ann Hor­na­day ann.hor­na­day@wash­post.com

For movie fans, sum­mer can only mean one thing: big, loud spec­ta­cles.

Un­less it means their an­nual Woody Allen fix.

Or a charm­ing, out-of-nowhere Sun­dance hit.

Thanks to the joys of coun­ter­pro­gram­ming, sum­mer isn’t dom­i­nated by just one kind of film any­more, as our an­nual list­ing con­firms. In ad­di­tion to the films them­selves, sum­mer in the Wash­ing­ton area and be­yond means the re­turn of venues that have be­come cher­ished refuges dur­ing the tor­rid cin­e­matic sea­son.

HERE

Founded 12 years ago in Sil­ver Spring, AFI Docs (for­merly known as Sil­ver­docs) has since mi­grated into down­town Wash­ing­ton and ex­panded its reach with lo­cal in­flu­encers, con­nect­ing is­sue-ori­ented non­fic­tion film­mak­ers with in­ter­ested par­ties in Congress, NGOs and even the White House. But for film­go­ers, it’s all about the pro­gram. This year’s in­cludes the won­der­ful open­ing-night film, “Best of Enemies,” about the in­tel­lec­tual ri­valry be­tween Wil­liam F. Buck­ley and Gore Vi­dal; a trib­ute to direc­tor Stan­ley Nel­son; and “In Tran­sit,” the fi­nal film of ground­break­ing vérité artist Al­bert Maysles.

AFI Docs June 1721 at AFI Sil­ver Theatre and Cul­tural Cen­ter, 8633 Colesville Rd., Sil­ver Spring, and venues around Penn Quar­ter. 3014956720. www.afi.com/afi­docs.

For the past year, dur­ing the $30 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion of the Na­tional Gallery of Art’s East Build­ing, the wing’s 500-seat au­di­to­rium — one of the best places in Wash­ing­ton to catch im­por­tant new and reper­tory films — has been shut­tered. But while the gal­leries will re­main closed, the East Build­ing Au­di­to­rium is re­open­ing Aug. 1 with a pro­gram of films by Al­bert and David Maysles, in­clud­ing “Grey Gar­dens,” “Sales­man” and “Gimme Shel­ter.”

Na­tional Gallery of Art East Build­ing Au­di­to­rium Fourth Street and Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue NW. 2028426799. www.nga.gov.

By the time sum­mer winds down this year, film­go­ers will have been blud­geoned by all man­ner of Avengers, Mad Maxes, Ter­mi­na­tors and Juras­sic-sized crea­tures. What bet­ter re­lief than DC Shorts, an in­sight­fully cu­rated se­ries of short films that ar­rives just af­ter La­bor Day like a sooth­ing au­tumn breeze? Funny, mov­ing, bril­liantly eco­nom­i­cal and in­ven­tive, short-form movies are just what we need af­ter a sea­son of overkill at the mul­ti­plex.

DC Shorts Sept. 1020 at venues through­out Wash­ing­ton. fes­ti­val.dc­shorts.com.

THERE

Even the sniffi­est film snobs love a good, old-fash­ioned pop­corn movie — es­pe­cially when it’s shown at a good, old-fash­ioned drive-in theater. To lo­cal film­go­ers’ ever­last­ing good for­tune, a few drive-ins still ex­ist in the area, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more’s Ben­gies, a slew of Vir­ginia the­aters that have been in busi­ness since the 1950s, and two rel­a­tive new­com­ers, the Goochland and Mayberry. Put the top down and bring on the sum­mer spec­ta­cles, the schlock­ier the bet­ter.

Vir­ginia’s Drive-Ins www.vir­ginia.org/DriveIns.

The Ben­gies 3417 Eastern Blvd., Bal­ti­more. 4106875627. www.ben­gies.com.

Where are the women? Be­tween is­sues of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and com­pen­sa­tion, it’s a ques­tion that has dogged Hol­ly­wood this year. For the an­swer, look east, specif­i­cally Port­land, Maine, where for five years the Blue­stock­ing Film Se­ries has ex­clu­sively pro­grammed films that ace the Bechdel Test: 1) Does the film fea­ture two or more named fe­male char­ac­ters? 2) Do they talk to each other ... 3) ... About some­thing other than men? This year’s of­fer­ings come from as far afield as Turkey, Australia and Pak­istan.

Blue­stock­ing Film Se­ries July 1718 at Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Port­land, Maine. www.blue­stock­ing­films.com. Ad­mis­sion: $12 daily.

If you’re head­ing north­ward and still want to feel the breeze in your hair, check out Rooftop Films, a Brook­lyn se­ries that be­gan 19 years ago and has pre­sented movie screen­ings in com­mer­cial green spa­ces, fac­to­ries, rooftops and other un­ex­pected places through­out New York. Billing it­self as “un­der­ground movies out­doors,” Rooftop’s pro­gram is cu­rated with an eye to­ward al­ter­na­tive, undis­cov­ered work, and has be­come a prov­ing ground for the likes of Lena Dun­ham (“Tiny Fur­ni­ture”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the South­ern Wild”). This year, Rooftop will present films by Sean Baker and Joe Swan­berg, as well as an evening with film­maker Kha­lik Al­lah (“Field Nig­gas”), who re­cently gal­va­nized au­di­ences at Mis­souri’s True/ False fes­ti­val and the Mary­land Film Fes­ti­val.

Rooftop Films Through Aug. 22 at venues through­out Queens, Man­hat­tan and Brook­lyn. 7184177362. www.rooftop­films.com.

Let’s just say it’s Au­gust and you find your­self in Alabama. You’re cranky, you’re sweat­ing through your clothes and you’ve tried ev­ery bar­be­cue joint be­tween De­catur and Mo­bile. Well, stop com­plain­ing and get your tired rear end to Birm­ing­ham! For the past 17 years, the city has played host to the Side­walk Film Fes­ti­val, founded by the Alabama Mov­ing Im­age As­so­ci­a­tion to show­case bold, in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ing and beloved by lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike for its shrewd pro­gram­ming and fun, laid-back vibe. Y’all should go!

Side­walk Film Fes­ti­val Aug. 2830 in Birm­ing­ham’s down­town theater dis­trict. 2053240888. www.side­walk­fest.com.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HAT­TIE NEW­MAN / PHOTO BY BENE­DICT MOR­GAN FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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