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Love and War

When Patti North-Rudin began developing what would become the first Alexandria International Film Festival, she both reached out to those in the community she knew had a passion for cinema and sounded a call for other interested parties to get involved.

"People started calling me and telling me what their story was," said North-Rudin, International Film Festival Coordinator with the City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.

Pamela Hochschartner Viola was one of those solicited callers — and one whose tale certainly had a Hollywood ending.

Along with being an Alexandria-based photographic artist, Viola worked in the film industry for 15 years on productions such as "Hannibal," "Natural Born Killers and "Six Degrees of Separation." In 2000, Viola went on location to Morocco to help supervise an international cast and crew of 1,500 people during the filming of "Black Hawk Down."

Then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen sent a series of U.S. government supervisors to make sure Ridley Scott wasn’t "maligning the military" in the director's gritty take on the Battle of Mogadishu. One of those military advisors was Jim Viola, who (cue the crescendo of string music) is now Pamela's husband.

Jim and Pamela Viola will present a screening of "Black Hawk Down" at 6 p.m. on the Alexandria International Film Festival's opening night on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Madison Building, 600 Dulany Street. In will be followed by a talk with the couple at 8:30 p.m., as they discuss falling in love during the filming of one of the most brutally realistic war pictures ever made.

<hd>Indie Spirit Haunts 1st Film Fest

<sh>Selection committee brings together local directors and film-lovers.

<1b>By Greg Wyshynski

<2b>Gazette Packet

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Jim and Jane McCabe have owned Video Vault on 113 S. Columbus Street in Alexandria for 23 years. It's a store that offers classic titles and studio blockbusters; but for local cinephiles, it's also the place to find those hidden screen gems and cult favorites that exist outside the box office rankings.

That same sort of independent spirit can be found throughout the first Alexandria International Film Festival, scheduled for Sept. 27 - 30 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Madison Building. "That's probably the most exciting thing about the festival," said Jane McCabe, who along with Jim assisted an illustrious selection committee in shaping the inaugural event. "The most exciting filmmaking is in independent films today."

The festival was created for several reasons, according to Patti North-Rudin, International Film Festival Coordinator with the City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. The event, which is free to the public, provides a platform for local filmmakers to have their work seen by a wide-ranging audience; in turn, local film-lovers have the opportunity to view movies that challenge perceptions and broaden the viewer's cultural and educational horizons — all while providing popcorn entertainment.

Since the film festival was to be international in construction, North-Rudin sought out members of the community that help bring a worldly flavor to Alexandria’s festival scene. The list included Ken Hill, chair of the Alexandria-Gyumri Sister City Committee that cosponsors the Annual Armenian Festival; Dana Padgett, Vice President of the American Indian Inter Tribal Cultural Organization that cosponsors the annual American Indian Festival; and Boran Tum, Chairman of the Cambodian Community Day Committee.

"It was gratifying, because they were all pretty active in it," she said.

Then there were people she knew were involved in the film industry, including local film buffs like former City Manager Vola Lawson and locals in the film industry like Pamela Hochschartner Viola, a 15-year veteran of Hollywood productions like "Natural Born Killers" and "Hannibal."

THE COMMITTEE'S selections will play over a three-day period at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "It’s being held at a wonderful facility," said Laura Overstreet, VP of communications for ACVA.

Thursday night kicks off at 7 p.m. at Market Square with an official welcome and with a performance by the Alexandria Singers, who will perform songs from films.

Following that, "Alexandria: My Hometown," a series of short film created by students of the Mt. Vernon Community and Samuel Tucker Elementary schools, will be screened at Market Square. Those movies precede other short films by local and regional filmmakers, as well as coming attractions for the festival's other productions.

ON FRIDAY NIGHT at the PTO at 6 p.m., there is a special screening of director Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down," followed by a discussion with two locals who met during the production and eventually married.

On Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m., the festival screens several high-impact documentaries and indie films. Jim McCabe said he's looking forward to seeing Sunday night's screening of T.C. Williams graduate Christopher Quinn's documentary "God Grew Tired of Us," which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. He said he'd also like to see "War/Dance" by director Sean Fine, son of award-winning news producers Paul and Holly Fine, which screens on Saturday night.

North-Rudin said the variety of subjects, genres and films screening during the four-day festival speaks to the committee's effort to keep things unpredictable.

"You can’t please everybody, so we tired to do a little of this and a little of that," she said.

Visit www.alexandriacommissionforthearts.org for more information and for times and schedules.