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Watch, Think, Discuss at the Chesapeake Film Festival

Sep 13, 2013 12:10PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Chesapeake Film Festival Executive Director Donna Roser, Co-chairman Joann Marcino, and Festival Director Liza Ledford are all smiles about this year’s festival.

By Rebekah Elliott

The Chesapeake Film Festival is an annual event held each September that brings unique films and discussions to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It was founded six years ago by community members who shared a love of film and thought Easton would be the perfect place for such an event. New to the CFF team this year is Donna Roser. She originally reached out to the festival’s board to suggest a film she felt would be a great addition to the 2013 film slate, but after recognizing her passion for community engagement and awareness, the board invited Roser to fill the executive director position. Along with co-chairman Joann Marcino, Festival Director Liza Ledford, and Programming Director Rhonda Thomson, Roser has been working diligently to bring thought-provoking films and engaging panels to this year’s event, which will run from Friday, Sept. 20th to Sunday, Sept. 22nd.

For those unfamiliar with the Chesapeake Film Festival, can you talk about its philosophy?

Donna Roser: The festival’s mission is to entertain, enrich, and inspire the Chesapeake Bay community by screening the finest in narrative, documentary, and short films. The content of the festival reflects our belief that films can effect positive change by stimulating, educating, and empowering.

How would you describe the festival’s success over the past six years?

Roser: The Chesapeake Film Festival continues to evolve. This year will be a pivotal year for the festival because we’re starting with a new team and it’s going to set the foundation that will enable CFF to become bigger and better for years to come. Although Easton is the heart of CFF, it will be our focus with the new transition to include all neighboring Chesapeake areas. And we want to encourage people in those areas to share their voice with CFF.

Can we expect any significant changes at this year’s event?

Roser: Because it’s a transition year, we’re cutting the slate almost in half. But that’s all with the purpose of gaining momentum for future years to come. This year, we’re really focusing on concerns affecting the environment and those affecting the young children in our community, such as the use of alcohol, drugs, and social media.

Liza Ledford: Even though we may be cutting down the slate of films, we’re increasing the quality of the panel discussions this year by including survivors, directors, actors, and a lot of local connections. And Saturday night we always have a local filmmaker emphasis and this year, we have two local filmmakers, to be announced shortly, that we’re highlighting.

Each year, it seems the event kicks off with a particularly engaging film. What can you tell us about this year’s opening film?

Roser: It’s called Sex and Money and it’s the film that got Joann and I involved in CFF. It focuses on American children who are involved in human trafficking. It talks about how choices like pornography and prostitution are leading children down an avenue they don’t even realize they’re going down.

What continues to bring CFF back each year?

Roser: It all goes back to building awareness. There needs to be a voice to help educate our community—our families, local businesses, the legal system, the government—and CFF is a great way to do that. And it’s a great venue. How many small towns have a facility like the Avalon (Theatre) where you can take history and combine it with modern-day issues to help educate people?

Ledford: There’s an appetite here for it also. Being so close to Washington, D.C, we feel there’s a really good audience here that’s passionate about the issues that are arising each year.

How can those who are interested in becoming involved with CFF help out?

Roser: They can visit our website,, to view the slate of movies that’s going to be shown and, if they feel passionate about any of those topics, they can become a sponsor. They can also sign up to be a volunteer on the website.

Ledford: And the other thing is just to consider CFF “that place,” that platform. We want to be very accessible. We want to encourage the community to feel like they can pick up the phone and suggest a film that’s important to them.