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12th Maryland Film Festival-Final Wrap with additional info & pics

Below are expanded coverage & reviews, including information & photos from the Q&A's, of the 14 films I covered during the 3 day festival.

FINAL THOUGHTS
After a somewhat mediocre festival in 2008, Jed Dietz has put together outstanding back-to-back events the last 2 years. He served up a brilliant coup getting 2009's eventual Oscar winner"The Hurt Locker" to close the 2009 fest; and then followed that with the outstanding "Mother and Child" this year. Although it will probably not win Best Picture, Rodrigo Garcia's movie was a wonderful way to close out this year's proceedings. Jed & his staff continue to pluck fine offerings from the nations top festivals (including Sundance, Toronto, & SXSW) and the result are 3 days worth of selections that will amply fill the palate of most ardent movie goers. In fact, a common complaint is having to eliminate films of interest because it bumps up against another choice. My only gripe was an occasional delayed screening which affected getting to another film on time that immediately followed in another venue. However, the crowds, even on the usually slow first day on Friday afternoon, seemed more abundant than in years past. And the Charles Theater hub is the perfect setting for taking in the wonderful filmic ambiance this festival brings to Baltimore year after year. Bravo to the folks at The Maryland Film Festival for another glorious 3 days in May!

MY TOP 5 FILMS AT THE 12TH MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL:
(1) "Mother and Child"
(2) "Cyrus"
(3) "Dogtooth"
(4) "Beautiful Darling"
(5) "Lovers of Hate"

Sunday May 9, 2010-DAY 3 & Closing Night

"Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness" (****-64 minutes)
The annual appearance by the world renowned Alloy Orchestra starts off the final day and this year they are providing the live music for the remarkable 1927 staged documentary which won an Academy Award for "Unique and Artistic Production" at the initial 1929 Oscar ceremony. Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack went on to make the classic "King Kong" in 1933 and much of the style and techniques they used here can be seen in their narrative masterpiece 4 years later. Filmed in what today is the Thai jungle the film makers used staged sets and real actors to tell their story of life for a family in the Siamese jungle and how they cope growing crops and dealing with the myriad of animals-tame and wild-that were part of their universe. The filmed action is breathtaking and the killing on screen, unfortunately, was real (yes, animals were harmed in the making of the movie) and unpredictable. The original score by the talented Alloy members, Terry Donahue, Ken Winokur, & Roger Miller (who seem to reinvent itself with every new film they score) was a perfect complement to the action. Equally exciting was the announcement that they would be returning to Baltimore later this year with the score for the latest version of the Fritz Lang 1927 classic "Metropolis" and that their music was being considered as an alternate version on the official DVD release. An amazing performance for a beautifully conceived classic silent.
During his introduction, film critic/author Michael Sragow mentioned Merian C. Cooper, who later went on to make the original "King Kong", had dropped out (or had been kicked out) from Annapolis and then became a legendary fighter pilot during WWI. He also mentioned that the original score used 6 thunder drums to produce a very percussive sound. After the film, Michael pointed out that the cinematographer was the first person to dig a pit to film under the elephant stampede, which, as Ken added, used 150 rented elephants.



The Alloy Orchestra (from l to r):
Terry Donahue (accordion, musical saw, vocals).
Roger Miller (keyboards), &
dir Ken Winokur (junk percussion, & clarinet

Film critic, author, & columnist
Michael Sragow introduces the film









To protect from the jungle predators, the Kru family mansion is built
on stilts
Chang

"Cold Weather" (**-90 minutes)
Another mumblecore production that, unfortunately, was virtually unwatchable. This is director Aaron Katz's tale of a loner (Chris Lankenau) who drops out of college and moves to Portland where his sister (Trieste Kelly Dune who appeared in "United 93") resides. He gets a job in an ice factory when his ex-girlfriend (Robyn Rikoon) comes to visit. He then befriends a co-worker (Raul Castillo) who takes an interest in the loner's obsession with Sherlock Holmes. When the ex-girlfriend suddenly disappears, the story is supposed to take on mystery (I get the Holmes connection). However, by that time, you couldn't care less about the disappearance, the suitcase full of money, the clues in a motel room, and all the other nonsense because the characters, as well as the plot, are as interesting as a watching paint dry. This one gives mumblecore a bad name.
After the screening, director Aaron Katz announced that the film had been picked up for distribution by IFC and that it was due to open in NY, Portland, and a 3rd city in the fall or early next year. It would also be made available on IFC On Demand.






Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn), Doug (Cris Lankenau) &
Carlos (Raul Castillo) chum it up before the mystery begins
Director Aaron Katz

"Music By Prudence" (****-32 minutes)
What better way to rid myself of the 90 minutes that I'll never get back than with a film and event that, not only was it the highlight of this year's festival, but the most memorable event of the previous 11 years! The short documentary that won the category at this year's Academy Awards (if you saw the show, you'll recall the Kanye West moment when the angry red-haired ex-producer, Elinor Burkett, rudely interrupted director Roger Ross Williams' acceptance speech) is so inspirational and true, I'm getting chills just writing about it. The doc relates how the 23 year old Prudence, the Zimbabwe native stricken with the debilitating condition, arthrogyposis, rose to prominence as an accomplished singer, despite the tribal tradition of neglecting and even killing disabled children they think were the result of witchcraft. Abandoned by her birth parents, Prudence was saved and raised by her maternal grandmother and later entered the King George VI School, a private school for disabled children where she formed her own band, Liyana (which means "it's raining"). A truly inspirational film that will have you rethinking how important each of us are and the potential we all bring to this table called "life". Afterwards, the audience was then graced with the presence of Prudence who, along with Baltimore musicians Shodekeh and drummer Jason Baker, put on a 15+ minute performance that had the crowd literally dancing in the aisles by its conclusion. This lady has more beauty and charisma than any performer I have ever seen (and I've seen plenty!) making this event truly a once-in-a-lifetime happening. Producer Patrick Wright mentioned that the performance at some point will be available online. This beautiful documentary begins its run on Wednesday May 12th on HBO and on-demand. Make every effort to see it!
Prior to the screening, MFF director Jed Dietz pointed out the Baltimore connection: co-producer and assistant editor Patrick Wright runs the Video and Film Art Department at the Maryland Institute of College of Art (MICA), where the screening was being held. Then Patrick followed Jed stating that MICA threw their support behind the project that included a MICA grad, Erik Webber, as the cinematographer. Director Roger Ross Williams followed saying that the film would not have been made if it wasn't for MICA, supplying him the camera when he went to Africa the first time. Following the screening was that electrifying 15 minute concert by Prudence. Following the well deserved standing ovation, the charismatic subject of the Short Documentary Award winner answered questions from the enthusiastic admirers. When asked if she had reunited with her natural parents, who essentially abandoned her to be raised by her grandmother, she informed us that, after the Academy Awards, her parents came back. She revealed that they now realize that being disabled doesn't mean that "you're inhuman". She said they "talked & talked & talked"; then she poignantly added that "I forgave them". When asked by a little girl in the audience is it OK to be in a wheelchair, she replied that it was 50/50 as she gets to be lifted up everyday but yearns to be independent. When quizzed as to who her favorite musical artists were, she mentioned Mariah Carey, R Kelly, and, whispering and urging the audience not to tell, Eminem. Finally, in the film she is shown wearing a t-shirt that says "So What?".When asked what that means, she said that, in other words, "I'm disabled . . .so what!' After being in her presence, I could not have said it any better!







Prudence before her performance at the screening
Prudence performs after the screening with Baltimore
musicians Shodekeh (l) & Jason Baker (r)


Director Roger Ross Williams (l) & co-producer/assistant
editor Patrick Wright

"Mother and Child" (*** 1/2-126 minutes)
My high from Prudence didn't diminish in the least with this absolutely outstanding film which is the latest from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia. It would be hard to top last year's closing night film which just happened to be "The Hurt Locker"-screened months before its release. However, MFF Director Jed Dietz has nearly come close with this magnificent film. Garcia (whose father just happens to be the 20th century literary giant, Gabriel José de la Concordia "Gabo" García Márquez) took 10 years to construct and finalize a script that features the incredible acting of Hollywood standouts Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, & Samuel L. Jackson-to name but a few, in this sensitive portrait of 3 characters whose lives as mother &/or child intersect in ways that are unexpected but true. The overall theme is adoption but there also is an undercurrent of family and marriage that will hit home to most as the story unfolds on the screen. Garcia explored this dramatic style of intersecting story lines in one of my favorite films of 2001: "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her". And, as in that film starring Glenn Close & Cameron Diaz, he's assembled a group of actors that will astound you by their acting chops here in so many ways. Add in a glorious score by veteran Edward Shearmur, who also scored Rodrigo's previous 2 films. Garcia's talents as writer & director have now been honed to such a degree that by year's end, I predict, this work will be listed on many top 10 lists-including the Academy Awards. A splendid way to wrap up the 12th annual!
On introducing Rodrigo prior to the screening, MFF Director Jed Dietz mentioned that this film, as well as Rodrigo's first effort, 2001's wonderful "Things You Can Tell By Looking At Her", both were recipients of the Maryland Film Makers Fellowship award. In partnership with The Sundance Labs, the award gives a film maker a $10,000 grant for pre-production and the stipulation that it would be brought to Maryland. (Tanya Hamilton also won this award for "Night Catches Us" which was screened earlier at the festival & reviewed below.) After premiering at this year's Sundance, it was later included at Cannes. Rodrigo followed the screening stating that The Maryland Fellowship award was his first distinction and that it was the 3rd time he was back in Maryland with a film (2005's "9 Lives" was the other film). His career first began as a Director of Photography (including Angelina Jolie's 1998's "Gia"). When asked how he received the extraordinary performances from the ensemble, he revealed that, as a director, he doesn't believe in rehearsing his actors but, instead, prefers to see what's in front of him and then react to it. He added that he agonizes over the casting and that he holds conversations with each actor to make certain that "they're both making the same movie." Adding, "You don't want your voice in their head." Interestingly, he said that he thought the movie was beyond the subject of mother & child and even adoption-that the movie was more about separation and how people live with an absent person. When queried as to how long it took to create the intricate script, Rodrigo revealed it took 10 years to get it right. When Jed pointed out that the actors were playing characters outside their usual persona, Rodrigo said that he initially didn't think about casting Jimmy Smits or Samuel L. Jackson until he saw and admired them in "Dexter" & "Changing Lanes", respectively. Rodrigo, who seems to have a special talent for nailing female sensibilities in his script writing, was then told by a female audience member how amazed she was that the actors "sounded so much like how women talk together." He amusingly responded that it comes naturally since he was "a junkie for female behavior". The Sony Classics film, which is excutive produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Amores Perros", "21 Grams", & "Babel"), began its limited release on May 7th.


Paul (Samuel L. Jackson) & Elizabeth (Naomi Watts)
on their first date

Karen (Annette Bening) & Paco (Jimmy Smits)
Ray (Shareeka Epps) interviews Joseph (David Ramsey),
& Lucy (Kerry Washington) who are vying for her
unborn child
Director Rodrigo Garcia
________________________________________________

Saturday May 8, 2010-DAY 2



"Casino Jack and the United States of Money" (***-120 minutes)
Day 2 brought another sunny, but EXTREMELY windy day at the fest. No matter, though, if you are hunkered down in a seat inside a movie theater for most of the day. First up was the latest documentary from Alex Gibney, who won an AA for his doc "Taxi to the Dark Side" in 2008. As in his 2005 "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room", the doc is thorough (maybe a little too much so) & entertaining in delivering a complex in-your-face look at illegal/immoral Capitol Hill lobbyists, in general, and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in particular. Very slick and using a multitude of effective techniques in telling his story, Alex may have had too much information to convey in the end as its 2 hour running length requires the viewer to give complete attention to a subject. The film will leave you outraged, but not surprised, when you see the extent of the corruptness of some of the elected officials that we voted into office. Worth seeing but not nearly as strong as Gibney's previous efforts.




