18TH JAMES RIVER FILM FESTIVAL
Virginia’s Festival for the Independent-Minded!
APRIL 7-13, 2011
For the most up-to-date information, visit: jamesriverfilm.org
Tickets for VMFA events on Friday, April 1 (David Williams) and Friday, April 8 (Peggy Ahwesh) are available via VMFA website or at the door.
FRIDAY, APRIL 1
Pre-festival screening and DVD release!
Thirteen (dir: David Williams, 1998, 82 mins.) and “Dreams in the Night” (short)
with director David Williams in person!
6:30 pm, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Leslie Cheek Theatre, Admission $7/$5 VMFA members
Originally released in 1998, Thirteen made the rounds of the international festivals and was highly praised by critic Roger Ebert. In his second feature, Williams reprises the character of Lillian (the titled star of his 1993 release) as the adoptive caregiver of Nina, a thirteen-year-old African-American girl with a deep yearning for a car. Williams’ direction is loose and light-handed but pays charming dividends, and the actors bring a credibility to the screen that few “names” could muster. Roger Ebert described Thirteen as a “movie that puts aside the artifice and razzle and looks solemnly at the beauty and the puzzlement of life.” (Chicago Sun-Times) Mr. Williams will answer questions and sign copies of the newly released DVD of his films!
THURSDAY, APRIL 7
Silent Film for Lunch: Juve vs. Fantômas (dir: Louis Feuillade, 1913, 64 min.), plus Mack Sennett shorts on 8mm! (Program approx. 100 min.)
12:00 noon, Richmond Main Public Library, Auditorium, Free
One of the pioneering directors at the Gaumont studio, Feuillade created a popular silent serial based on the arch-criminal Fantômas and his nemesis, detective Juve. A blend of intrigue and melodrama with plenty of gun-play, plot twists, action and disguises. The self-named King of Comedy, director-actor-producer Mack Sennett created the Keystone Cops and launched the film careers of Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, and Fatty Arbuckle. A selection of slap-sticking shorts: Mabel’s Hero, Love, Speed and Thrills, and Wife in Auto Trouble (c. 1914-15) projected on 8mm from Blackhawk Films! Introduction by Michael Jones, who teaches film studies at VCU and Randolph Macon College, and who was a co-founder of the festival in 1994.
35th Anniversary Restoration of Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976, 113 min.) on 35mm!
7:30 pm, VCU Grace Street Theatre, $7/$5 JRFS Members
One of the greatest collaborations of the 1970s was Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, a film that alchemized Paul Schrader’s script, Michael Chapman’s cinematography, Bernard Herrmann's music and Robert De Niro’s totally credible Travis Bickle together to make an almost perfect movie. New York never looked so good, or so bad – a post-Vietnam note of the time, and as subversive as any of the “noirs” of the forties regarding the American dream. It’s funny how many American films of the seventies still resonate, especially Taxi Driver, which set a new standard of psycho-story with Scorsese’s direction. Add to that memorable supporting performances from Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, and Cybill Shepherd – a masterpiece! Celebrated on its 35th anniversary with a restored 35mm print; on the big screen as originally released! Introduced by Trent Nicholas, former Scorsese employee and current VCUarts film history professor.
FRIDAY, APRIL 8
Short Order Experimental Film for Lunch (Approx. 90 min.)
with Richmond filmmakers Mark Strandquist and Walker Allen in person!
12:00 noon, Richmond Main Public Library, Basement Auditorium, FREE
The James River Filmmakers Forum screens local films quarterly, and is curated by JRFS volunteer coordinator Jeff Roll. While this is not an official JRF Forum, consider it a mini-edition, featuring short films by local filmmakers Mark Standquist and Walker Allen. Both Mark and Walker have screened at the James River Filmmakers Forum; in addition, Walker is a previous winner of the James River Film Festival’s juried competition for short films. This program features three B&W Super 8 shorts by Strandquist, a student in the VCUarts Department of Photography and Film – Ben, profiles a homeless Christian riding the rails; Convention, a look at a Tea Party conclave; and Adolf, a retired teacher and his love for the purple martin – and Richmond filmmaker Walker Allen’s Experimental Film: The Musical, a surreal tapestry of free-associated digital vignettes exploring thematic and spatial harmonics. Both filmmakers will be on hand to discuss their work after the screening.
