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  • Black Maria Film and Video Festival

    Monday, March 4
    Naropa University-Performing Arts Center

    “The Black Maria Film Studio was the world’s first purpose built motion picture studio. It was erected in 1893 by Thomas Edison to facilitate the production of the earliest moving images known to exist. Edison’s motion picture technology allowed previously unimagined expressive possibilities and freed creative individuals to interpret and represent, and audiences to experience the world as never before. It is the pioneering and adventuresome spirit of innovation and pursuit of fresh, bold, insightful, passionate, and diverse and independent filmmaking that drives the Festival’s work.”
    John Columbus
    Founder / Executive Director

    The Black Maria Film and Video Festival is an annual international juried competition and award tour which has been exhibiting and rewarding innovative and novel works from independent film and video makers since 1981. This festival is uniquely known for its National Public Exhibition Program which calls attention to a collection of variant contemporary works.
    Every year Black Maria festival tours to approximately 65 venues - museums, colleges, libraries, community organizations - across the U.S. and abroad with the objective of presenting works of art with imaginative, perceptive, and even uncommon spirit.
    What makes the black Maria festival exclusively interesting, in my opinion, is its recognition and support for these independent film and video artists whose works are visually very poetic, socially responsive and culturally diverse.
    This year in its 32nd, the festival presented a program of the 2013 winning shorts, ranging from a variety of narrative, animation, documentary, and experimental.
    The First Person Cinema Program hosted the Black Maria Festival at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado on March 4th.
    The evening included a conversation with festival director, John Columbus around the eight short films [1] featured from three different categories. Four short films from Juror’s Stellar Selection, three short films from Juror’s Citation Selection and one short film from director’s Choice Selection.
    In this article, I will be focusing on three short films, one from each category:

    -Feral by Daniel Sousa (Juror’s Citation Selection)
    -Bridge by Kevin T. Allen (Juror’s Stellar Selection)
    -Bloom by Scott Stark (Director’s Choice Selection)


    Feral:
    Daniel Sousa
    2012, 13 minutes

    Feral is a short animated film telling a story of a wild boy who is found in the woods by a hunter and brought back to civilization. During this short animation, we observe the boy’s attempt to adjust himself to this new environment, his failure and his reversion back to his wild state.
    The structure in this animation seems very associative, abstract and poetic with painterly quality; the animation includes 2-D, graphically animated characters and hand-painted frames which comes from Sousa’s background in illustration-making and painting.
    In Feral, traditional hand-drawn elements and digital composites come together creating beautifully hazy and dreamlike layers of visuals to express a powerful narrative and a poetic statement.
    Compared to Sousa’s previous works, Minotaur (1998) and Fable (2005), Feral has developed a more unique approach to style and technique; the linear work has been replaced with silhouettes and cut off shapes filled with painted textures, and the final result seems to bring a more emotional connection with the audience.
    As almost all Sousa’s works, the theme of Feral has root in mythology and fairy tales and is a study in archetypes of human nature and all our struggles between conflicting instincts; our intellectual and our physical selves, our thoughts and our urges.
    The story reminds me of Kaspar Hauser[2] and other historical accounts of abandoned children. It is one of those animated films that would make you stuck in your thoughts with loads of questions: What is it that specifies us as human beings and separates us from the other animals. If we were raised without the benefit of human contact, culture and education, would we still behave like humans? Or are we more like mirrors that reflect any environment we are exposed to?


    Bridge:
    Kevin T. Allen
    2012, 11 minutes
    Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge are the leading characters of this super 8mm short film by filmmaker, sound artist and radio producer, Kevin Allen. Using contact microphones, Allen has been successfully developed a sound-based study on these three bridges of New York, made them audible and revealed their underlying stories.
    The film seems to address these bridges as anthropological body for discussion which finds culture not exclusively in human forms, but also inherent in physical landscapes and material objects, like bridges.
    The imperfectness of the medium, providing the grainy look, gives a complete different face to these familiar scenes and evokes another period of time. Sounds and visual impressions make the Bridge become a very tactile film which takes the viewer to those places in a very intimate way.
    Despite a comment from the festival’s executive director, John Columbus on the film being challenging, I believe that the beautiful use of light, sunsets and sunrises, passing trains and cars, saturated-colored textures and the rustiness of the bridges along with crisp and powerful sounds, all create a clear and distinct understanding of the film which occurs to the viewer during the first five or six minutes of the film; but unluckily, serving the rest as tediously repetitive sceneries, and unlike Allen’s previous work, Kieu(2006) the viewer is reluctant to watch through the end of the film thirstily.

    Bloom
    Scott Stark
    2012, 11 minutes
    “Texas-based film/video artists Kelly Sears, Mark and Angela Walley, Scott Stark, Alec Jhangiani, and Alex Luster delved into the vast collection of movies, newsreels, and homemade films in the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and created entirely new works from the footage. These new reworking are creative intersections of past and present, bringing new life to cinematic memory.”[3]
    Scott Stark’s Bloom is one of the works in that collection which is made for TAMI’s Mess with Texas program.
    Bloom can easily be divided into four main segments: Footage and moving images of oil drilling and oil fires from the first half of the 20th century, images of flowers in bloom, an experimental soundtrack and also pieces of Roger and Hammerstein’s song “Edelweiss” in different versions.
    Stark combines all these elements in fast pace, fades them into one another and repeats them over and over to juxtapose man and nature as a photographic collage.
    There is a very distinguishable contrast between oil drilling/oil fires imagery and flower’s images by their nature, which makes the viewer only think of the classic incompatibility of nature and industry. You can also find the same kind of counterpoint in the soundtrack; the shuddery characteristic of experimental sound work against all the dreamlike childhood memories that Edelweiss brings up in mind.



    References:
    [1]
    Juror’s Stellar Selection:
    -Bridge / Kevin T.Allen
    -Here and Away / Meena Nanji
    -Lionfish Delusion / Quique Rivera Rivera
    -Nile Perch / Josh Gibson
    Juror’s Citation Selection:
    -A Catechism of Familiar Things / Gina Napolitan
    -Feral / Daniel Sousa
    -Magnetic Reconnection / Kyle Armstrong
    Director’s Choice Selection:
    -Bloom / Scott Stark
    [2]
    Kaspar Hauser was a German youth who claimed to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell. Hauser's claims, and his subsequent death by stabbing, sparked much debate and controversy. Wikipedia
    [3]
    From Texas Archive of the Moving Images
    www.TexasArchive.org