Running until October 11, the March on Washington Film Festival kicked off last week with the largest opening night gala in its history. The festival’s goal is to “tell, celebrate, and increase awareness of the untold events and icons and foot soldiers, known and unsung, of the Civil Rights Movement.”
“Stories of courage about our nation’s history are everywhere—hidden in plain sight,” said the festival’s founder Robert Raben. “The March on Washington [Film Festival] is honored to bring these stories to life.”
The festivities began last Thursday evening with a grand awards gala inside Union Market’s open-air Dock 5 facility. Rep. James E. Clyburn, Majority Whip and the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, was honored with the 2021 John Robert Lewis Lifetime Legacy Award while award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard and the Donors of Color Network were also presented with their own “March On Awards”.
Several members of Congress as well as dozens of educators, journalists, students, and business executives turned out.
First founded in 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the inaugural festival drew more than a thousand attendees over two weeks at venues across the District. It has since grown into a year-round program featuring screenings, panels, and webinars with a diverse group of filmmakers, political figures, thought leaders, and activists. But the annual film festival is by far the biggest draw, with supporters traveling to Washington from all over.
For 2021, the festival consisted of a hybrid series of both in-person and live-streamed events due not just to the pandemic, but also to accommodate a growing international audience. Over the years, tens of thousands of attendees from around the world have connected via its programming and organizers wanted to ensure that those who couldn’t make the trip this year were still able to participate.
“The fight for civil rights remains vital,” concluded David Andrusia, executive director of the festival. “This year we honored the Movement’s icons, provided platforms for the storytellers of today—and helped advance the trailblazers of tomorrow.”