BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There are film festivals all over the U.S. and the world, but only one was created specifically to bring a community together.

The Annapolis Film Festival creates common ground in the community while giving movie lovers the chance to see some of the world’s best independent films. This year’s theme: “Voices strong, minds open.”

“Beirut” starring Jon Hamm will open this year’s film festival, but it’s only the beginning. Eighty films from 28 countries will be screened, from thriller to drama to comedy to documentary.

“This year, we feel like we’ve got one of the strongest slates we’ve ever had, and really one of the strongest slates at any festival around here,” producer Patti White said.

“Every year, we have special showcases, so we have the African-American showcase with Sammy Davis ‘I Gotta Be Me,'” producer Lee Anderson said.

Sam Pollard of “Eyes on the Prize” fame directed the fascinating biography. Festival goers can meet him in Annapolis.

“We always do a Q&A after the film. People can ask me anything they want about the film, about Sammy, about his life, about the people in his life,” Pollard said.

The staff is working overtime to handle the more than 15,000 people expected to attend this year from all over the country and the world to watch films from morning to night for four fantastic days.

The films will be shown in four locations around the city: St. Johns College, the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the historic Asbury Church and the Annapolis Elementary School. That’s where local director Erik Kristopher Myers will show his docu-thriller “Butterfly Kisses,” filmed entirely in Ellicott City.

“This is a great way to bring your product to an audience that’s interested in seeing this kind of film,” Myers said.

“It’s been our intention all along that we’ve made it walkable, accessible, affordable and inclusive,” White said. “We want you to come with an open mind because what you think when you come in may not be what you think when you leave.”

The Annapolis Film Festival opens Thursday night with “Beirut” and screenings are from morning to night through Sunday. You can buy festival or day passes or just a ticket to a movie you want to see. Find more information here.

Last year, 15,000 people attended the festival, which pumped more than $7 million into the local economy.

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