Black Maria Film + Video Festival

  • Des Moines
  • Art Center
  • 4700 Grand Ave
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • 515.277.4405
  • Hours | Directions

  • John & Mary Pappajohn
  • Sculpture Park
  • 13th and Grand Ave
  • Downtown
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Hours | Directions

Independent Films for Independent Minds

Friday, March 9 / 6:30 pm and Saturday, March 10 / 1 pm (not a repeat of March 9 program)
Both programs will be held in Levitt Auditorium.
All films were selected with an adult audience in mind.

The Art Center continues to bring cutting-edge, independent films to the region by hosting
the Black Maria International Film + Video Festival. The annual festival draws hundreds
of entries from around the world in the categories of documentary, experimental, animation,
and narrative works. Fifty award-winning films are named and included in the Festival’s
annual tour. Traveling to more than 60 host institutions across the country and abroad, each
program is tailor-selected and enthusiastically presented by a representative of the Festival.

Since 1981, the annual Black Maria Film + Video Festival has taken its name from
that of the world’s first motion picture studio built by Thomas Edison in 1893.
The Festival and its tour are the primary endeavor of Thomas Edison Media Arts.


FRIDAY, MARCH 9 at 6:30 PM

*Anima Mundi - 4 min. by Kate Balsley, Brown Deer, WI
In Anima Mundi, vivid flower images are compressed into butterflies and multiple layers in a
crazy profusion of color and motion.

*Installation - 7.25 min. by Paul Donatelli, Laura Green, and Sara Mott, Daly City, CA
Installation is a regal and captivating documentary about the construction of sculptor Richard Serra’s
monumental, sensuously labyrinthine work “Sculpture Sequence” at the Iris & B. Gerald Canto Center
for the Visual Arts at Stanford University. In his “Industrial Strength” essay in the June 11, 2007 edition
of The New Yorker magazine, Peter Schjeldahl states that Richard Serra’s work is “….an affair of big
rusty things without practical use. It evokes derelict ships, locomotives, and heavy-industrial factories.
It also recalls times when miracles of human invention were still spectacular…” But what this film
captures is an ode to the organic beauty of Serra’s raw, hard steel sculpture as the foundation work is
laid with finesse by workers, and riggers lift and fit the gigantic curved panels into place.

**Hip Priest - 27 min. by Gregg de Domenico, Brooklyn, NY
This is a gritty narrative in black and white shot on location in Brooklyn, NY. The protagonist is a street
savvy clergyman who, in his unique way, ministers to the local denizens. The film’s pacing, sense of
place and semi-Bresson-like minimalism combine with a Scorsese-like ambiance, to reward the viewer
with a stylized narrative.

*Be Filled With The Spirit - 8.66 min. by Mark Rogovin, Evanston, IL
Noted photographer Milton Rogovin photographed the storefront Black churches of Buffalo, New York
for three years during the mid-20th century. Rogovin’s photos are in the collections of the Library of
Congress, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Center for Creative Photography, among others, and he
was interviewed on NPR in 2003. W. E. B. DuBois, who encouraged the photographer to document the
Black community, originally published his photos of the storefront churches in APERATURE magazine.
This extraordinary film is a journey through time and the spirituals as recorded on site and captured on
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released in 1957. The film features an introduction and meaningful
commentary by the Dean of Howard University’s School of Divinity, Dr. Alton B. Pollard III, and includes
an interview of Rogovin by the noted photographer/filmmaker Harvey Wang.

***Yelp, With Apologies to Alan Ginsberg’s Howl - 3 min. by Tiffany Shlain,
Mill Valley, CA
Technology can be addictive. In a tribute to Allen Ginsberg's classic 1956 poem, this short
film reincarnates Ginsberg’s inflections and rhythms, but replaces his words with ones that
lampoon addictions of our generation. Narrated by Peter Cayote.

*We’re Part of the City, 4th Movement - 8 min. by Luca Segall, Brooklyn, NY
We’re Part of the City, 4th Movement is an astonishing, revelatory experimental work
chronicling the New York City ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest in a style that is as rebellious
as the movement itself. Fractured sound and images collide and interweave, reverse, repeat
in a collage of energy, all of which reverberates with and echoes the vitality, passion, and
chaos of the movement.

*No Wine Left Behind - 14.5 min. by Kevin Gordon, San Francisco, CA
This is a wholly engaging and rewarding documentary that tells the story of a young Iraqi
war veteran, Josh Lain, who returns home looking for a job. He lands a lowly position at a
winery where he learns the business and art of turning grapes into wine. Lain’s story is one
of success, and is truly refreshing to see when so much of the news about vets is troubling.

*Another Dress, Another Button - 2.75 min. by Lyn Elliot, University Park, PA
Spare, derelict buttons seem to collect with other flotsam and jetsam of life, collecting here and
there helter-skelter, forever waiting for someone to use them. Animator Lyn Elliot takes her buttons
on an artful spin, in this playful short work. 

*A Declaration of Interdependence - 4.5 min. by Tiffany Shlain, Mill Valley, CA
Based on revamped words and the rhythms of the Declaration of Independence, this renegade
work actually pays tribute to the intent of a global humanist impulse that surely would have been
endorsed by the Founding Mothers. It’s a universal and embracing declaration for all people.

****When Walt Whitman Was a Little Girl - 12 min. by Jim Havercamp, Durham, NC
As the title suggests, this is a speculative biography of the artistic side of Walt Whitman. This
imaginative, cross-identity film, launches with a 9-year-old protagonist who’s a little girl in the role
of a young Walt Whitman. Sometimes Walt would head up to Huntington Bay and sit amid the tall
slender grass and she would use her pocketknife to cut away some of the taller blades. Then she
would run home shouting, “Mama! Mama! Come see the leaves of grass I got!” and together they
would sit and pretend to read poetry from the fronds of grass. Thus the child is catapulted into the
world with her/his senses ablaze. Combining drama, dance, puppetry, and potato cannons, the film
is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad rumination on growing up as a ‘sensitive kid.’

