By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ)–It’s a film frenzy and it starts right here in Baltimore. It’s the 15th annual Maryland Film Festival.

Ron Matz reports one local filmmaker can’t wait for his movie to light up the big screen.

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“This is total craziness, riding them in the streets like this”

The ’12 o’clock boys’ looks at Baltimore’s dirt bike culture and one young man who becomes part of it.

“It took about four years,” said director Lotfy Nathan, who began his project after finding the action.

“I started shooting in late 2008,” Nathan said. “I sort of asked around. I walked to North Avenue with a camera and asked where they congregated, found out they showed up at Druid Hill Park on Sundays, showed up there warily and they were very receptive to being filmed.”

Festival director Jed Dietz started the movie mania 15 years ago.

“There’s some amazing moments in these 15 years: Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal being in the house,” Dietz said. “They were thinking their movie was sort of over at that point, and then ‘The Hurt Locker’ going on to win Academy Awards. She became the first woman to become Best Director, and it won Best Picture. Harry Belafonte was here with his film. It’s been incredible.”

Along with the action-packed footage, Nathan found a story.

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“My film is called ‘12 o’clock boys.’ It’s about the dirt bike culture in Baltimore. If you live in Baltimore you know about this group,” Nathan said. “It follows a young boy named Pug. He’s about to turn 13 when you meet him. He’s gravitating towards the group. You follow him and his efforts to join them.”

“It was a long process to find a story and also make it more than just a sub-culture portrait,” Nathan said. “I definitely wanted to make it more than a sub-culture study. I’d like people to get an idea of why this kind of rebellion exists and in such an abstract way.”

The festival is a film frenzy featuring 127 movies, including 31 foreign films from 18 countries.

“They come from all over the world. We’ve got films that run just a few minutes up to feature films. We have documentaries, fiction films. It’s an amazing array of what’s happening in this art form, the most democratic art form we’ve got,” Dietz said.

And discovering an adrenalin rush from a local filmmaker. . .

“What we’ve started here in Baltimore is very special,” Dietz said. “It’s very much about Baltimore. The filmmakers love coming to the city. They love discovering things here.”

The Maryland Film Festival begins Wednesday night and continues through Sunday night.

“One of the problems we had was we couldn’t repeat screenings enough, so we’ve added a day,” Dietz said. “It gives us a chance to program more screenings.”

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