Virginia Film Society Presents the Black Maria Film and Video Festival

March 27, 2007

March 27, 2007 -- The Black Maria Film and Video Festival returns for its 13th annual visit to the Virginia Film Society on Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. at Vinegar Hill Theatre with Festival director John Columbus. Ten films will be featured during the Film Society event as well as five additional films, which will be on view April 10 through May 7 in the University of Virginia Art Museum's new media gallery.

Columbus has consulted with Virginia Film Festival director Richard Herskowitz in choosing titles that will appeal to the adventurous Charlottesville audience.

"I was one of four festival jurors who waded through hundreds of submissions last December, and so I know how strong this year's award-winners are," said Herskowitz. "Narrowing down the award-winners to a two-hour program at Vinegar Hill is always difficult, so I'm thrilled that the U.Va. Art Museum is allowing us to present additional selections in its new media gallery. The Vinegar Hill show is a potpourri of experimental, documentary and animation. The museum program will focus exclusively on works by some of this country's most accomplished experimental animators."

The Black Maria Festival is an international juried competition and award tour, with a mission to exhibit and reward cutting-edge works from independent film and video makers. Following a rigorous jury process, the festival winners go on the road with Columbus as he exhibits the standout films at more than 70 sites around the country. Each individual program is custom tailored to the location of its screening.

    The festival takes its name from the worlds first film studio, built by Thomas Edison in West Orange, N.J. It is one of only a handful of festivals that qualify short films (40 minutes and under) for Academy Award nomination. Since 1981, the festival has toured coast to coast to fulfill its mission to advocate, exhibit and reward the poetic, expressive and insightful vision of independent film and video makers.

All Virginia Film Society events are co-sponsored by the Virginia Film Festival and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. For more information, visit


PUSHCARTS OF ETERNITY STREET - 10.5 min. DVD by Ken Jacobs, New York, N.Y.
This is a new silent work by one of Americans Pantheon avant-garde filmmakers. In this vigorous piece Jacobs restructures a churning scene filmed at a lower Manhattan street market circa 1903. In the original and now reshaped material, vendors watch their fruit stand while others steer their carts through the street. Another tosses a small object in the air as customers pick over the fruit. But the artist transforms the vintage scene into a throbbing, balletic work which repeats, interrupts and re-examines the footage and magically dances between 2-D and 3-D cinema.

AFRAID SO - 3 min. DVD by Jay Rosenblatt, San Francisco, Calif.
This work features a narration by the radio legend Garrison Keillor, host of Prairie Home Companion and star of the recent feature film by Robert Altman. Afraid So is about fear and anxiety and is based on a poem where each line forms a question with the implied response being Afraid so. Keillors dulcet voice wafts through an assemblage of vintage film clips, which capture a dreamlike sense of universal angst and impending doom.

KIEU - 17.5 min. DVD by Kevin T. Allen, Brooklyn, N.Y.
This is an exploration of cultural identity, alienation and the idea of belonging. Kieu, is loosely translated as "foreign" and is the name given to thousands of Vietnamese refugees and their children who have journeyed "home." Kodachrome home movies punctuate stories and field recordings of three Viet-Kieu who go on pilgrimages in search of their ancestral roots. Meaningful questions are posed to those who travel back and forth in a constant cycle of searching and returning.

PHANTOM CANYON - 10 min. DVD (also in 35 mm) by Stacey Steers, Boulder, Colo.
This is truly an extraordinary collage animation in which phantasmagoric Victorian-era cutouts of cherubs, gargoyles and women in petticoats trip across the screen in a symphony of mythological images. The film is a masterful, symbolic depiction of the travails and triumphs in the life of a woman, who is freed by the spirit of a star child.

- 16 min. DVD by Dan Monceaux, Adelaide, Australia
There is unpretentious charm in this tender, humanistic documentary. The lives of three South Australian women who gracefully compensate for their vision impairments are honored in this work. Leanda, Edna and Rhonda lead the filmmaker through their daily routines as they cook, make music and sew. The women's dreams, fears and observations are revealed in spontaneous conversations. Shot on Super 8 film predominantly in black and white, a broad range of camera techniques (including stop-motion animation) play off of the special perceptions of the three extraordinary women.

