Our Story


Since 1981, the Black Maria Film Festival has been celebrating and preserving the diversity, invention, and vitality of the short film. The Festival's home is New Jersey City University in Jersey City, NJ and is named after Thomas Edison's original West Orange film studio dubbed the "Black Maria" because of its resemblance to the black-box police paddy wagons of the same name.

Black Maria is an international juried film competition. We have embraced our mission for 35 years by focusing on short films including those, which shine a light on issues and struggles within contemporary society. Our touring programs always include provocative works. We advance and exhibit the work of diverse filmmakers from across the US and around the world. These artists often represent an under-served constituency who might not otherwise have the opportunity for live public exhibition nationwide or abroad.

We welcome all genres including narrative, experimental, animation, and documentary that push the boundaries of film. The festival's touring collection addresses topics such as the environment, public health, climate change, substance abuse, gun violence, sustainability, immigration, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ issues. Short films are celebrated as central to the festival - not as a sidebar to feature length films.

Black Maria reaches out to audiences in settings including colleges and universities, museums, galleries, libraries, community-based art organizations, art house cinemas, and schools. We visit far-flung inner city, rural, and suburban locations as diverse as Jersey City, NJ; Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; San Francisco, CA and Rome, Italy. Custom curated film programs are showcased in these diverse venues throughout each year.

New shows are continuously being added. You can see a list of those currently scheduled here.

If you are interested in arranging a show at your organization, you can find contact information here.