Rothstein’s First Assignment (dir: Richard Knox Robinson, 2010, 72 min., color/b&w)
with festival guest Richard Robinson in person!
2:30 p.m., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Leslie Cheek Theatre, Free
New Deal photographer Arthur Rothstein’s first assignment was to document the mountain residents of the soon-to-be Shenandoah National Park (near Skyland and Old Rag Mountain) for the Resettlement Administration in the mid-1930’s. Forcibly evicted by the government to create one of the nation’s most popular national parks, Rothstein managed to capture the vestiges of a culture on the wane. Virginia photographer and filmmaker Richard Robinson (Beekeepers) began his investigation concerned with the degree to which Rothstein as a documentarian manipulated the “reality” in his pictures, but soon uncovered a dark truth—through his research and interviews with the descendants—that many of those removed, including children, were remanded to “The Colony” (in Staunton) and forcibly sterilized. “A fascinating and troubling film.” – Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator, MOMA. Mr. Robinson will conduct a Q&A after the film.
In conjunction, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond will present Rothstein’s First Assignment: a Story About Documentary Truth, a documentary photography exhibit by Richard Knox Robinson, April 1 to April 30, 2011 in the Dominion Room.
18th James River Film Festival Opening Reception
Sponsored by the Virginia Film Office
5:00-6:30 p.m., Virginia Musuem of Fine Arts, Leslie Cheek Theatre Lobby, FREE (Cash Bar)
Meet festival guests, volunteers and fellow members of the James River Film Society over hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.
Return to the Garden: The Films and Videos of Peggy Ahwesh (87 min. plus Q&A)
with filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh in person!
6:30 p.m., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Leslie Cheek Theatre
Admission: $7 (VMFA members $5)
Aptly described as a media bricoleur, Peggy Ahwesh’s work combines a variety of experimental narrative and documentary genres, often with improvisational performance. Utilizing found footage, noise, the arcane and a variety of obsolete, low-end technologies, Ahwesh’s work is primarily an investigation of cultural identity and the role of the female subject. Ahwesh’s practice insists on political and social topicality, handled with theoretical rigor, while at the same time using humor and the absurd in an open embrace of the inexplicable. Subjective experiences of the individual, the mundane and discourses of non-closure are subjects of her work. Feminist theory and film theory are applied to traditionally female-gendered themes-home movies, family drama, relationships and confessions-while turning the conventions of realism on end. – Electronic Arts Intermix
Return to the Garden includes:
“the third body” (2007, 9 min, video)
“The Scary Movie” (1993, 9 min, 16mm or video)
“She Puppet” (2001, 16 min, video)
“73 Suspect Words” (1999, 3 min, video)
“Strange Weather” (1993, 50 min, video)
Don’t miss Peggy Ahwesh’s second program, Lost in the Labyrinth, on Saturday, April 9 at 12:30 p.m. at the VCU Grace Street Theatre!
SATURDAY, APRIL 9
Mix-up ou Meli-melo (dir: Francoise Romand, 1985, 60 min., English/French w/subtitles)
with film critic and VCUarts Visiting Professor Jonathan Rosenbaum in person!
