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Washington West Film Festival kicks off next week in Tysons

Journalist Bob Woodward at the Washington West Film Festival’s 40th anniversary screening for “All the President’s Men” (courtesy of Washington West Film Festival)

The movie world’s annual parade of fall festivals will make a pit stop in Fairfax County next week, with the launch of the Washington West Film Festival.

After celebrating its 10th anniversary virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19, the festival returned in person last year and is now preparing for its 11th season, which will bring a variety of films to Tysons and Reston from Oct. 13-17.

While it likely won’t generate the Oscar buzz of Toronto or the gossip of Venice, Washington West has a more unique mission. Founded in 2011, the festival was designed as a “laboratory” to promote both cinema and philanthropy, according to its website.

The festival says it donates all of its box office proceeds to nonprofits that assist “struggling communities.” Since 2019, the beneficiaries have been the Henry & William Evans Home For Children, Virginia’s Kids Belong, Blu_Print, and The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.

This year’s edition will kick off at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 with an opening night screening of “Refuge” at Tysons’ Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road).

The documentary follows a friendship between a Muslim heart doctor and an ex-Ku Klux Klan member in Clarkston, Georgia, “the most diverse square mile in America,” per the festival website. There will be a Q&A with the movie’s subjects as well as co-director and producer Din Blankenship.

The schedule for the four-day event includes feature-length and short films — both fictional and documentary — along with a virtual workshop on crowdfunding a movie and showcases for local filmmakers and George Mason University students.

Steven Spielberg’s classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” will get a 40th anniversary celebration on Oct. 15 at ShowPlace ICON in The Boro, which will host the majority of events. That day will also have a free, outdoor screening of “Hocus Pocus” at Reston Town Square Park.

The festival’s closing night film will be the HBO documentary “The Slow Hustle,” screening at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage.

Aside from the free “Hocus Pocus” showing, admission costs range from $15 to $35. The full schedule and links to buy tickets can be found on the festival website.

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