About the Festival
The March on Washington Film Festival, a production of The Raben Group, strives to increase awareness of the events and heroes of the Civil Rights Era and inspire renewed passion for activism. The festival uses the power of film, music, and the arts to share these important stories.
History of the Festival
The March on Washington Film Festival was founded by Robert Raben, The Raben Group and Victoria Bassetti. The inaugural festival sought to honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, tell stories of the Civil Rights Era, and motivate a new generation of activists. The festival attracted over 1,000 attendees to ten events over two weeks. We screened films at a range of venues around Washington, D.C. including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Newseum, and the historic Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
Our selected films focused on under-told stories of the Civil Rights Era on topics ranging from the music of the era to the black news media to the Alabama church bombings. We also presented a rare screening of Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment.
In 2014, the festival returned to Washington, D.C. and made its debut in Atlanta and New York City. Across the three cities we attracted over 5,000 people to film screenings, musical performances, special events, and experiences that had a deep impact on all of us.
Our venues ranged from Atlanta’s High Museum and New York City’s Tribeca Cinemas to the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., and we were honored to be joined by an extraordinary list of luminaries including Dan Rather, William C. Rhoden, Eugene Robinson, Michele Norris Johnson, Rep. Barney Frank, Gwendolyn Zohara Simmons, Eddie Sandifer, the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir, and so many more.
In 2015, The Festival became a destination event, to be held every July in Washington, D.C. Our nine days for film screenings, panels, scholarship and performances attracted thousands of patrons to a variety of exciting venues.
Some of our highlights included a rousing opening night at Metropolitan AME Church with a short film and panel devoted to the life and legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, and featuring her comrades in the movement, Rev. Ed King, Dorie Ladner and Dr. Leslie McLemore. The Writers & Scholars Roundtable at the National Archives brought together Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Taylor Branch, Diane McWhorter and Gilbert King, with MLK’s attorney and adviser, Dr. Clace Jones. Our family event at THEARC, the film Ruby Bridges brought the story of the brave 1st grader to children and adults alike. We screened the new documentary by Stanley Nelson, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution. The Festival closed with a powerful closing night event of films about Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Judge Constance Baker Motley, and a panel with their sons, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and Joel Motley with award-winning PBS host Gwen Ifill in the venerable halls of the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 2016, 17 events in 10 days drew thousands to notable venues of historic significance throughout Washington, DC. The festival kicked off at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church and featured performances by original and surviving members of the Freedom Singers and concluded at the Smithsonian Museum of American History exploring the life of Harvey Gantt with opening remarks by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a panel discussion with former Congressman Mel Watt and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Additionally, the 2016 festival included screenings of new documentaries on Maya Angelou and Nina Simone; a Conversation With famed dancer Carmen de Lavallade and renowned poet Elizabeth Alexander; profiles on Civil Rights and Sports with NFL players and executives, and the winning 1974 Howard University soccer program; the shared legacy of Black and Jewish activists in the movement including Rev. C.T. Vivian, Dr. Clarence Jones, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Rabbis Si Dresner, and Jonah Dov Posner.
Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement participated as guest speakers for 2015-2016 March on the Road presentations, such as Claudette Colvin (Montgomery Bus Boycott), David Goodman (brother of slain civil rights worker, Andrew Goodman), and Rutha Harris (original member of the Freedom Singers).
The 2016 festival also marked the inauguration of the Student and Emerging Filmmaker Competition. This initiative reached into student populations and discovered emerging talent through cinematic storytelling. Nearly 80 short films were submitted from six countries. After judging by an esteemed panel of celebrities, civil rights leaders, and established filmmakers, the winning films were announced at The White House with special guest, Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett.