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32nd Annual Black Maria Film Festival  2013 Tour Selections


Jurors’ Stellar Selections

Bridge - 11 min. by Kevin T. Allen, Brooklyn, NY. Stellar Experimental Selection.
Notable bridges in New York are portrayed in tactile saturated color revealing the beauty of the structure, surface and acoustic details. The filmmaker writes: "A study of three similar but distinct micro-cultures: The Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. Interrogated through the use of contact microphones, the physical infrastructures of these bridges become audible and reveal their inherent macro-acoustics. The film treats the bridge as an anthropological body for discourse, as a physiology of limbs, organs, eyes and ears moving in time."

Here and Away - 11 min. by Meena Nanji, Santa Monica, CA. Stellar Narrative Selection.
Here and Away is a magical film shot in India as inspired by a short story by Franz Kafka entitled Children on a Country Road. Kafka's story describes a day in the life of a boy living in the countryside. In Nanji's film, Ravi is found lying in the grass contemplating the sky and the mystery of nature. He is aware of changing times and the possibilities of the future. In the evening an older companion and Ravi gaze at the distant city lights on the horizon and muse about those who dwell there, questioning with wonder in moments of becoming.

Lionfish Delusion (El delirio del pez león) - 4 min. by Quique Rivera Rivera, San Juan, PR. Stellar Animation
This is an imaginative underwater neo-noir and colorful animation inspired by the Lionfish plague. Fishes dream, lobster claws trans-mutate and the sea swirls in a story about greed and hierarchy in the Caribbean reefs

Nile Perch - 17 min. by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC. Stellar Award for Documentary
In flickering black and white, Nile Perch is a luminous, picturesque documentary filmed on the shores of legendary Lake Victoria in Uganda. This hand-made, artisinal film is not only a beautifully made work, with close-up portraiture of a lakeside village and its people's daily lives as they follow their scenic tradition of net fishing, drying and roasting; but it's also a modern-day parable of the effects of globalization on Africa. Nile Perch offers a captivating insight into a people who are in harmony with nature yet the film is equally a meditation on the economic and ecological impact of an invasive species on traditional cultures.

Jurors' Choice Selections


Bite of the Tail - 9 min. by Song E. Kim, Los Angeles, CA
Bite of the Tail is a line drawing animation with a strange storyline that unfolds at an unhurried pace. It's about a quirky husband and wife; he spends his lunch hours looking for snakes in an empty field near his office, and she's suffering an unexplained stomach ailment which her distracted doctor has yet to diagnose. The wife's sister spies on the husband, there's a confrontation, and in the end it's all tied up in a surreal resolution.

Bug People - 15 min. by Paul Meyers, San Francisco, CA
In this whimsical film essay, the maker investigates Western cultural biases and discomfort with things multi legged with exoskeletons. Bugs for breakfast, lunch and dinner can be a great source of protean and an alternative to the flesh of four legged creatures.

Colectivo - 7.5 min. by Daniela Delago Viter, Manabi, Ecuador
A bus is stranded in the middle of nowhere, but the passengers seem resigned; some pray the Rosary, others fidget, or are solemn. Have they arrived at the juncture of Purgatory and eternity, are some destined for a place in Zion while others disembark for the Netherworld?

Fate of a Salesman - 27 min. by Tessa Moran, Washington, DC
Fate of a Salesman is an disarming character study/documentary about a man whose life is on the verge of disappearing. In its 60th year, Men's Fashion Center in urban Washington, DC, which caters mainly to an African American clientele, is the second home to the store's most enthusiastic employee, Willie. But business has crawled to a near standstill for his boss and cohorts due to a tough economy and a gentrifying neighborhood. Set amidst pinstriped suites and stylized hats, the men seek to redefine themselves as the business's fortunes dims.

Homebody - 11.5 min. by Kate Marks, Valencia, CA.
Homebody is a droll parable played out in a miniature house where a young woman lives but does not fit. The protagonist's world is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland as the woman's daily routine in her impossibly confined space plays out in this offbeat story with a bizarre twist.

Light Plate - 9 min. by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC.
In this shimmering, hand processed, black and white visual poem, the filmmaker explores the Tuscan landscape, capturing the textures and tones of its fields and the relationship between tradition, modernity and agriculture. In beautifully composed scenic ruminations, time passes; licks of light infuse the images while a storm gathers and woman kneads pasta dough.

Rose Apple Tree Island - 30 min. Alex Cunningham, Ithaca, NY
The holy river Ganga (Ganges) is one of the largest in the world and is integral to the lives of nearly a half billion humans. This vivid and stirring documentary follows the river from its terminating delta, Kolkata (Calcutta) through the great Gangetic Plain and all the way up to its pristine headwaters in the Himalayas. Rose Apple Tree Island depicts how the river supports the inhabitants of its banks, and in turn, how it's shaped their lives.

Tomorrow We Will See - 68 min. by Soraya Umewaka, Beirut, Lebanon
Hanging on the common Lebanese saying, "Tomorrow, we will see." (Bukrah minshouf), this gripping film offers a window into the nation's flourishing creative culture as well as political challenges related to the uncertainty of artists' lives. The ten artists depicted employ their talents to transcend sectarian divisions and encourage freedom. An alternative rock band rehearses, an architect analyses half build structures, an alternative rock band rehearses and a painter reflects on his choice of colors and their meaning in this insightful film about culture, spaces and ideas.

The Toy Sun - 33 min. by Ken Kobland, New York, NY
The filmmaker states: "A rumination on Time, with a capital "T". Time and its ravages, which really just means its progression; its nature and set off by an "old" T.S. Eliot poem that's literally haunted me for 30 or 40 years...And because the poem is about time, it invites me back in time as well. Old images from earlier films are layered into the movie. And, in the sense that every film is an homage, other old friends are here, too... the stunningly theatrical opening of Vertov's movie-man; the sinister scientist who sends already-dead hero into past and future in (Chris) Marker's apocalypse; the giddy absurdities of scale that Magritte made; and the beautiful, abstract puzzles of Matta-Clark, who cut-up real buildings with a chain-saw. So it's me and these others, these other 'friends' endlessly immersed in the past. While the small room we inhabit is our museum... and our book. "

Jurors' Citation Selections


A Cathechism of Familiar Things - 8 min. by Gina Napolitan, South Pasadena, CA.
Vintage found objects, toys, dollhouses, a miniature church and more are part of a found object montage that includes a doll wedding, all presented ironically perhaps, and/or perhaps fondly. The filmmaker creates a ciné poem of lost, yet familiar things and values in this richly eccentric work that is at once evocative, tactile, sweet and cynical, oblique and obsessive, engaging and inscrutable.

Construct - 12 min. by Robert Todd, Boston, MA.
Combining Emus, close ups of their plumage juxtaposed with angular human constructions, freedom and constraint, an ancient sense of being enclosed in a "modern" skin, this is a lament in ciné-dance form.

Descending A Staircase - 5 min. by Wenhua Shi, Hamilton, NY.
In this painterly, silent video poem, a figure descents a nearly endless staircase, in an salute to Marcel Duchamp's legendary Dadist composition, Nude Descending a Staircase.

Feral - 13 min. by Daniel Sousa, Pawtucket, RI
Feral is a lyrical animated parable rendered in artfully silhouetted images. A windmill floats in from the firmament, a feral boy crouches in the forest, he snarls in an encounter with a wolf. A hunter "liberates" the child and carries him to town, introduces him to school and the vicissitudes of "civilization." But the boy must return to the only home he has ever known.

In the Usual Manner - 6.5 min. by Kate Lain, Pasadena, CA
A contemporary artist, Barret Oliver, brings his Civil War - style camera and gear to the Huntington Library on the outskirts of Los Angeles to produce hauntingly beautiful work 'in the usual manner' of ninetheenth-century photography. This short was made in conjunction with "A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning and Memory in the American Civil War," a photography exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Magnetic Reconnection - 12.5 min. by Kyle Armstrong, Edmonton, Alberta
This is an experimental short form documentary about time and nature contrasting the exquisite northern lights with the harsh landscapes and remnants of humans' and military folly in the northern Canadian town of Churchill. The film touches upon the power of nature over man and the futility of struggle against the processes of nature. Despite our best attempts they are a power far beyond our control or ability to quantify. Magnetic Reconnection features a score by Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth - Wilco) and likely some of the best footage of the aurora ever captured.

Tempest in a Bedroom - 11 min. by Laurence Arcadias, Juliette Marchand, Baltimore, MD and France
The film is about social /racial class struggle, sexual expectations and delusion, and also "femmes Fontaines." Susan and Duane Cleveland seem to have everything to be happy about except for a less than lively sex life. So they decide to take a trip to the desert as a quest to rekindle their passion, and while gone a wild and crazy scene erupts in their bedroom.

There's a Dead Crow Outside - 1 min. by Morgan Miller, Brooklyn, NY
There's a Dead Crow outside. The flies are buzzing, and the raccoon is hungry.

Unchastened - 4 min. by Brynmore Williams, Somerville, MA
At the intersection of healing and performance Catherine employs lyrical dance in the story of one woman's journey with the cancer. She expresses her newfound freedom in the stunning henna tattoo on her breast.

Director's Choice Selection


And/Or - 3.5 min. by Emily Hubley, South Orange, NJ
And/Or is a distinctive animated work made in a tender, elegantly laconic, hand drawn style. An artist struggling to balance doubt and inspiration shares his poetic deliberations with an inner/outer muse.

Balance and Swing - 3.5 min. by Anne Beal, Hendersonville, NC
This hand-painted watercolor animation is a lyrical ode to life and love, and to the beauty of the medium itself.

Bloom - 11 min. by Scott Stark, Austin, TX
Industrial penetrations into the arid Texas landscape yield a strange and exotic flowering. Using images from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image based on oil drilling footage from the first half of the 20th century, Bloom offers an involving experience to the viewer.

Carbon - 9.5 min. by Craig Webster, Iowa City, IA.
Somewhere in her glistening body, in a series of chance encounters, an attractive, young, woman endures a prosaic life as a hairdresser. The film's tension builds as the protagonist's claustrophobic circumstances deepen. An older female customer seeks more than companionship when they rendezvous at a woodland campfire.

Cellular Circuitry - 2 min. by Benjamin Ridgeway, San Francisco, CA
Cellular Circuitry is a stream of digital sculptures and sounds that transmute between organic and circuit like motifs. The filmmaker's goal was to closely link the visual changes on screen with a mix of natural and digitally sourced sounds. Some sounds are meditative and inviting while others are edgy and alien. They are an auditory parallel of what the viewer is seeing as they change in sync with the morphing visual forms they represent.

Corridors and Time: Explorations in NJ Meadowlands - 14 min. by Jessie Fisher, Santa Fe, NM
This enlightening film explores the disparity between the history of the Meadowlands, just across from Manhattan, and their alteration, destruction and partial restoration as a place for recreation and the appreciation of nature. Interviews with historians and residents frame a narrative that asks what happens when one attempts to engage with a place whose history has been buried.

Crosshairs - 8.5 min. Matt Stryker, Austin, TX and West Orange, NJ
A vulnerable boy goes on a first hunting foray with his father. There's a less than positive lesson bound up in the father's "manly" activities and prerogatives. The prey found occupying the dense woodlands is undreamed of.

890 Broadway - 4.5 min. by Marta Renzi, Nyack, NY
Two women dance in front of the generous windows of a loft high above lower Manhattan. They dance into the night as they articulate their lyrical responses to the framed space and period edifices just beyond the glass.

Fanfare for Marching Band - 15.5 min. by Daniele Wilmouth, Chicago, IL
Fanfare for Marching Band traces the antics of a ragtag musical militia as they romp through unexpected environs with their exuberant music and crazed frolicking. This music and dance film features choreography by Peter Carpenter and performances by the circus punk marching band Mucca Pazza, who stage musical Actions for Joy at various inappropriate locations around the city of Chicago

Fordland - 3.5 min. by Jeffrey Moser, Lancaster, PA
This experimental film gazes at automation, industry, and American culture, by manipulating appropriated 16mm footage from a vintage Ford corporation industrial film. The image is constructed from hundreds of frames inspired by some of the work of the legendary late 1800s photographer Eadweard Muybridge.

From Point A to Point Z - 3 min. by Karl Staven, Philadelphia, PA
Through the use of pixilation and an imaginative collection of vocabulary words, this animated film takes the viewer through the alphabet letter by letter with an energetic street team acting out each word block by city block.

The Good Old Days - 4.5 min. by Neil Ira Needleman, Katonah, NY
In this charming work an artist with multiple sclerosis shares the story of his sudden shift from being a "Realist" to being an "Abstract Expressionist" brought on by an ironic twist of fate.

Gun - 17.5 min. by Spencer Gillis, West Orange, NJ
There is a minefield of issues in the storyline of this brooding work. A break-in into the home of a would-be vigilante leads to his purchase of a handgun. There's a confrontation with miscreants; submerged anger flares as the protagonist caresses his weapon while trembling in the bathroom of convenience store.

HATE - 12 min. by Sami van Ingen, Savonrata, Finland
In 1959, Soviet film director Aleksandr Ptushko (1900-1973) directed a feature film titled Sampo, which was loosely based on the Finnish national epic Kalevala and in part filmed with two cameras simultaneously. In Hate a stereographic image is appropriated from Sampo to form a "happening" between two different perspectives and intended to play with the possibility of exposing the hidden landscape of the mythical Kalevala. The implications of portraying the "other" in Ptushko's depiction of Kalevala is also exposed. The stroboscopic effect of the film contrasts with the pictorial content that follows traditional narrative lines: after the abduction of the fair maiden, events lead to a disgraced and defensive suitor, who, once defeated, exits the set sulking.

Jake Seven - 3.5 min. by Mary Beth Reed, Glen Allen, VA
"A few lingering brush - flicks, olive-drops of color splitting open on the vines…the roulette ball of our random lives dripped into the basket on some universal wheel…and the road keeps winding out before him like a wick" - excerpts from Steve GherxGke'e poem "Jackson Pollock Driving." "Jake Seven reflects on the death of two jakes - my dad and our furry homage to his nickname - mixed with musings on abstract art and ephemerality." - M.B.R.

Las Varianciones Schwitters (The Schwitters Variations) - 5.75 min. by Alberto Cabrera Bernal, Madrid, Spain
Las Varianciones Schwitters is structured in three movements, each one with a specific editing strategy, in line with "Metrical Cinema," and exploring calculated audio and visual rhythms. Using repeated vintage film clips at different tempos and duration this montage film invokes the spirit of 1920s collage artist, Kurt Schwitters' assemblages.

The Lost Interview of Ray Bradbury - 18..5 min. Harry Hall, Los Angeles, CA
This is a personal tribute to the sci-fi/fantasy author who died on June 5th 2012. Shot over 20 years ago in the basement/office of Ray Bradbury's home, the footage has been re-edited using HD stock footage to illustrate the author's droll reflections. His views on creativity, Steven Spielberg, the notorious Black List and politics of the 1950s and a skewering indictment of networks, make for an entertaining as well as curiously reconstructed interview film.

Magic Mirror Maze - 5.25 min. by Gregg Biermann, Hackensack, NJ
The famed "hall of mirrors" sequence of Welles' classic noir The Lady from Shanghai is seen through a succession of four algorithmic progressions of split screen patterns, The result is hypnotic, kaleidoscopic and a bit uncanny.

Micro-Celluloid Incidents in 4 Santas - 10 min. by Janis Crystal Lipszin, Sebastopol, CA
Vivid Kodachrome-like home movies are gathered and reframed, showing old boardwalk attractions including a carousel, a gondola ride suspended in freeze frames overhead and related image fragments. The emulsion's surface has an intentionally distressed patina reminding the viewer that this footage is an artifact of another era.

My Name Was Bette: The Life and Death of an Alcoholic - 60 m. by Sherri Vandenakker/Josh Hays, Reading, MA
My Name Was Bette… is an eye-opening documentary about one women's alcoholism. The arresting film chronicles the deterioration of Bette VandenAkker - a nurse, wife, and mother - who died in the fall of 2007. Filmmakers Sherri Vandenakker - Bette's daughter - and Josh We Hays employ interviews, family photographs, medical records, illustrations and court documents to provide a vivid personal look at the physical, emotional, and mental toll of alcoholism.

Near the Mountain - 14 min. by Flynn Donovan, Portsmith, NH
This poignant fanfare for the common man is shot in gritty, remote Arequepa, Peru. Near the Mountain is a striking portrait of an 80 year-old quarry worker and his son who have been cutting stone for 40+ years. The pair's arduous days involve traditional, highly dangerous, and labor intensive dynamiting followed by chiseling out enormous chunks of white stone. Scenes of the pair scrambling up rocky white cliffs are interspersed with shots of historic churches and mansions made of the same material. The old man reminiscences on his long life as a cutter and what his contribution has been to his world

Night Falls on Glass - 11 min. by Norbet Shiel, Los Angeles, CA
In this subtle observational documentary shot in Vancouver, BC, the camera reveals the grid-like textures of skyscrapers' architecture. The camera's gaze sees through window surfaces as the night overtakes the city. Day workers finish up and nightshift laborers enter the labyrinths of steel and glass. The camera spies on domestic spaces in residential towers while reflections create abstract compositions of light, color and movement.

Not Clear Cut - 7.5 min. by Paul Turano, Rosliindale, MA
The filmmaker explores 40 acres of his parent's pristine woodlands, which were logged for the income his parents needed to stay afloat in their retirement. The telling photography reveals the disturbing aftermath of well-intentioned selective cutting and speaks to unresolved environmental and economic issues on a larger scale.

Open - 1 min. by Patricia McInroy, Denver, CO
Open is a trans-formative video that investigates time, space and history with a sense of irony. This short witty piece was developed from a single still frame.

Our Trembling Way - 25 min. by Philip Weisman, South Orange, NJ
"Unlike one trend today in experimental film, it does not go about its work distilling or deconstructing. Rather it sets its sights on encompassing several interacting stories and visual tropes at once (including a man's trip to a hospital, and a woman's trip to the movies) and blends them in celebration of cinema from both a narrative and non-narrative point of view. Utilizing found and originally recorded footage from both film and video sources, Our Trembling Way offers its audience an opportunity to consider, in a mildly ironic manner, what it is to be mortal on this planet, as well as what it is to be both the observer and the observed. It is a lyrical tone poem, a fictional short story and a dance of film and video light and shadow re-interpreted as a digital moving picture." Steve Anker, Dean, California Institute of the Arts

The Poetry Winner - 7.5 min. by Jennifer Levonian, Philadelphia, PA
This animated film is based on an epiphany in college student's life, the semester has ended and it's time to go home for the summer and deal with parental meddling vs. self-actualization. The mixed media technique of this short makes for an engaging work of animation art.

Pulling Teeth - 9.25 min. by Jennifer Suwak, Bangor, PA
Pulling Teeth is an out of the ordinary and wholly arresting documentary that erupts as an honest, close up, and unfettered look at the work and philosophy of no frills Equestrian Dentist, John Baker. His communication with horses and his ability to bond with them discloses the uniqueness of his approach to his patients.

Queen of the Night Aria - 3 min. by Harry Hall, Los Angeles, CA
An aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute is parodied in this outlandish parody of a classic. This version utilizes puppetry, absurdist subtitles and sound effects to create a flamboyantly humorous animation.

Reborning - 7.5 min. by Helen Hood Scheer, Palo Alto, CA
This riveting documentary portrays a woman whose work is to craft extremely life-like infant dolls. It all seems to be a bizarre endeavor but there's a demand for this sort of doll. The woman's work is almost like that of a mortician; perhaps their skills sometime serve a similar function for people who've sustained the loss of a child.

Retrocognition - 17.5 min. by Eric Patrick, Evanston, IL
'Retrocognition' is a dystopian sitcom reanimated from the Golden Age radio dramas. The film re-contextualizes storylines - illustrated with collaged images - into a decaying narrative that discovers unconscious intent in period portraits of the nuclear family. Whether the pop-culture myth of the family is found in 'Ozzie and Harriet' in the 1950s or a soccer mom in the 1990s, the traditional family image is lampooned in this biting satire.

Salt Lines - 4.75 min. by Cade Bursell, Murphysboro, IL
This assertively manipulated film is a tactile, abstract expression of the physicality of celluloid emulsion, seen in its warm hues, surface textures and shifting tempos of this painterly film created by the hand of the artist.

