The Black Maria Film Festival Comes to the University

The University hosted the 33rd annual Black Maria Film and Video Festival in Pollack Theatre to allow students to watch several independent short films for the 12th consecutive year on Tuesday, April 2.

The Black Maria Film and Video Festival, named after the film studio built by Thomas Edison in New Jersey in 1893, honors independent short films of any genre that can last anywhere between five and 30 minutes.

Each year, between 40 and 60 independent films are chosen to be presented at the festival by “noted exponents of independent work,” according to the Black Maria Film and Video Festival’s official website.

The website also states that the festival “encourages and seeks creative, insightful, sensitive, free spirited, expressive, poetic and experimental works in animation, narrative, documentary, and hybrid forms.

Nicole DeSarno, a freshman communication major, said that she enjoyed the films in the festival this year. “I thought it was very different, but very intriguing,” said DeSarno. “I loved how none of the pieces were similar to each other. They each had their own style, which was refreshing and overall extremely entertaining.”

Among the films showcased during the festival was “A Place of Spirit,” a documentary about an artist who was being evicted from her home after living there for 44 years, “Wise Choice or Lucky Guess,” a cartoon about a deceased man choosing between heaven and hell while on an escalator, and “Globe Trot,” a dance-film project made by 54 filmmakers on all seven continents who each contributed two seconds of choreographed dance moves orchestrated by choreographer Bebe Miller.

Chris Chinn, a sophomore communication major, said that the festival was overall average and his favorite films were the animated ones. “[The festival] had its ups and had its downs,” said Chinn. “I did, however, appreciate the work that was put into each work and although not all were my favorite, I liked at least one element from each.”

The Black Maria Film and Video Festival began in 1981 as part of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium, which also runs the New Jersey Young Film and Videomakers’ Festival and the Global Insights/ADA Collection. Each year, approximately 1,000 entries are submitted to the Black Maria Festival, but only 50 of those entries are included in the actual film festival. Twelve of the 50 films selected at this year’s festival were showcased to the attendees at the event on Tuesday.

The Black Maria Film and Video Festival tour began on Feb. 7 at New Jersey City University and continues to travel to schools such as Emerson College, William Paterson University, University of Delaware, University of Wisconsin, and University of the Arts, among other schools.

Each of the dozen films that were screened came from areas around the country, primarily from NY and CA, but also from TX, WI, MN, and OH. All of the films were award winning in a variety of categories ranging from Jury’s Choice to Directors’ Choice. The film “Sidewall” received a Jury’s Citation and the film “For the Birds” was awarded the You Be the Judge: Peoples’ Choice Award.

According to the Black Maria Film and Video Festival’s website, since 1981, the mission of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium has been to promote, illuminate, and advocate innovation in the art of the moving image, a mission that has been embraced for over 33 years.