- 22 min. video by Coleman Miller, Minneapolis, Minn.
"Uso Justo" (roughly translated: "fair use") is an absurdist experimental film that pokes fun at the world of avant-garde filmmaking. The filmmaker takes an obscure 1959 Mexican soap opera and subverts the original dialogue with a substitute translation that turns the dialogue inside out and upside down in a crazed reflexive satire.

DADDY IM SCARED - 3 min. DVD by Tijmen Hauer, Amsterdam, The Neverlands, c/o Sixpack Films, Marta, Texas.
Daddy I'm Scared is an iconoclastic video pastiche consisting of 13 different children's cartoons layered over each other so as to be nearly unrecognizable. This intense, sardonic and mesmerizing film is an inferno of image and sound. Daddy I'm Scared was made to question and play with the iconography and impact of contemporary popular entertainment. As one juror put it, Its like Disney on Ecstasy.

IRAQI KURDISTAN - 12 min. DVD by Ed Kashi, Montclair, N.J.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a gripping portrait of life in Kurdistan synchronized to strains of indigenous music. Pixellated still images contrast scenes of war, peace, family celebrations, weddings and farming as life under siege perseveres. The piece provides an elegant and powerful insight into the stark contrasts and vitality found in this part of the Middle East.

COPENHAGEN CYCLES - 6.5 min. DVD by Eric Dyer, Baltimore, Md.
A bicyclist travels through a fantastical, collaged reconstruction of Denmarks capital city. The piece beautifully integrates the Zoetrope (a pre-cinema childrens illusionistic toy) with high-definition digital video technology in a kinetic and impressionistic portrait of Copenhagen.

The videomaker compares the real-life saga of Robert Kennedy to the Hollywood hero Gary Cooper and the gunplay in his film High Noon. Using "recycled" footage, the filmmaker creates a dramatic montage that is both imaginative, thought-provoking and acts as a commentary on a culture of violence.

The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.

El Doctor - 24 min. DVD (also in 35 mm) by Suzan Pitt, Los Angeles, Calif.
El Doctor is a fantastical animated film set in a decrepit Mexican Hospital circa 1920. While the hospital is inhabited by surreal characters including the man shot with one hundred holes, the girl who sprouted morning glories and the woman who thinks she is a horse, the protagonist Doctor prefers to imbibe alcohol. The Saint of Holes and a mysterious gargoyle rearrange the Doctors fated demise and send him on a twisted journey. Ultimately, the film celebrates the nature of perception and the miraculous.

BRIDGES GO ROUND - 10 min. DVD by Shirley Clarke
Filmmaker and dancer Shirley Clarke used the camera to create a sense of motion while filming inanimate structures. In this major example of abstract expressionism in film the bridges around Manhattan are freed from their moorings to perform a magical dance around the island. This 1959 film has two alternative soundtracks, one electronic music by Louis and Bebe Barron, the other jazz by Teo Macero.

GLASS CROW - 6.3 min. DVD by Steven Subotnick, Providence, R.I.
This noted animation artist has created a compelling visual meditation on the spark that began the Thirty Years War. Richly layered, hand rendered images explore the worlds of nature, humanity and heaven during this moment in history.

PHANTOM CANYON - 10 min. DVD (also in 35 mm) by Stacey Steers, Boulder, Colo.
This is truly an extraordinary collage animation in which phantasmagoric Victorian-era cutouts of cherubs, gargoyles, and women in petticoats, trip across the screen in a symphony of mythological images. This is a masterful, symbolic depiction of the travails and triumphs in the life of a woman, who is freed by the spirit of a star child.

AND, LO, GUILHARMENIA - 17 min. DVD by Louise Despont and Narua Dyer, New York, N.Y.
An enigmatic film mixing dream-states, memories, reality and fantasy is about Guilharmenia, who has a serpentine cord condition (seen in metaphorical form as a rope) and who lives in enchanted isolation. When a balloon descends into her forest and crashes she and the pilot, a sickly bird-spirit man, make love. In an attempt to heal him, she constructs an elaborate mandala out of colored sands, crystals and spiritual trinkets that generate a healing ritual.