Organizers of the second annual Maryland International Film Festival in Hagerstown announced plans Tuesday for the April 11-13 event, which will feature a Washington County man who was at the center of the Academy Award-winning movie “Argo.”
Tony Mendez, who lives in Pleasant Valley in the southern part of the county, is expected to play a part in the festival, which will have an emphasis on student-produced movies.
On the festival’s second day, four movies produced by Washington County students will be shown at Bridge of Life Center on South Potomac Street, where high school students are expected to be bused to see the films, Thomas B. Riford, president of the film festival’s board of directors, said Tuesday during a news conference in Hagerstown City Council chambers.
Tony Mendez and his wife, Jonna, joined festival officials Tuesday at City Hall, where Mayor David S. Gysberts honored Mendez for his work with the CIA.
“Argo” depicts Mendez’s actions in 1979, when he helped six Americans escape from Iran. The movie won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards and also won Best Adapted Screenplay for Chris Terrio.
While Hollywood was able to create an Academy Award-winning movie with “Argo,” “it was the tenacity and the creativity of Tony Mendez that saved six American lives from great peril and imprisonment,” Gysberts said, drawing applause from those present.
“Never before has there been such a significant American hero on the stage of The Maryland Theatre,” Gysberts said.
The opening night of the film festival will feature the “Hagerstown official premiere” of “Argo” at 6:45 p.m. at The Maryland Theatre. There will be a question-and-answer session with Mendez after the movie.
“We’re hoping The Maryland Theatre is at capacity Thursday night,” Gysberts said.
Tony and Jonna Mendez made a few brief comments, and Jonna shared a story about how the two of them got separated at a film celebration in Hollywood. Jonna Mendez said it took Glenn Close and Jennifer Garner to reunite the couple.
“If you see us wandering around, just help us find each other,” Jonna Mendez said jokingly about the upcoming festival.
Gysberts said more than 50 movies will be screened this year. More than 200 movies from around the world were entered, which speaks to the festival’s credibility, Gysberts said.
A list of the movies and more information about the festival can be found at www.marylandiff.com.