Black Maria Film Festival

Matthew Lawrence, a specialist professor of communication, curated the Black Maria Film Festival. The festival is an opportunity  to showcase independent short subject and feature length films from both domestic and international filmmakers. 

At this event, nine shorts were chosen to showcase the festival’s diverse selection of films on Thursday, April 2 in Pollak Theater, 

Donna Dolphin, an associate professor of communication  who usually curates the event, was on sabbatical. Lawrence  said he jumped at the opportunity to host it, and felt the process more rewarding than nerve-wracking, especially given the turnout.

“Personally, just as a filmmaker, my favorite part of the filmmaking experience is after it’s done and you screen it in front of an audience, so I want to please people,” Lawrence said on curating the event. “Even though you didn’t make the film, it feels great to pick a film in which you see the audience is really engaged and they’re laughing or you can see when they gasp at a moment in the film and you’re like, ‘Okay, I made the right decision here.’”

The shorts in the program included documentaries, animation and narrative films. The documentary category included: Umbrella House, about a group of immigrant “squatters” who lived in abandoned tenements in New York and dedicated themselves to political activism and art; Self Portrait Portrait, a meditation on art by a man who has been drawing self portraits every day for the last twenty years; The Stick Maker, which relates the passion Alfred Jacques has for lacrosse who imbues his love and knowledge for the game in every lacrosse stick he makes;  and Fausto and Emilio, about two brothers who have worked as barbers for the last few decades, bringing their culture to their job in subtle ways.

In the animation category, A Pirate Named Ned was screened, detailing the notorious and vicious swashbuckler Edward ‘Ned’ Low and his life struggling with being a single parent and having a very short temper. Also screened was Ideas That Are Grand, a piece about a man who survived the extinction of the human race and finds other ways to occupy his time.

In the live action narrative category, the shorts Killing My Girl, Jaya and Lightning in the Hand were screened. Killing My Girl showcased a mother who is forced to abort her female child due to her family’s wishes. Jaya featured a young girl who lives as a poor pickpocket in the streets of India. She sets out to find her real father when she sees a man similar to him in the streets. 

The last, Lightning in the Hand, a western with high production values, was about a struggle over land between silver miners, a railroad company and an Apache youth. 

Regarding attendance, students came to the event for a variety of reasons. For instance, Jack Olszewski, a freshman software engineering student, came for a love of movies. “I like movies in general and short films interest me… I haven’t watched a lot of short films, so I guess I’m just looking to see what kind of films are out there,” he said.

Patrick Hall, a junior communication student, came because of an interest in the technical side of it. “For as long as I can remember, all I’ve wanted to do was write my own stories for a living, and when I found out how much I love movies, I wanted to be a screenwriter… When I found out Monmouth was having a film festival, I thought this would be a really good experience to just figure out how these film festivals really work and what is really showcased,” he said.

Regular Black Maria attendees, such as Dr. Chad Dell, Chair of the Communication Department, come because they enjoy the festival itself. “I always come in with high expectations with the Black Maria film festival…I know that there’s always going to be at least a half a dozen works that are going to wow me, one way or another,” Dell explained.

“I hope it just continues to grow,” Lawrence stated on the future of film based events such as this. At the end of a successful screening, hopes are high that enthusiasm for film will be fostered and spread in later events to come.