By: Yohana de la Torre, Chief Editor
Thomas Edison was inspired by motion pictures, so he created the world’s first studio in New Jersey and called it the Black Maria—the source of motivation for the Black Maria Film Festival since 1981.
The cutting edge, cross-genre festival is an entity that reaches out to diverse audiences in diverse settings including universities, museums, libraries, community organizations, and arts venues across the country.
“Over the last 35 years, this alternative film festival has embraced the diversity and passion of the cinematic short form, and has often provided many directors with their earliest exhibition opportunities,” says Festival’s Executive Director, Jane Steuerwald. “Traveling each year to audiences across the US and abroad, the festival features work that celebrates the artistry of the short film in all its infinite variations.”
She goes on to explain that the Black Maria’s award-winning films focus on shorts – narrative, experimental, animation, and documentary— with this year’s topics including the global refugee crisis, gun violence, challenges faced by people in the deaf community, and women’s equality in the US and globally. What is fascinating about Black Maria films is that while these critical issues are central to the festival’s core, the stories are told thoughtfully, empathetically, and often lyrically.
This year, Steuerwald worked with Florida SouthWestern State College professor Wendy Chase to curate the show coming to Fort Myers on October 22. Chase and her students in the honors scholar program, “selected [films] because they provide a platform to engage in meaningful and civil conversations about pressing issues of social justice.”
“The beauty of these films is that they allow us to sympathetically inhabit the perspective of others who live very different lives than those we are living. Our hope is that by sharing these stories and discussing them afterwards, we can approach potentially divisive topics in a safe and more complex manner,” Chase explained.
The films coming to FSW include:
Daybreak/ L’aube – Animation
7 min. by George Ungar, Toronto, Canada
Opening our eyes each new day, we stare for a few minutes into space, seeing the first sights, hearing the first sounds. It is neither night nor day but something in-between. Fragments of dreams refuse to expire, the grip of the day is not yet upon us, memory and desire hovers around the edges.
Video – Narrative
15 min. by Randy Yang, New York, NY
Two teenage African-American girls capture a woman’s racist remarks on video. The woman, concerned for her reputation, bargains with the two girls to delete the incriminating footage.
Words They Said to Her – Experimental
3 min. by Ella Zhu, Chicago, IL
Words are not just words. They can be used to accuse, to deceive, or to drive a victimized woman to insanity and beyond. This short film examines the affects of blaming the victim, the culture of rape, and its devastating effect on women.
Dysmorphia – Animation
5 min. by Katherine Grubb, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Lockdown – Documentary
6 min. by Lauren Knapp, Stanford, CA
Over the past decade, American schools have become concerned with protecting their students from the threat of an armed gunman. In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, most elementary schools are now conducting safety drills that will prepare teachers and students for such a threat. “Lockdown” explores this chilling new reality through the voices of students, a teacher, and a parent. It provokes us to contemplate the emotional weight of this new normal.
Films by Syrian Girls – Documentary
22 min. by Laura Doggett, Durham, NC
During a two-month workshop, Syrian girls living as refugees in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp and Irbid created expressionistic video diaries that provide openings into their everyday lives.
The Gift – Narrative
10 min. by Tarique Qayumi, Woodland Hills, CA
On her birthday Sadaf, an Afghan teenager, is given the gift of a burqa by her mother. This means that her life as a child is over. Her family has arranged a marriage for her. As she settles into her new life, books and toys are cast aside for domestic duties. Years later, when Sadaf is a grown woman with a teenage daughter of her own she is faced with the decision of what gift to give to her daughter. Will she follow tradition and give her the gift of the burqa or will she send her daughter on a different path?
The Making of a Mensch – Documentary
11 min. by Tiffany Shlain, Mill Valley, CA
“The Making of a Mensch” explores ancient Jewish ideas about being a “mensch” – aka being a good person, thinking of the bigger picture, and living a meaningful, purposeful life – through a vibrant 21st century lens.
The Bench – Narrative
6 min. by Cameron Burnett, Malibu, CA
An old blind man’s world is transformed when he is given a chance to see for the first time through the eyes of a man he meets on a park bench.
“While we are already very fortunate to have the Naples International Film Festival and the Ft. Myers Film Festival in SWFL, the Black Maria remains unique because of their focus on the short film format and the range of styles they explore, from experimental to animation, documentary, and narrative,” Chase says. “Edison was committed to innovation and the Black Maria does an exceptional job of curating their films to reflect that spirit of idiosyncratic and independent thinking. No one is going to love every film in the festival, but we have been hosting the Black Maria for seven years, and every year, the audience walks away feeling like they experienced a refreshing antidote to the formulaic movies.”
Proceeds from the festival’s ticket sales will be donated to the Santa Julia Women’s Coffee Cooperative in Managua, Nicaragua. The village of Santa Julia is made up of 64 families whose ancestors have worked on an industrial coffee plantation for generations. After the revolution, the land was ceded to the people who had been working on the plantation and they democratically elected a group of women to lead their community.
– The 35th Anniversary Black Maria Film Festival comes to Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers, on Saturday October 22 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for the general public and $8 for members of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. For more information, visit: www.blackmariafilmfestival.org.
Following their cross-country journey to every Harley-Davidson dealership in the 48 contiguous United States, Adam Sandoval and his Chihuahua, Scooter, of ScootinAmerica are returning to Six Bends Harley-Davidson for a three-day Homecoming Rally from October 7 – 9. Proceeds from the weekend of events – including back-to-back Skid Row concerts, a car and bike show and participation in a record-breaking ride – will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
On October 7, the Homecoming Rally kicks off with a Bike Night and concert by multi-platinum, heavy metal band Skid Row with local rock band Cinder opening. Vendors and refreshments will be available for guests to enjoy.
On October 8, Adam and Scooter will join local riders in an attempt to break the world record for the longest parade of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The ride, requiring more than 2,400 motorcyclists, will begin at 11 am with registration opening at 9 am.
Following the ride, attendees will enjoy Florida Hot Rods and Hogs’ Car and Bike Show from 12 pm to 5 pm, complete with food trucks and vendors. Car and motorcycle owners can participate for a $25 entry fee (lunch included). Following the showcase, attendees are invited to join Adam Sandoval on a ride to Cape Coral Bike Night where Skid Row will be performing the second half of their concert. Discounted tickets are available for those attending the concert both Friday and Saturday night for $25 total.
On October 9, Six Bends Harley-Davidson will host a Blessing of the Bikes and brunch for local riders from 9:30 – 11 am. After, the community is invited to enjoy live blues music, a selection of barbecue vendors and more.
– For more information about the ScootinAmerica Homecoming Rally, please visit www.SixBends.com.