Ghostly film screens at Grace Street Theatre

Melissa Stamp
Contributing Writer

Director and producer Sara Driver made an appearance at the screening of her 1993 film “When Pigs Fly” on Tuesday, Nov. 11 at the Grace Street Theatre. The screening was free to the public on first come first serve availability.

As part of VCUarts Cinematheque’s film series for this semester, the film stars a young Alfred Molina and Maggie O’Neill as its human protagonists and Marianne Faithfull and Rachael Bella as ghosts.  Alfred Molina plays a heavy drinking jazz lover and landlord of a decayed town.  His routine life is interrupted when his tenant, Maggie O’Neill, brings him an antique rocking chair as a gift, unaware that two genial ghosts are attached to the chair after having died on it. The film takes an impactful turn as the humans are exposed to the ghost world and learn the full story behind this haunted rocking chair.

A graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s college and former professor at New York Graduate Film School, Driver gave a brief statement before the film began and spent time answering questions from the audience afterwards.

Driver purposefully chose a location that was industrialized, but not heavily inhabited, to add to the feeling of a ghost story. She originally thought she would be shooting in Massachusetts, but was surprised when the location was changed to East Germany.  This provided a unique opportunity to experience the difference in film industry overseas as well as German culture not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“I feel everyone on set is equal no matter what their function. In Germany there’s a sense of hierarchy and it was great to see that change as we worked together,” said Driver.

As technology was limited in the early 1990’s Driver and her small crew of 23 did a lot of mathematical planning for special effects.  She notes the use of mirrors and black velvet to make ghosts appear transparent while still moving and interacting with human characters.

Driver said she used this film as a purge during a time when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its peak and she herself lost seven friends in one year.  The film ends with a tribute to those friends as the words “Dedicated to the Ghosts who walk with us” linger on the dark screen.

“It was a way of coming to terms with what was going in my friend group and in the world. I’ve  accepted it now and I’m still inspired by those I lost, but in different ways,” said Driver.

“When Pigs Fly” was co-written with playwright and novelist Ray Dobbins and features music by Joe Strummer.  It has been screened at the Maine International Film Festival, Rhode Island Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.

VCU Cinematheque shows eight films per semester that range from independent U.S. films to foreign or big classic films.  All shows are on Tuesdays at Grace Street Theatre beginning at 7 p.m.  All films are projected in 35 mm and are free of charge to students and the public.

“I really enjoyed this film, because of the special effects and makeup used while working with ghosts,” said sophomore Cinema student Maria Kellam.

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