"Casino" Jack Abramoff
Director Alex Gibney

"William S. Burroughs: A Man Within" (***-87 minutes)
An impressive first effort by 25 year Yony Leser who actually was kicked out of a Chicago high school. Originally conceived as a short film, Yony instead turned this into a full blown comprehensive look at the literary icon who is best known for "Naked Lunch" (made into a movie by David Cronenberg) and introducing into our language such terms as "beatnik", "heavy metal" & "punk rock" music. Harvard educated Burroughs,who hung out with Allan Ginsberg & Jack Kerouac, was a homosexual (who actually married and shot and killed his wife!) who was also a junkie. Burroughs was an enigma who is explained here using interviews with Peter Weller (who also narrates), Patty Smith, John Waters, & Iggy Pop, among other notables. Music by Smith & Sonic Youth adds to this fascinating profile of one of 20th century's most important figures. The film is close to a distribution deal and is expected to be released theatrically by the end of the year.


William S. Burroughs
Director Yony Leyser (l) is joined
by John Waters during the Q&A


"And Everything Is Going Fine" (***-89 minutes)
Yet another doc-this one from accomplished Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic") on Spalding Gray. Gray was a live theater genius who is best noted for his monologue performances (one was made into a film by the great Jonathan Demme in 1987: "Swimming to Cambodia")-but he tragically is believed to have committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 62 after a traffic accident in Ireland . Soderbergh culled over 120 hours of material to produce to homage to a man who used the stage as his personal therapeutic couch to entertain theater goers with his unique style and talent (he had an uncanny ability to string together nonstop streams of consciousness). Unfortunately, I feel the film will suffer for those who are not familiar with him as the clips really do not give his talent full justice. However, for those who give their time to explore the genius, you will be awarded with this intimate look into a unique artist. His 17 year old son, Forrest, created the soundtrack. The film will be released later this year.




Spalding Gray
Kathleen Russo, Spalding's
widow and producer of the film


"Cyrus" (*** 1/2-92 minutes)
One of the best proponents of mumblecore, an American independent film movement that began in the early 2000's and noted for one-take improvised scripts, are the Duplass brothers Mark & Jay. Their initial film, "The Puffy Chair", was one of my favorites at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. The brothers are going more and more big time and now have made a film starring some great Hollywood A-list talent on a film that will produce some acting nominations come Oscar time. Lovable loser John (John C. Reilly in a breakout role) is down in the dumps when he finds out that his ex-wife (Catherine Keener), who previously dumped him 7 years ago, is about to wed. After she convinces him to attend a party to try and meet a new lady, it starts disastrously when he proceeds to get disgustingly drunk. However, Molly (the wonderful Marisa Tomei), somehow, sees a sensitive soul who has lost his way and before too long they actually connect that night and begin a relationship. However, when Molly repeatedly and mysteriously leaves his pad in the middle of the night, John gets suspicious and decides to follow her home one night. Falling asleep in his car, he awakens the next day to inadvertently meets her peculiar son Cyrus (Jonah Hill who is sure to be nominated). I don't want to give too much away, but the script, acting, and execution of this wonderfully moving story is sure to put the Duplass brothers on the Hollywood map big-time. Great fun! The Fox Searchlight Sundance hit is being platformed on June 18th.





