34th Annual Black Maria Film Festival

by Sebastian Krawiec
Black Maria Film Festival

The 34th Annual Black Maria Film Festival’s opening weekend kicks off on Thursday, February 5 at 8 p.m. in the Gothic Lounge of Hepburn Hall (2039 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, NJ) at New Jersey City University, the festival’s home base. The opening night screening will present the top four Stellar Award Winning films from the 2015 jury competition. The screening is free of charge, light refreshments will be served and the event is open to students, faculty and the general public.

On Friday, February 6 at 8 p.m., the Black Maria Film Festival will be at the Hoboken Historical Museum (1301 Hudson St., Hoboken, NJ), presenting the Global Insights Stellar Award winning documentary “Yakona” and two other outstanding documentary shorts. Admission to this screening is $10 at the door with free validated parking available at Littleman Parking Garage at 12th Street and Shipyard Lane. Light refreshments will be included.

A gala event will be held on Saturday, February 7 which will have a wine tasting donated by Make Wine With Us from Wallington, NJ in addition to the screening of the Festival’s award winning films of various genres, including narrative, experiment, and animated. The gala and screening will be held at Art House Productions (136 Magnolia Ave., Jersey City, NJ) at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 at arthouseproduction.org, or at the door for $12. Due to limited seating, advanced purchase is recommended. Limited free parking is available, though being located adjacent to the Journal Square PATH station, Art House Productions is readily accessible via public transportation.

Black Maria Film Festival will close out its opening weekend Sunday, February 8, with a matinee at 2 p.m., sponsored by the West Orange Film Society and held at the AMC Dine-in, Essex Green 9 (495 Prospect Ave., West Orange, NJ). The screening will feature another eclectic selection of short films, as well as a Q & A. Admission is $10 at the door.

To learn more about the Black Maria Film Festival, its tour dates and how to submit entries for competition, visit blackmariafilmfestival.org.

The following is a detailed Opening Weekend program list courtesy of the Black Maria Film Festival:

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 8 P.M. AT NJCU running time 46:00

Jury’s Stellar Awards:

Without a Doubt – Animation

6 min. by Gerald Guthrie, Urbana, IL.

“Without a Doubt” is a digital animation that illustrates a variation on the 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes’ view of the world. This time-based visual metaphor pulls together Descartes’ understanding of geometry, expressly the Cartesian coordinates of X, Y and Z, and his most famous statement, “I think, therefore I am,” to create an introspective dimension within our own understanding.

Self Portrait Portrait – Documentary

6 min. by James Hollenbaugh, Mount Joy, PA.

Bryan Lewis Saunders has been creating a self-portrait every day for nearly twenty years. This short documentary examines his process and determination to create, without pretension or boundaries.  Each portrait is a unique slice from Bryan’s daily life exploring a wide range of emotions, desires, and fears.

cyberGenesis – Experimental

13 min. by Andre Silva, Wilmington, NC.

What if we were the creator gods that a future cyber consciousness mythologized when imagining its origins? Or perhaps, we ourselves are blasting off into some currently unimaginable next phase of our evolution, one that transcends a purely physical existence.  “cyberGenesis,” a creatively crowdsourced short film, imagines a future creation myth, crafted by cyber consciousness from bits and pieces of humanity’s online legacy.

Jaya – Narrative

19 min. by Puja Maewal, Los Angeles, CA.

Young Jaya survives gruesome gang life on the unforgiving streets of Mumbai by posing as a boy. When she meets a wealthy businessman who may be the father who abandoned her, she sets out to reclaim her identity.


Consider the Ant – Documentary

11 min. by Emily Fraser, Stanford, CA.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here? A personal search for ethics in the post-modern wilds of an overpopulated planet – where Catholic guilt, environmental destruction, and the fascinating lives of ants collide. Featuring Paul Ehrlich, the world’s leading expert on overpopulation, this kaleidoscopic journey of science and spirituality asks us, as individuals and as a species, “who are we?” and “who do we want to be?”

Steel Mill Rolling – Documentary

12 min. by Ross Nugent, Pittsburgh, PA.

Equal parts landscape, industrial and portrait film, “Steel Mill Rolling” is a document of a functioning steel mill in Western Pennsylvania where the filmmaker’s family has worked for nearly 100 years. The plant operates with a fraction of the laborers it once employed, and the operations are relegated to specialized processing. The steel slabs transformed at this mill in Farrell, PA come primarily from Russia, where the government subsidizes their production. The film is a contemporary portrait of the steel industry, considering the economic, political and environmental realities of multinational steel manufacturing.

Yakona – Documentary

60 min. by Geoff Marslett, Austin, TX.

“Yakona,” meaning ‘rising water’ in a local Native American language, is a visual journey through the crystal clear waters of the San Marcos River in Texas, and its headwaters at Spring Lake.  We follow the river on an impressionistic journey from its point of view as it flows from source to sea, through the changing seasons, through time and memory. We experience the river’s relationship with the natural world and its interactions with humankind. Through “Yakona,” the voice of the river calls on humanity’s higher nature, inspiring its protection by revealing its beauty and life-giving spirit.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 8 P.M. AT ART HOUSE PRODUCTIONS – running time 67 minutes

A Pirate Named Ned – Animation

8 min. by Steve Gentile, Dorchester, MA.

“A Pirate Named Ned’ explores the competing versions of the life story of ‘Golden Era’ pirate Edward ‘Ned’ Low, who is portrayed in historical texts as both sadistic monster and single parent pirate. The film also makes a link to modern Somali pirates and the evolving distortion in their story. Employing both humor and abstraction, “A Pirate Named Ned” is an animated essay that challenges the accepted understanding of a character who existed on the fringe of early Colonial American society by questioning the validity of the historical record.