Same Stream Twice - 5 min. by Lynne Sachs, Brooklyn, NY
A child is seen running in a circle, which the camera follows in a pivotal pan shot in slow motion, in silent black and white. The vibrancy of youth, of change, of time is eloquently and poignantly represented as the same child, now grown, gracefully repeats her childhood romp, now with flowing long locks of silken, platinum hair.

The Sea (is still) Around Us - 4 min. by Hope Tucker, Andover, MA
This piece depicts a pastoral scene captured in old postcards that are held up in front of the lens so as to align with live location. The postcards seem timeless. "Rachel Carson is dead, but the sea is still around us. This small lake is a poignant reminder of what often takes place all over the land due to carelessness, shortsightedness, and arrogance. It is our pool of shame in this "our particular instant of time." -- E.B. White, 1964.

Shooting an Elephant - 14.5 min./25 min. by William Noland, Hillsborough, NC
Shooting an Elephant is an experimental documentary that examines the ominous presence of the Tea Party in the national political discourse at a time of severe economic distress. It takes its title from George Orwell's metaphorical essay on the waning days of the British Empire. A construct of words and images, the film describes a condition rather than telling a particular story. Numerous individuals from the group's rank-and-file are seen in intimate detail as they absorb the salient voices that articulate the precepts and paranoid imaginings of the movement. The words, faces and public spectacles filmed at Tea Party rallies makes for a heightened sense of the absurdity, mania and incoherent rage that marks many who embrace the movement.

The Sight - 4 min. by Jeremy Moss, Lancaster, PA
A song of creation: immaterial spawns volatile matter; landscape emerges from splintering celluloid. Hand-processed July 2012 at Phil Hoffman's Film Farm in Ontario, Canada, this abstract painterly yet figurative landscape, amplified by backwards music and bluish tonality is an evocative tone poem.

Surf and Turf - 35 min. by Abigail Child, New York, NY
This film examines contemporary ambiguities in the lives of Syrian Orthodox Jews (before Hurricane Sandy hit) who have built synagogues, restaurants and schools in the New Jersey shore town of Deal. The local culture is changing with a continuing tide of newer immigrants. Assimilation is an issue. The look is secular, the lifestyle capitalist and religious. The topic-that of the "unmelted pot" of America's small towns combined with a portrait of wealthy orthodox religious sectarians- is a compelling one. The filmmaker asks, "What does it mean to have class in America? What does it mean to be Jewish? I think of conflicts between Israel and Palestine, Serbia and Bosnia, India and Pakistan...Surf and Turf provides no easy answers but raises issues that have too long stayed behind closed doors: what do we say when we think no one is listening" and what's going on with less affluent immigrants' beach access or lack thereof?

Time Exposure - 11 min. by Alfred Guzzetti, Brookline, MA
This is a vibrant work about a haunting nighttime photograph taken in South Philadelphia many years ago by the filmmaker's father. Filmmaker Guzzetti goes on a personal quest to find the original location of the photograph with the hope of recapturing a time long passed.

Track by Track - 15.5 min. by Anne Moot-Levin, Dobbs Ferry, NY
A teen with Asperger's Syndrome is soon to graduate high school and has worries but finds comfort on a swing in his yard as he contemplates the challenges of the future ahead of him. He's a talented artist who draws amazingly detailed portraits of trains and volunteers as a tour guide at a toy train museum in Porterville, CA. His drawings attract buyers and admirers at craft shows and that's his ultimate happiness.

This year's jurors were:
  • John Knecht - Professor of Video, Emeritus, Colgate University, Media/Digital Artist.
  • Lorna Lowe, Filmmaker, Lawyer and Trustee, Robert Flaherty Film Seminar
  • Bryson Van Nostrand, Curator and Chief, Lascaux Micro-Theater, Architect, Buckhannon. WV.
  • The Festival Director and Founder, John Columbus acts as a non-voting facilitator during the Jury's deliberations. Afterward he selects Director's Choice selections which supplement the Jury's selections as part of the tour collection. He also identifies Director's Citation selections which are not typically taken on tour. Those works may be listed elsewhere in this booklet or else will be posted on our website as soon as conditions permit.

    Click here for 2012 Tour Selections