Holy crap, it’s Film Festival time again! Better than the Prom, better than the Kentucky Derby, and way better than the Grand Prix, The Maryland Film Festival (May 3 to 6) is what Edgar Allen Poe would be doing that weekend if he wasn’t so dead. The Maryland Film Festival is 14 years old now, and it is handling puberty very well. If anybody doesn’t know already, MFF is a pipeline straight to the soul of American and International Cinema. Festival Director Jed Dietz and programming gods Eric Allen Hatch and Scott Braid continue their fine work of curating a top tier festival. They, along with key staff Rahne Alexander and Angie Young, presented the excellent MFF preview event at the Charles last Wednesday.

Mr. Dietz offered up his traditional “wow” stats about the film selection process: In ten years the Sundance Film Festival has gone from fielding 3000 submissions annually, to eleven thousand in 2011.  In the same time frame, the majors have gone from 450 releases to 170 annually (thank you Harry Potter).  What does this all mean? For one thing, it means digital camera and sound equipment is making it possible for many more films to be made at higher quality and lower cost. It means that the conglomerate mass-audience business model (think Facebook, McDonalds) maintains its firm grip on Hollywood (and God bless big Hollywood movies, we love ‘em, but they don’t break any new ground).

It means, most importantly, that you get a glimpse into the future of movies. Where are cinema’s 99% going? How will the technology meld? The Oscars were feeling a little wheezy this year, like the New York Times on paper, and one wonders if perhaps we are in what will be looked back on as a “golden age” or a “digital new wave,” or something like that. I really think we’re at the dawn of such an age, and I want to see the sun rise.

MFF is about films and filmmakers, and they walk the walk by insuring that a filmmaker from every North America selection attends the fest. When you combine that with the intimacy of the venues in Station North (from the Charles to MICA) what you get is a super-social event with causal access to the community, the films, and the artists. You can’t Facebook or Netflix that.  The full festival lineup is being added http://www.md-filmfest.com as we speak, but here’s a few samples from the 40 + Features and 75 + Short Films that will be screened this year:

Craig Zobel’s Compliance brings Kafkanoia to the fast food restaurant.  The Jesus Camp directors paint it black with the wrenchingly lyrical Detropia.  Bobcat is back with a full clip of comedy noir in God Bless America.

Ed Sanchez’s Lovely Molly scares the handheld shit out of me. The arresting Kate Lyn Sheil acts in a pair of fest indies, Sun Don’t Shine and V/H/S. When the Iranian repression machine banned Jafer Panahi from filmmaking, he did not make a film called This Is Not A Film, or did he?  Local filmmaker Sheldon Candis delivers Danny Glover and a whole lot more in Luv. Supporting Characters comes to MFF only slightly sullied by Tribeca.  There’s also a really cool tweenager girl in an army helmet making prank phone calls.

The cred and charm of MFF is further enhanced by specialty screenings. This year’s 3-D movie is Those Redheads From Seattle (1953). The silent offering is Morning to Midnight, a restored German film from that most breathtaking period, 1922.  The “John Waters Pick” is Wanda, the one film directed by actress Barbara Loden (she played Ginny Stamper in Splendor in the Grass yo, and was Kazan wife #2). Finding a print for this film is like finding the Lost Ark, so we have Scott and Eric to thank yet again for incredible detective work. Gorgeous in form and voice, Miriam Makeba glows in the lovingly restored print of Come Back, Africa (1959). The Safdie Brothers (Daddy Longlegs) deliver homage short The Black Balloon packaged with the original The Red Balloon and other balloon stuff, and this is a Sunday screening you can bring your kids to!

But my favorite favorite of the Fest is the WTF Short Film Program.  They might be screening I Fuck With My Voice. How cool is that. The Maryland Film Festival: May 3rd to 6th, 2012.  If you care anything about the cinema, or having fun, you are crazy not to attend. Buy a festival pass fool!