10:30 a.m., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Leslie Cheek Theatre, FREE
“Françoise Romand’s Mix-up is surely one of the greatest films I’ve ever reviewed …”
One of the most remarkable and innovative documentaries ever made, Mix-up follows the true story of two English women who as babies were switched in the hospital and thirty years later discovered they had been raised by the wrong set of parents. Romand enlists all surviving family members in this haunting and bizarre investigation, which involves both a recounting and reenactment of significant life events in the daughters’ histories. Mix-up is structured in an elaborate form, employing diptych compositions in windows and mirrors, home movie footage, portraits and striking use of their homes and possessions, as well as innovative work with sound and music. The movie delves so deeply into its subject that one emerges with enough material for a 500-page novel. The “mix-up” of the title refers not only to the putative subject but to the many formal collisions as well—fact vs. fiction, French vs. English, memory vs. imagination. An astonishing film debut! Mr. Rosenbaum will conduct a Q&A discussion after the screening.
Lost in the Labyrinth: The Films and Videos of Peggy Ahwesh (64 min. plus Q&A)
with filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh in person!
12:30 p.m., VCU Grace Street Theatre, Admission $7/$5 JRFS Members
For more on Peggy Ahwesh read Return to the Garden, Friday, April 8, 6:30 p.m.
Lost in the Labyrinth includes:
“Bethlehem” (2009, 9 min, video)
“The Ape of Nature” (2010, 24 min, video)
“The Star Eaters” (2003, 23 min, video)
“Tears of Eros” (1996, 6 min, video)
“The Color of Love” (1994, 10 min, 16mm)
“Beirut Outtakes” (2007, 6 min, video)
Personal/Universal: Five Films by Joan Strommer
with taped interview with the filmmaker!
VCU Grace Street Theatre, 2:00 pm, FREE
Joan Strommer earned her MFA at the University of Minnesota, taught filmmaking from 1979-2003 in VCU’s Department of Photography and Film, co-founded the James River Festival of the Moving Image (now JRFF) in 1994 and influenced hundreds of students with her support and insight, many of whom have become film teachers as well. The festival is very happy to screen five of her films, which have been under exhibited for too long: Make-up (1973, super-8 blowup), Twins (1978), Mother (1980), Father (1982, 16mm, b&w), and Utterances (1987, 16mm, color). Her films are personal, spiritual, universal, centered around the threads of human relationships, and built on stasis and duration. The long takes of incredible beauty and sublime power render the screen into a still, not unlike Alfred Stieglitz’s nature “equivalents” or Edward Weston’s ideas of “capturing the essence” of his subjects or the films of Robert Bresson and Nathaniel Dorsky. Strommer’s films have been screened at the Walker Art Center, Art Institute of Chicago, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Appalshop and at numerous film festivals including Ann Arbor, Sinking Creek and Athens International. A taped interview with the filmmaker in her Minnesota home will be shown as a prologue, and a discussion will be held after the screening.
The Eros of Vulnerability: Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (dir: Alain Resnais, scr: Margueritte Duras, 1959, 91 mins., b&w, 35mm)
with filmmaker and film educator Tammy Kinsey in person!
4:00 p.m., VCU Grace Street Theatre, $7/$5 JRFS Members
With increasing doubt during preproduction about his ability to say anything new or meaningful about the bombing of Hiroshima, director Resnais took a friend’s suggestion and met with “nouveau roman” novelist Duras. Days later she provided a scenario about a love affair between a French actress filming a documentary and a Japanese architect, set roughly in 24 hours against the backdrop of the new Hiroshima. The resulting collaboration proffered one of the seminal French New Wave films—Duras’ dialogue is repeated hypnotically, and the abrupt transitions in time and place distance us as if in a dream. Exquisitely photographed by Sacha Vierny; in French and Japanese with subtitles. Introduction by Tammy Kinsey, a VCU graduate currently teaching film at Toledo University, who studied under Joan Strommer and authored an essay on Hiroshima Mon Amour–she will also screen “Trust,” a 16 min. experimental film of her own, inspired by Duras.
The Parking Lot Movie (dir: Meghan Eckman, 2010, 73min., color)
with director Meghan Eckman in person!