(l to r) Molly (Marisa Tomei), Cyrus (Jonah Hill),
John (John C. Reilly) & Jamie (Catherine Keener)
enjoy a Kodak moment

"Lovers of Hate" (***-93 minutes)
Another fine narrative feature wraps up the day in this offbeat relationship comedy/drama by writer/director Bryan Poyser. Sibling rivalry, mixed with a romantic triangle, is the subject matter. Rudy (Chris Doubek) is living in his car after being dumped by his wife (Heather Kafka). Unbeknownst to him, his successful literary brother Paul (Alex Karpovsky) is about to move in on Rudy's wife. When Rudy gets suspicious, he decides to visit Paul when he sets up shop for a weekend getaway in Utah. However, while in the condo, and before he makes his presence known, he is surprised when Diana shows up at the house. Meanwhile, although he is hiding in the spacious home, he gets to hear all of the romantic goings on-much to his dismay. A touching sensitive subject given credence by a group of competent actors, makes this one a great way to end the day. The film is currently available on-demand over the Comcast network.





Paul (Alex Karpovsky) & Diana (Heather Kafka)

Rudy (Chris Doubek) hides from Paul
& his wife Diana in Paul's resort condo
________________________________________________


Friday May 7, 2010-DAY 1

"Beautiful Darling" (***-86 minutes)
It's another beautiful day in 'ol Balmer & what a fitting way to kick things off with a wonderful doc about one of underground cinema's most glamorous divas: Candy Darling. Born James Lawrence Slattery in, what is generally believed 1944, Candy was a woman in a man's body who yearned to be a famous Hollywood bombshell in the footstep of her idol Kim Novak. A staple in Andy Warhol's Factory, she made 2 of his films, "Flesh" (1968) & "Woman in Revolt" and even was cast by Tennessee Williams in his play "Small Craft Warnings". Appropriate interviews with Fran Lebowitz & John Waters (who seems to be everywhere nowadays) are provided but mainly focuses on the recollections of producer Jeremiah Newton, Candy's longtime friend, confidante, & executor of her estate. Director James Resin has crafted a loving portrait of an intriguing personality, who died way before her time of cancer before she turned 30.
At the Q&A, Jeremiah had stated Candy started making a lot of money doing cabaret, entertaining offers to do the same in Europe around 1973 and had even opened a famous disco in New York in the early 70's. He also mentioned her agent, unfortunately, had nixed an idea from Tennessee Williams to write a play for her. He elaborated on a point in the film that transgenders were severely persecuted in New York and were even thrown in jail for their appearance. Although not specified during the film, he mentioned that the hormones Candy was taking, known as the Swedish pill, more than likely caused her cancer.





Candy Darling
Director James Rasin
Producer & Candy's close friend
Jeremiah Newton

"Night Catches Us" (***-90 minutes)
Jamaica born Tanya Hamilton took nearly 10 years to make this film that won high praise at this year's Sundance Film Festival after initially being created in the Sundance Labs. Taking place in 1976 Philadelphia, the story concerns ex-Black Panthers who have moved on from their political beliefs but must deal with them years after their activism has ended. Marcus Washington has returned home for his father's funeral and must confront his past including an ex-girl friend he abruptly abandoned, and those who hold him responsible for events in the past that he thought he had left behind. Tanya has assembled an exquisite ensemble of actors who have given credence to the quiet, but powerful script. Superb acting from Kerry Washington ("Ray"), who is appearing in the closing night film :"Mother & Child"), Anthonie Mackie ("The Hurt Locker"), and from HBO's "The Wire", Wendell Pierce and Jamie Hector, including an effective soundtrack from The Roots, help make the earnest 90 minutes worthwhile.
Tanya revealed during the Q&A that watching the film she had 2 regrets wishing she had given her favorite character, the rebellious Jimmy, more depth, and to humanize the police more than she did. Her intent was to make a human drama about a group who's political & social beliefs are not fully understood & appreciated by mainstream America. However, even though I feel its marketing appeal is limited, it has been picked up by Magnolia for distribution in the fall.




