Monday, August 23, 2010

In the seat of my country's government.

I got back from Washington, D.C., yesterday where my brother and I had gone to attend the first annual World Music and Independent Film Festival's awards gala on Saturday. What I didn't know was that the actual film festival part had been running all week, including the day we got in, because they didn't have anything on their website about it until Saturday. Oops! Yeah, they were a bit disorganized and disheveled, but now that I know it was their first event, I can understand all of the glitches much better. The event has a lot of potential and I would absolutely submit films to them again. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

After departing Sarasota at 7 on Friday morning (after I got home from work around two am and woke up at 4:15), my brother and I land at the Ronald Reagan Memorial Bowl International Airport and get into the cab to go to our hotel, the Capitol Hilton, which served as the event's venue. The room was heavily discounted, by the way. I think the regular price is a heart-stopping $250 a night. Something outrageous like that. And the wi-fi isn't even free! I know the money is going toward a good cause, like Paris' latest drug issue or something, but even Nando's Peri-Peri in Chinatown has free wi-fi.

I planned on us being there so early so we could take in some sights. At that time, I still thought nothing was happening on the festival front until Saturday night so we had a nice chunk of time to see D.C. and we went to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, but my asthma and allergies made that dream pretty much impossible (this was the early 80s, folks.) We didn't have a whole heck of a lot of time, but they didn't close until 7:30 that day so we got to see a lot more than we thought we would. We walked through every exhibit, though we didn't have time to read everything, and we got to see Journey to the Stars which was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg! That was awesome!

It was so awe inspiring to be in the presence of these machines, like the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright flyers. It's amazing what human beings can accomplish when we bend our minds to the task. It's just too bad we can't seem to put that kind of dedication into other worthwhile pursuits like being kind to each other or helping each other out.

After our tour of the museum, we decided to get something to eat and cut the sightseeing a little short. On the way back to the hotel, we found a fancy Italian place called Portenza where we had good, but slightly overpriced, food. They're trying to build D.C. up as a foodie Mecca, especially after Top Chef had their most recent season there, and the food was delicious, but I would've expected a little more for a $13 plate of moon shaped cheesy goodness.

After that, and a quick stop at the CVS just down the street from our hotel, we went to our rooms where I turned on the teevee for some background noise. When I flipped past the Hilton events channel, I saw that there were films playing for the festival that day. By the time I saw it, it was a little too late; there was only an hour left in the last movie of the day. My phone, thankfully, has Internet so I was able to check out their website, even though I did check it just before leaving for D.C., and lo and behold, there was a link to a film schedule...sort of. That was upsetting. Then I tried emailing the festival founders, but the emails bounced.

Oh boy...

Since there was nothing to do about it, I started watching Repossessed on my iPad (I love that movie...and I love the iPad. It's turned my productivity up to eleven) and fell asleep around 9, only to wake up around 7:30 the next morning, which turned out to be a good thing since the networking party and awards and everything actually started really early. Like 10 am early.

I'm not a fancy dresser and am extremely low maintenance, but I got dolled up as well as I do (no make-up to conceal my rosacea, hair in my usual ponytail) and a severely low cut black shirt and black pants, grabbed my compilation DVDs (I only took four, I need to make a huge cache of these things, seriously) and met up with my bro to go downstairs and start networking. We met Gary Ugarek, the man behind the Deadlands movies, and Chris Kiros, a producer / cameraman on Deadlands who brought his own film Zombthology to the festival, and had a great time talking to them (indie horror at a film festival! I like WMIFF just for that!) and got copies of their films as well as permission to play them at Hallowscreen!

We walked around and talked to people and handed out CDs and DVDs and we were interviewed a couple of times and photographed quite a bit and finally it was time to go to the luncheon before the ceremony. We were seated with the band Flying Machines who were there to perform and also ended up taking home Best Rock Video and Best Director for a Music Video. They're not my kind of music, but they were really nice guys so it works out.

They had a lot of categories and even more nominees so the awards thing took about three hours, but at least they had musical performances to break everything up. Our video lost in both categories (Best Alternative Rock and Best Cinematography) to OK Go's amazing Rube Goldberg inspired video "This Too Shall Pass" and...uh...I forget who won Cinematography, to be honest, and the winners aren't posted on the WMIFF website as of this writing. I would've been happy to win, don't get me wrong, but OK Go's video is pretty damn amazing and I would've been surprised if they hadn't won!

The funny thing about the awards thing, to me, other than the fact that 1/3 of the presenters and maybe 3/4 of the winners didn't show, is how many people left after their categories were called and they didn't win. How rude is that? Okay, so you didn't win. You were nominated, for crying out loud! That's amazing! Don't act like a baby and pout when your name isn't called. Stick around to support your fellow artists! But maybe that's just me...whatever.