7:00 p.m., Visual Arts Center of Richmond, $7/$5 JRFS Members
The Parking Lot Movie is a study of one of life’s many outposts, where people gather, get lost together, and maybe even come out the other side. In Charlottesville, VA there’s an odd-shaped parking lot wedged between the university and downtown retail that is one of these outposts. Its attendants are loyal, over-educated, cynical, bored, content, philosophical and engaged in an ongoing war with abusive customers; many stay for years, despite the hours or the wages—think Two-Lane Blacktop meets Waiting for Godot. A road movie that never gets started, a search for meaning in a random parking lot! Ms. Eckman will conduct a Q&A after the screening.
Mulleted Marylanders: 25th Anniversary Screening of Heavy Metal Parking Lot (dir: Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, 1986, 16 min., color) plus Heavy Metal Picnic (dir: Jeff Krulik, 2010, 66 mins., color) with filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn in person!
9:00 p.m., Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Admission $7/$5 JRFS Members
One of the great American cinema verite films – right there with the films of Frederick Wiseman, D. A. Pennebaker, and the Maysles Brothers – Heavy Metal Parking Lot captured a generation lost in the haze of drugs, alcohol and head-banger music, not to mention the suburban jungle of the Capital Center parking lot. Composed of interviews with fans as they party/queue up for a Judas Priest concert, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn established a style and rapport that has been imitated but rarely equaled. Heavy Metal Picnic is a celebration of mid-80s Maryland rock and roll and heavy metal that focuses on the 1985 Full Moon Jamboree, a weekend field party bacchanal that took place at “The Farm,” home to a cast of characters who lived and partied alongside unamused McMansions of the Potomac.
SUNDAY, APRIL 10
Restored 35 mm print!
Chaplin’s Modern Times (dir: Charles Chaplin, 1936, 87 mins, b&w)
1:00 p.m., The Byrd Theatre, Admission $7/$5 JRFS Members
Fresh from a European tour promoting City Lights (’31), where he’d hobnobbed with royalty, artists and Mahatma Ghandi, Chaplin decided, at the height of his powers and popularity, to use his status to say something more—the result was Modern Times. Still mostly a “silent” picture, this movie was better structured, and decidedly more didactic and satirical—Modern Times took the tramp out of the down-trodden and posited him squarely in the work place of the middle class. Despite the promise of upward mobility, Charlie’s Tramp is soon unemployed, and if there was any doubt about Chaplin’s politics, it was clear now. Any hardline commentary on life in the assembly line is subtly overshadowed by one of Chaplin’s most hilarious performances, and Mrs. Chaplin (Paulette Goddard) never looked better. It was to be the last incarnation of the beloved Tramp. For its social message, the film was banned in Germany, Italy, and Wisconsin. One of the greatest of American classics – for all ages! Introduction by Ted Salins who teaches film at Randolph Macon College and John Tyler Community College.
Gary Lucas Live with the lost classic, Spanish language Dracula!
(dir: Alvares & Melford, ’31, 100 min., b&w)
4 p.m., The Byrd Theatre, Admission $10
Jazz guitar virtuoso/composer Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart Band) returns to Richmond for his third appearance at the James River Film Festival with the near-silent, Spanish language cult version of Dracula. Unknown to even the most dedicated film buffs, this second – and some argue superior – version was filmed at night using the exact soundstages and sets as the better-known Lugosi version. The film utilized the same script, except spoken in Spanish for an emerging Latin American market, and featured the full-blooded performances of famed Mexican actress Lupita Tovar and the Spanish actor Carlos Villarias. Mr. Lucas took on the project of scoring between the minimal dialogue and sound effects (both versions featured score only in the beginning/ending titles), and debuted in December 2009 at the 31st Havana Film Festival to tremendous acclaim. He has since appeared at the London Jazz Festival, as well as the New York, Sevilla, Transylvanian (Romania), and the Glasgow Film Festivals. “It takes a certain audacity – or perversity – to wrap new music around a talkie, and the audaciously perverse Lucas uses two guitars and an array of effects to evoke the cosmic dread of the über-vampyre, Carlos Villarias. The old blood-sucker never seemed so vital.” – Richard Gehr, The Village Voice
Baseball, Hotdogs and Movies with Peter Schilling, Jr.