Marcus (Anthony Mackie) & Patricia (Kerry Washington)
in a quiet moment

Director Tanya Hamilton & moderator, professor & radio
host Mark Steiner

"Dogtooth:" (*** 1/2-96 minutes)
If you click on my blog profile and read a list of my favorite films, you'll notice one entitled "Irreversible". I saw this astounding movie, directed by Gasper Noe, at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and, it remains one of the most amazing cinematic works I have ever seen. However, that film, as this film, is also one that is quite polarizing: one either "likes" it or abhors it-there are no inbetweeners. Here is another one that occupies the exact same polarizing territory. At the screening I attended, clearly 25% of the nearly full audience walked out before the final credits rolled. Afterwards, I heard such comments as "Brilliant", "disgusting", "great", "awful". You can put me in the "brilliant" category. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' 2nd feature is a dark "comedy" that is simple in execution but disturbing on so many levels. The basic premise: a father and mother have theoretically imprisoned their 3 children, who, when the film opens are older teenagers, behind the walls of their mansion for their entire lives. Everything the children do are under complete control of the parents. They are taught incorrect meanings of words ("zombie" is a small yellow flower) and are even led to believe the planes that fly overhead are actually miniature toys that will someday fall onto their lawn for them to find. Although there is humor in some of this (you can hear nervous audience laughter/chuckles throughout), there is also a lot of surprising darkness that will startle &, for some, disgust. The screenplay is surprisingly quiet but the acting, especially by the teens, are nothing short of incredible and are totally believable in projecting how they would react to a life of total seclusion. The film has won numerous awards, including the top prize from the 2009 Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, and picked up for distribution by Kino. Devoid of any soundtrack, this haunting film will stay with you long after the lights come up.




The 3 secluded teenagers perform for their parents during
a birthday party


"Family Affair" (***-80 Minutes)
Another startling film about a family but, this time, it's real life. Film maker Chico Colvard's first film, which premiered at this year's Sundance, is a doozy, as he focuses on his dysfunctional family. Chico begins telling the story of how he, at the age of 10 in 1978, acting out TV's "The Rifleman", actually shoots & wounds his sister in the leg. However, the story is not about that incident but about the dark secrets of his family. What seemed like a horrible accident at the time, turned out to be a blessing in disguise when it led to revelations of years of familial abuse. Elijah, an African-American soldier who wed a Jewish German woman he met while in the service, continually sexually abused Chico's 3 sisters, Paula, Angelika, & Chiquita, for years. This revelation begins his 9 year journey to uncover the secrets that, unfortunately, are way too prevalent in our society. Told mainly through the words of the victims, instead of the usual psychoanalytic talking heads, makes this film that much more powerful. The film was produced by award winning Liz Garbus ("The Execution of Wanda Jean") and includes music by Grammy nominee Miriam Cutter and is an impressive first effort by the director who has a law degree and currently teaches at University of Massachusetts. At the Q&A, Chico revealed HBO was interested but ultimately wanted more professionals quoted in the film. He decided not to go in that direction & wanted to make it more a personal document instead-a decision that makes the doc even more effective. I couldn't help wondering how different his life might have been had he been born a female. The film will debut in 2011 on OWN, Oprah Winfrey's network and is the first film for her Documentary Film Club.
Colvin admitted after the film that he had no intention of making a film but, as a lawyer, started filming his sisters as a means to gather evidence to try and make sense of what their father had done. Despite interviewing a lot of talking heads for the film, he made the decision to exclude them so not to "silence his sisters"-which he admitted ultimately cost him an HBO deal . (HBO informed they wanted him to "cloak his film in a veil of expertise".)





