Black Maria Film Festival to make tour stop at VCU

Hunter Casten
Contributing Writer

The Black Maria Film Festival, known for its practice of highlighting independent productions, will make a stop at VCU on April 2 for the festival’s 34th annual tour.

Founded in 1980, at the Thomas A. Edison National Historic Park, the festival shows independent films that are not featured in theaters. The festival was named after Thomas Edison’s first film production studio in West Orange, N.J. Each year, the tour starts at New Jersey City University and works its way across about 20 states, reaching almost 65 institutions each year.

“I first proposed the Black Maria Film Festival to the Thomas A. Edison National Historical Park in 1980,” said John Columbus, Founder and Director emeritus. “My idea was to find and exhibit fresh independent films that would not normally be seen at theaters.”

Listed as one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee,” the Black Maria Film Festival “encourages and seeks creative, insightful, sensitive, free spirited, expressive, poetic and experimental works in animation, narrative, documentary and hybrid forms,” according to its website.

The festival offers four prize winning categorizations; juries’ Stellar Awards, juries’ choice first prize, juries’ citation second prize and director’s choice third prize. The jurors include: John Knecht, a professor of art, art history and film and media studies at Colgate University; Cynthia Lopéz, vice president and executive co-producer of American Documentary and Point of View, a studio by PBS; and Chi-hui Yang, film programmer and professor of Asian American Studies at Hunter College in New York.

The 2014 tour began Feb. 7, at New Jersey City University, the weekend of Thomas Edison’s birthday, and will end Sunday, July 13, at the Squeeky Wheel media arts center in Buffalo, N.Y.

A comprehensive 90-minute presentation of film and video curated by festival organizers and professors will be shown at the host venue, and between 45 and 60 films will be displayed on the annual tour.

The event will be held at the Anderson Gallery at 907 W. Franklin St. VCU students are admitted for free. Tickets will cost $10 at the door.

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