*Penultimate - 4 min. by Paul Meyers, San Francisco, CA
Artist Costas Schuler has an obsession. He’s gone on-line inviting people to send in their unwanted
pens. What to do with thousands of pens becomes an insanely original art project that he drives
in this black and white documentary.

Total Running Time: 96 minutes


***Dziad I Baba - 9 min. by Basia Goszczynska, Lexington, MA
Two soul mates struggle with opposing fears of death and loneliness in this short dark comedy,
which is based upon an old Polish fable. An elderly couple live contently in a small forest hut until
circumstances suddenly shatter their fairytale existence. This gorgeous stop motion (animated)
film features characters and a world created entirely from natural objects such as seedpods,
animal skulls, and crustacean claws.

*****Places Other People Have Lived - 6.75 min. by Laura Emel Yilmaz, Los Angeles, CA
Places Other People Have Lived is a mixed media animation exploring the relationship between
memory and place. Incorporating old photos, recorded interviews with family, and multiple animation
techniques, the film deconstructs, room-by-room, a house that was a family home for more than 25 years.
What begins as a biography of a house, told through bittersweet yet sometimes whimsical anecdotes,
turns quite poignant as the film reflects on how our histories seem to be left behind but still resonate when
leaving another time
and place behind.

*Once There Were Polar Bears - 6 min. by Arthur C. Smith III, Katovik, AL
er Arthur C. Smith III and his wife, Jennifer, live in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Kaktovik on Alaska's
remote Barter Island in the Arctic Ocean. Through Arthur’s exquisite cinematography, the Smith’s are
wholly committed to sharing the truth of polar bears with a misled public. As climate change reshapes
the Arctic, this gripping work combines lead-in titles with frontline images that tell the suppressed history
of Alaskan polar bears living on land, and explores how this past could save their future. This new
short documentary film is the beginning of a feature-length project. 

******Kudzu Vine - 20 min. by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC
A train advances through a railroad crossing flanked by dark masses of leaves…A radio program
broadcasting to Georgia farmers waxes lyrical about kudzu’s many uses and virtues. This broadcast
ushers in surreal and apocalyptic images and sounds of kudzu vines creeping forward, some say a
foot a day. Photographed in black and white, and radiating with the luminance of early cinema, this
ode to the climbing, trailing, and coiling species Pueraria lobata evokes the agricultural history and
mythic textures of the South, while wryly paying tribute to the human capacity for improvisation.

*Year, Make, & Model - 8 min. by Marta Renzi, Nyack, NY
This inventive dance film incorporates a working auto repair shop as its location. “Hey, everybody,
the party’s on at the local garage.” Work will go on in the shop as mechanics and dancers join
forces and find groovy ways of interacting within this gritty workplace. The girls are bringing balloons;
Joey says he’ll drive Poppa; bets are on about who will drive Angela home this time.

*To Do - 1 min. by Patricia McInroy, Denver, CO
This succinct, whimsical work captures a near universal truth about the pace of life in the 21st
century. The filmmaker presents a frantic rush of ‘to do’ memos to herself, in close-up, all with
a pithy beat.

***4000 Gallons: Daniel Johnston’s 100 Large Jar Project - 30 min. by Jay Yager, Sanford, NC
In this piece, which is wrought with irony about “large scale” production and “selling out,” artist
Daniel Johnston challenges himself and the system of mass production when he attempts the
“100 Large Jar Project.” This documentary records the process Johnston must go through as
he makes 100 hand-thrown pots, each one beautiful and unique. As the deadline draws near
and tensions mount, both Johnston and the film raise questions about the possibility for an artist
to create real art on a large scale.

*Everything Is Going To Be Fine - 14.5 min. by Ryan Malloy, San Francisco, CA
This charmingly idiosyncratic consideration of society’s current maladies offers a refreshing
tongue-in-cheek perspective on what one person might do or not do in the face of catastrophe.
Filmmaker Malloy’s personal anecdotal style leaves one bemused and reassured despite the
tribulations of contemporary life.

*Choreography for Plastic Army Men - 5 min. by David Fain, Pasadena, CA
Choreography is a witty, playfully animated music video featuring toy soldiers, perhaps with
a double meaning, set to the instrumental track of ‘Ohayoo Ohio’ by the band Pink Martini.

*Hill Dancers - 13 min. by Doug Cooper and Ryan Woodring, Pittsburgh, PA
Set in 1960 in hilly Pittsburgh, this original work is a hybrid form which mixes live-action
against a green screen with hand drawn industrial images by artist Doug Cooper. Hill Dancers
unfurls Grace’s story; she’s a devout daughter who loves to dance ballet on her porch to her
muse, the sacred music of her church. Her father runs a backyard auto repair shop. Grace
becomes infatuated with a young man who drives a convertible and loves Doo-wop. In a series
of downhill chases and dances, the movie shows their brief romance.

*Live Outside the Box - 4.25 min. by Shu-Hsuan Lin, Freemont, CA
The leading character in this jazzy animation is a workaholic with too little social contact. His
world is suddenly contracting as he finds that his “Main Street America” is succumbing to a
“big box” mentality and nothing remains but corporate drudgery.

Total Running Time: 118 minutes

*Director’s Choice Selection
** Jurors’ Stellar Narrative Selection
*** Jurors’ Citation Selection
**** Juror’s Choice Selection
***** Jurors’ Stellar Animation Selection
****** Jurors’ Stellar Documentary Selection