Under the roof of The Charles Theater was once again a film festival. It has been the better part of a decade since we could say that about The Charles, and practically the entirety of our current decade since we could say that about the city itself. From homeless to listless, it seemed like the Maryland Film Festival was just another casualty of Baltimore’s art scene of the 2000s slowly commercializing, waning, and, ultimately, migrating in the subsequent decade. In many ways, the announcement that MdFF wouldn’t be holding a 2023 event for their 25th anniversary was a blessing in disguise, opening a door for former programmer Eric Allen Hatch back in at The Charles. In this way, New/Next was as much a homecoming as it was a new chapter in Baltimore’s film scene.

Right before the closing night screening of Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes I cornered Hatch and asked him how the festival went: “It’s been sort of a ‘Pinch me, I’m dreaming’ kind of experience.” And beyond the homecoming feeling, being back at The Charles had its practical advantages: “Any festival that has a small, walkable campus allows you to see more films in the day but also still have a life; have some food, have some rest, have the conversations that make you excited to go back and see the next film.” That tight setting is what allowed me easy access to the festival’s programmer, audiences access to filmmakers, and, while I was talking to Hatch, Sam Pollard, the director of Max Roach came in through the double doors.

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