After the awards ceremony, which wrapped up 15 minutes early, Shawn and I got into some comfy clothes and did a tour of the monuments. We saw Albert Einstein's statue first, which is off the beaten path, but pretty close to all of the major monuments. The statue is huge, but Einy, as I like to call him, is adorable.

Then we went to the Lincoln memorial, which is a lot bigger than I thought it would be even after seeing it from the back when I took the boat tour from Alexandria back in July. So many people were at the memorial, hanging out on the steps or reading the words inside, but I do have to wonder how many people are going to go home and carry on with their bigotry after reading his speeches in slack-jawed awe. Then again, our government's in that town and they seem to have forgotten everything these statues and monuments are supposed to stand for and to remind us of.

One thing you don't really get from photos of Lincoln's statue is the immediacy of his posture and expression. It looks like he's about to stand up and go kick some tail, to be honest. And his stony gaze is focused on the Capitol Building (and the Washington Memorial since that's between then, but I prefer to think he's looking angrily down upon the travesty our government has become.) Don't get me wrong, my country was founded on some amazing principles, but those principles have become corrupted and distorted as our elected officials grapple after power and money, completely forgetting that it was we, the people, who gave them their jobs and it is we, the people, for whom they work, not Wall Street, not the corporations, not foreign interests. Us. And I don't know what it would take to remind them of that short of a complete dissolution of authority, which never works out well anyway.

Anyway, after the Lincoln memorial, we headed over to the Vietnam Memorial. It's something I've wanted to see for a long time. In my childhood, I knew a lot of Vietnam vets and my mother's passion for supporting them kind of infected me, but I'm young and fairly removed from that era. It was hard to put that into a perspective for myself, but I can see it mirrored in a way with the Iraq wars. All of those names...they all belong to a person, someone who means a great deal to the people they left behind. It's yet another thing we forget, or just ignore, but it's hard to ignore the ache still in a parent's or sibling's heart as they lay a wreath by the name of their relative and press their hand against the wall to support themselves as they break down.

Hidden off the path of the Vietnam Memorial is a statue that compliments the statue of the three soldiers near the Wall. This is the Vietnam Women's Memorial. It's a beautiful and equally haunting tribute to the women who served in the war, but are so often forgotten though they gave their lives and hearts as well.

Nearby is the World War II memorial. It's very beautiful and very grandiose, but I'm struck by something my former neighbor, a WWII veteran, reportedly said (I'm paraphrasing, by the way): "I went there so people here could do what they wanted. If I knew then what I know now, I would've stayed home." Whatever his political leanings, that's a pretty strong statement, one I think a lot of veterans feel. From there, we went to the Washington Monument, but we didn't go up the stairs or anything. It's impressive and really tall. Can't really say too much more about it after being gobsmacked by Lincoln's statue and the Vietnam war memorials.

After our tour of the nation's monuments, we headed over to Chinatown were we ate at a restaurant that served American food with a Portugese / African / Middle Eastern twist called Nando's Peri-Peri. Not cheap, and it's essentially a self-service restaurant, but once their computer problems were worked out, the food was delicious. Seriously, the best ear of corn I've ever had. Very spicy, though, so if you're like me and you don't dig the kick in the mouth, be careful how you order.

From there, we headed back to the hotel because the after party was due to start at Lotus at 10 pm and that gave us an hour or so to get ready. Our flight was at 8:45 the next morning, but I was afraid that security might be crazy so I didn't want to leave the hotel any later than 6. The club didn't even open until 11 and when we went back, we were turned away because they had a dress code and Shawn's shorts weren't Lotus material. Whatevsies! We didn't get to go to the after party, I really hate elitist clubs anyway, so we went back to the hotel and got some sleep.

All in all, it was a great trip and I would absolutely submit to WMIFF again, like I said before. Washington, D.C. itself is a beautiful city with just as much homelessness as anywhere else (and quite a bit more police action), but I started to feel like I was walking through a huge cemetery. Nearly all of the architecture is sepulchral and what little isn't doesn't feel very alive, but the people were friendly. Maybe that's because most of them are tourists...


Marvin the Martian said...

How fun! Did you see the Korean War memorial? As you stand on the Lincoln Memorial's steps, it's off to your right. Bunch of guys in ponchos slogging through a field. I like that one the best. It really captures the hollowness of their eyes.

Lincoln couldn't get elected today. He was way too "racist." And way too honest. I think that's sad.

Yes, people are rude to leave if their name isn't called in their category. I'm glad you're better-mannered.

Yes, I agree, elitist clubs suck. I'm too good for such places. ;-)

Lori said...


Gah! No, I didn't see that one. I know there's a lot we didn't see, like the rest of the Smithsonian complex and i don't know if the FBI gives tours (probably not), but I would've loved to see more of the J. Edgar Hoover building than just the outside (whilst whistling the X-Files theme, of course.)

I don't think most of our early presidents would be elected today. The whole thing is sad.