Egghead – Experimental

1 min. by Patrick Longstreth, Marina Del Rey, CA.

A bizarre breakfast encounter explores gender roles, reproduction, and the cycle of human life.

Gaia – Experimental

15 min. by Nick Graalman, Adelaide, Australia.

Gaia (Mother Earth) is struggling for survival in an increasingly degraded and urbanized planet. Nature is so vast that our minds are sometimes overwhelmed by our role and responsibility in the delicate web of life. Our urban landscape continues to dominate the globe with little thought for the consequences and the resources it requires. “Gaia” uses the evocative blend of movement, music and film to highlight this reality and remind us of our kinship with planet earth. Through the language of dance, “Gaia” tells a universal story that is relevant across the globe.

The Here After – Documentary

14 min. by Lauren DeFilippo, Gainesville, FL.

“The Here After” is a personal non-fiction film based on filmmaker Lauren DeFilippo’s relationship with her father and his obsession with death. As they plan and stage his long-standing vision for his Viking funeral, DeFilippo explores our shared fears of death, loss, and the human need to be remembered.

The Ballad of Holland Island House – Animation

4 min. by Lynn Tomlinson, Owings Mills, MD.

“The Ballad of Holland Island House” tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay, brought to life through fluidly transforming animated clay-on-glass paintings. The house sings of its life and the creatures it has sheltered, and contemplates time and environmental change. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.

Drift and Bough – Documentary

6 min. by Lynne Sachs, Brooklyn, NY.

Filmmaker Lynne Sachs spent a winter morning in Central Park shooting film in the snow. Holding her Super 8mm camera, she takes note of graphic explosions of dark and light and an occasional skyscraper.  The stark black lines of the trees against the whiteness create the sensation of a painter’s chiaroscuro.  Woven into this cinematic landscape, we hear sound artist Stephen Vitiello’s delicate yet soaring musical track, which seems to wind its way across the frozen ground, up the tree trunks to the sky.

The Stick Maker – Documentary

4 min. by Curtis Albucher, Philadelphia, PA.

For the Onondaga, the game of lacrosse is played for the pleasure of the Creator, and has a deep meaning for the players and their community. Traditionally it was a method of spiritual healing, and today it is played to honor past traditions. Alfred Jacques is an Onondaga lacrosse stick maker who has been making sticks for over fifty years.  He respects his ancestor’s ways and even lives by them. For over 50 years he has poured his soul into every lacrosse stick he has ever made. With his wealth of knowledge, he teaches the deeper meaning within the game and the importance of the Lacrosse stick.

Lightning In The Hand – Narrative

15 min. by Joey Grossfield, Brooklyn, NY.

Big business, the law, struggling silver miners, and a lone Apache youth clash over a claim dispute in 1890’s New Mexico.


Umbrella House – Documentary

10 min. by Catalina Santamaria, New York, NY.

“Umbrella House” reveals the stories of the squatter community – most of them immigrants – that took over abandoned buildings in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, reconstructed them and made them into homes. They gave new life and vitality to the area, and now the Lower East Side is one of the most attractive neighborhoods in New York City. Gentrification, however, has forced out most of the local people including many of the squatters who helped to transform the neighborhood.

Ideas That Are Grand (Así de Grandes son las Ideas) – Animation

5 min. by Jose Enrique Rivera Rivera, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sometime in the future, an old man, equipped with the benefits of evolution, has survived the extinction of all other living beings. It is a very lonely world for someone unable to die. ‘Así de grandes son las ideas’ is a collaboration between director/animator Quique Rivera Rivera and multiple Latin Grammy and Grammy Award winner René Pérez Joglar (Calle 13).

Return to Dak To – Documentary

49 min. by Christopher Upham, San Francisco, CA.

Director and combat medic Christopher Upham journeys to vibrant contemporary Vietnam with four veteran comrades. They reveal how their Army unit, the 299th Engineers were left at Dak To firebase in 1969, as bait for a North Vietnamese Army force. The veterans confront their feelings of abandonment by leaders and society alike as they reveal their sacrifices, shortcomings and pride of service, amidst shifting bouts of PTSD. Returning to Dak To provides an unexpected closure for these men as they give voice to personal traumas that connect to the universal sufferings of war.

Prodigal – Documentary

8 min. by Livia Ungur and Sherng-Lee Huang, New Haven, CT.

Livia Ungur was born in Romania during Communism, grew up there after the revolution, and as an adult emigrated to New York City. She and husband Sherng-Lee Huang shot “Prodigal” during a month-long visit to Bucharest, in the dead of winter. Shot with a hidden camera on the streets of Bucharest, this subjective documentary tracks the complicated relationship between an emigrant artist and the place she used to call home.

Fishwife – Animation

4 min. by Luke Jaeger, Northampton, MA.

An enigmatic dancing man and a dog-headed woman celebrate the birth of a fish-child, then watch as it takes flight. This bittersweet animated short evokes parenthood’s complex emotional landscape. Artwork for “Fishwife” was hand drawn on paper, then digitally captured and composited to maintain a handmade quality.

A Thousand Miles from the Sea – Experimental

12 min. by Marta Renzi, Nyack, NY.

A car full of young people arrives at an empty house, catching the attention of a woman —or is she a memory?—in the attic.  As they try on old clothes and new identities, she guides them, unseen to greater intimacy and delight.

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Writer/Blogger at The Digest. Lifelong New Jersey resident. Actually likes this place.


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