John McCaslin

"Movies are art and communication forms for our time, and it made sense to provide a platform in the nation's capital," Ms. Osterberg says, "to bring people together to talk and debate and have a meaningful conversation. The hallmark of any good film is if you are talking about it afterwards ... and if it promotes a thought or idea or perspective you didn't have before. Most of these films fall into that category."

Honorary chairwoman of the festival is Mary Margaret Valenti, widow of longtime Hollywood lobbyist and MPAA President Jack Valenti, while Ms. Osterberg's fellow co-chairmen are Philip DuFour, former social secretary to Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore; and Washington film and political veteran Lee Johnson, chief executive officer of the festival.

"I began to think about this concept when I was working on a project for the MPAA - I produced a video for them two years ago about members of Congress and their favorite movies," says Mr. Johnson, who interviewed 25 lawmakers and spliced together their favorite movie scenes.

"I was thinking in a very focused way about politics and movies," he tells this columnist. "I began to ponder whether such an idea could be combined and organized as a film festival. I thought that the long fascination and love affair between Hollywood and Washington must have resulted in something similar being developed somewhere along the way.

"However, I did some research and was surprised to learn that this was not the case," he says. "Lots of focused film festivals with specific themes, many of which were politically motivated or focused, but none that covered the whole range."

Prime sponsor and partner of the film festival is the Bipartisan Policy Center, established in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell. On Wednesday evening, Dan Glickman, the MPAA's chairman and CEO, is set to lead a roundtable discussion of what makes a movie political, with the festival's opening-night party to be held the following evening.


An Inside the Beltway reader named "Rich" wasn't impressed with a Pew Research poll finding that, in light of the economic crisis, 1 in 5 American adults "are following the example of first lady Michelle Obama and are making plans to plant a vegetable garden to save money on food."

He writes: "People have been planting vegetable gardens long before Michelle Obama was born. She is the one following the example of everyone else."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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