Maryland Film Festival & Barry Levinson’s 'Wizard of Lies' Rock! - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

 Maryland Film Festival & Barry Levinson’s ‘Wizard of Lies’ Rock!

Hollywood iconic film director, Barry Levinson, was recently back in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. On Thursday afternoon and he made an appearance at the newly renovated Parkway Theatre located on North Avenue at Charles Street, near Penn Station. Levinson currently calls New York City home.
The last time I saw the Oscar-winning director was way back in 1990. He was in town then to direct his film, “Avalon.” I was deep background as an extra in two of its scenes. One was shot at Druid Hill park at dusk and another was inside a railroad station. (I’m pretty sure that my right elbow made it into the final cut of “Avalon.”)
Getting back to the Parkway. It is older than Larry King! Try 102 years. It has been brilliantly restored with a few spray paint touches more to go. It took $18.2 million to make it operational. It is now the official home for the Maryland Film Festival (MDFF). Years ago, the Parkway was known as the “5 West Art Theatre.” I recall attending movies there back in the late 50s, early 60s.
To learn more about the MDFF and the Parkway’s history and funding as a nonprofit, go to Maryland Film Fest.
Levinson’s riveting docudrama, “The Wizard of Lies,” was having it premier on May 4, as part of the annual MDFF event. It’s an HBO-movie which will debut on cable for the rest of the globe on Saturday, May 20. More about that flick in a moment. The MDFF is now in its 19th very successful year.
My wife Ann and I attended the 4 p.m. showing of the “The Wizard of Lies” – after which, Levinson and Jed Dietz, the top honcho for the MDFF, engaged in a Q&A with the capacity audience. The main theatre seats 420. The other two of its screen rooms will each have 100 seats.
Dietz is a gem of a guy. He is the founding director of the MDFF. He deserves a lot of credit for bringing the Parkway back to life and for his significant ongoing contributions to reinvigorating the theatre life of Baltimore. Think Charles and Senator Theatres.
Also, I would like to give a plug to all those unsung volunteers who worked at the four-day MDFF this year. Each of them deserves a pat on the back for a job well done.
During the Q&A, Levinson was asked by an audience member if he wanted to be a “filmmaker” when he was growing up in the Park Heights area of Crabtown. Levinson’s answer caused a wave of laughter from the audience when he replied: “My greatest ambition in life was to not work in my father’s appliance store.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Levinson was also the executive producer for 122 episodes of the very popular “Homicide: Life on the Street” TV series. It ran from 1993-99. All the shooting was done in Baltimore and vicinity. The headquarters for the production was the historic Broadway Pier down on Thames Street, in Fell’s Point.
Broadway Pier was the place you went to audition for a role in “Homicide.” The very capable Pat Moran had an office there. She was in charge of casting for “Homicide,” as well as for all of John Waters’ legendary movies, including two of my favorites – “Pecker” and “Dirty Shame.”
(I had a cameo role, as a “Homeless Man,” in one of the “Homicide” shows, on July 12, 1995. I also worked as a union/SAG extra in many, many others. I now look back on the ‘90s as the Golden Era for employment for professional actors from Baltimore.)
Returning to Levinson’s compelling “The Wizard of Lies.” Two of Hollywoods finest actors star in it. Robert De Niro plays the mega-fraudster, Bernie Madoff; and Michelle Pfeiffer portrays his wife, Ruth. They were both at the top of their acting game in this drama.

Madoff was a master of the Ponzi scheme to the tune of billions of dollars. He was convicted for his crimes and will spend the rest of life behind bars in a federal slammer. Madoff was so contemptibly evil, that he even defrauded the revered Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, of his life savings.
What’s so special about this docudrama is that it focuses on Madoff as a person without a conscience – a genuine sociopath – and only in a broader sense about his massive wrongdoings. It also shows how his crimes catastrophically effected his own family.
The book by financial reporter Diana B. Henriques, entitled: “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust,” was used as a basis for the film. It works in telling this gripping story about this much-despised felon for a movie audience.
The Oscar-winner director Levinson has done it again. “The Wizard of Lies” is a classic.

About the author

Bill Hughes

Bill Hughes is a native of Baltimore. He’s an attorney, author, professional actor and hobbyist photographer. His latest book is “Baltimore Iconoclast” and it can be found at: Contact the author.