7:00 p.m., Gallery 5, FREE (Beer and hotdogs available for purchase)
Minnesota author and film critic Peter Schilling reads from his recent novel, The End of Baseball. Throw in “Ashes and Diamonds,” a 1913 silent comedy starring John Bunny, “Big League Baseball,” a circa 1944 portrait gallery of major leaguers, and gourmet hot dogs (veggie options too!) courtesy of Captain Slappy’s Hot Dog Emporium and you have the makings of a feast for the senses, not to mention the perfect dinner break! Mr. Schilling will sell and sign copies of his book after the show.
The Night of the Hunter (dir: Charles Laughton, 1955, 93 min., b&w, 35mm)
Reading and introduction by film critic and author Peter Schilling!
9:00 p.m., VCU Grace Street Theatre, Admission $7/$5 JRFS Members
Though not truly film noir, Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter uses the moody lighting and expressionistic camerawork of noir perfectly. Based on Davis Grubb's gothic fable about a pair of children chased across the South by the maniacal Preacher (Robert Mitchum, who was never better), Night of the Hunter is a tense classic, a devastating portrayal of spiritual, as well as physical, murder. Minneapolis film critic and author Peter Schilling Jr. will read from Davis’ underappreciated novel and offer some insight into this strange masterpiece.
MONDAY, APRIL 11
A Richmond Noir Detour
featuring Edgar Ulmer’s Detour (dir: Edgar Ulmer, 1945, 68 mins., b&w)
plus readings from Richmond Noir with Dennis Danvers and Tom De Haven
7:30 p.m., Gallery 5, Admission $7/5 JRFS Members
This baroque noir protoype from B-director Edgar Ulmer was often overshadowed by bigger productions from MGM (Postman Always Rings Twice) and Paramount (Double Indemnity) released about the same time. But Detour accelerates the noir cycle to its bitter end and resembles (in structuring and characterizations) latter day noirs like Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (’58) and Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (’55), with an over-the-top Ann Savage as the femmes noire from Hell, and Tom Neal as the romantic, ill-fated pianist who picks her up hitchhiking. All the noir conventions are intact: Fate, confessional voice-over, a love triangle, flashback and a Los Angeles end-game setting. Ann Savage makes Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity look like a school marm! Editors Andrew Blossom and Brian Castleberry, writer Dennis Danvers, and writer/editor Tom De Haven will be on hand to read from and sign copies of Richmond Noir, on sale before and after Detour, courtesy of Chop Suey Books.
TUESDAY, APRIL 12
Hold Still, Keep Moving: VCUarts Student Filmmakers
7:30 p.m., Gallery 5, FREE
A program featuring short works from students from the VCU School of the Arts Departments of Kinetic Imaging, Photography and Film, and Cinema.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13
New Jerusalem (dir: Rick Alverson, 2010, 92 min, color) Virginia Premiere!
with writer/director Rick Alverson in person!
7:30 p.m., VCU Grace Street Theatre, Admission $7/$5 JRFS Members
Sean (Colm O'Leary) is an Irish immigrant and a weary Afghan vet, back from Kandahar, and caught in the grip of an existential malaise. A co-worker, Ike (Will Oldham), an Evangelical Christian, offers salvation through the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, and an unlikely and often clumsy friendship emerges. New Jerusalem is at once a stirring portrait of community—large and small—and a brilliant examination of the collision between faith and intellect. Director R. Alverson will be on hand to introduce his film.
When & Where
Check tickets and jamesriverfilm.org for location info. James River Film Festival is held at various theaters, art galleries, museums, etc.
Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 12:05 PM - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 11:30 PM (EDT)
Add to my calendar
James River Film Society
The James River Film Society is a volunteer run nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of film and film as art. Visit jamesriverfilm.org for more information.