Elijah Colvard, the patriarch

Director Chico Colvard

"Saturday Night" (** 1/2-96 minutes)
Actor James Franco (who also has 2 short films at this year's fest: "The Feast of Stephen" & Herbert White-both based on poems) gives us an up close and personal look into the inner makings of NBC's Saturday Night Live" giving us an inside look at what it takes to put on a weekly episode. Franco, who twice hosted the show, turned his NYU graduate film school project into this feature length doc which would have been more successful as a short documentary. From the first day on Monday (Pitch Day) to the last dress rehearsal just hours before the live broadcast, we are given a detailed (and I do mean detailed) fly-on-the-wall view of the proceedings. Each day is given a thorough going over as cast members are shown presenting ideas, and interacting with each other, SNL producer Lorne Michaels , the host, etc., ad infinitum, until the jokes and story lines of each skit become more and more monotonous & tedious to us in the audience. Tuesday appears to be the more strenuous day when the writers put in such long hours creating ideas they end up using their office as a bedroom. Everything involved with the weekly show is included, including set construction. We see decisions being made to include & exclude skits (one involving an ad for Empire Carpet was cut almost right up until show time) depending on the rehearsal audience response. In the end, only 9 of the 50 initially submitted skits make the final cut to air on Saturday night. The show was originally broadcasted on December 6th 2008 and hosted by John Malkovich. Although a fascinating look into the process, this one needs extensive editing as much of it is repetitive and goes on way too long. A 45-60 minute concise version would have made it much more watchable.



______________________________________________



Thursday May 6, 2010-OPENING NIGHT

Glorious 80 degree weather greeted the crowd that nearly filled the Brown Center Auditorium ready & anxious to get the annual festival underway. And following a winter that brought a record 2 blizzards to the Baltimore area in 5 days, and dumped another record 80+ inches of snow only a scant 3 months ago, it was a welcome relief!

Jed Dietz opened the festival, and, after individually thanking his tireless staff, he turned the microphone over to Director of Programming, Eric Hatch & Programming Administrator, Scott Braid. They in turn introduced the film makers responsible for the shorts that have become an annual opening night tradition.

Getting the program underway was directors Andrew Blackwell's (who was present) & Andrew Goldman's short"Bikini Lighters:" (** 1/2- 9 minutes), a small drama filmed in Howard County outside of Baltimore, about 3 kids who shoplift a bag of lighter. When they head to the woods to explode them, they encounter a couple of older teens who complicates their plans.

Next was :"Voice on the Line (***-7 minutes). Director Kelly Sears is a collector of media artifacts and has created a interesting matted collage to present an environment of fear around the visuals.

Director Sol Friedman's :"Junko Shamisen:" (***-10 minutes). has combined "the aesthetic traditions of kabuki, contemporary manga illustration, and through the use of cell, stop-motion and computer animation" to produce mesmerizing visuals around this story of revenge in feudal Japan.

Next was director Mark Cummin's "Slow Pitch in Relief:" (*** 1/2-15 minutes), my personal favorite. Over the years, I have found that shorts produced by USC students are amazing in the quality of their story telling and production. Mark's contribution was no exception in this homage to films of the past. Set in 1957, a weary traveling salesman yearns to settle down and meets a mother with a young son that might be the answer to his prayers. However, to impress the son, he concocts a story about himself and then must find a way to wriggle out of his predicament when it appears he has been caught. Beautifully conceived.

Next was Kenneth Price's "The Late Mr. Mokun Williams:" (*** 1/2-6 minutes), a humorous concept that poses the question :"What if one of those spam letters we are inundated with were actually true?

Durier Ryan;'s "Monroe Street" (** 1/2-10 minutes) about a boy from Bed-Stuy Brooklyn who borrows a video cam from school and turns it on the inhabitants of his neighborhood.

Finally was "Loop Loop" (***-5 minutes), an interesting use of sound and over 1000 images moving forward and backward by director Patrick Bergeron. Mesmerizing in the way we view and process images.

Following a quick Q&A with the directors, the crowd was treated to post-screening grub in the lobby and most quickly spilled outside to enjoy the beautiful May evening-anticipating the excitement of the next 3 days.

The Brown Center at Maryland Institute College of Art

Maryland Film Festival Director, Jed Dietz
Director of Programming, Eric Hatch
Programming Administrator Scott Braid
The film makers (from l to r): Scott Blackwell, Mark Cummins,
Durier Ryan, Kenneth Price, MFF dir Jed Dietz, Patrick Bergeron,
Sol Friedman, & Kelly Sears


The after screening party