The Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival will kick off its 39th annual season with two special screening events on consecutive evenings before launching its international tour. On Friday night, February 7, filmmakers Su Friedrich, Edith Goldenhar, Emily Hubley, and Lynne Sachs will screen and discuss their work and participate in an audience Q&A with Festival Director Jane Steuerwald in an evening of “Women in Film.” Saturday night, February 8 will be the Festival’s 2020 premiere with a screening of five top prize-winning films with filmmaker/photographer/author Eugene Richards, winner of the Festival’s Stellar Award for Documentary, present to discuss his work and participate in an audience Q&A with Steuerwald. Both events, presented in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, will take place at the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street on the Princeton campus. On February 7, the screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. On February 8, the screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. preceded by a pre-screening reception at 7:00 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Parking is free after 5:00 p.m. in Lot #10 on Williams Street.
For 39 years the Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival has been advancing the unique creativity and power of the short form. The Festival was founded in 1981 and is named for Thomas Edison’s original West Orange, NJ, film studio, whose resemblance to the familiar black-box shaped police paddy wagons sparked the nickname “Black Maria.” The festival is an international juried competition open to all genres and filmmakers across the globe.
The Festival is a project of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium, which also showcases the New Jersey Young Filmmakers Festival and the Global Insights Collection, an archive of films focusing on the environment, LGBTQ subjects, people with disabilities, international issues, race and class, and films with themes of social justice. Following the premiere at Princeton, the Festival will travel over the next 12 months across the U.S. and abroad.
“We’ve hosted the Black Maria Film Festival numerous times over the years, and it’s always been met with a really enthusiastic response from the students and community audiences,” said Su Friedrich, filmmaker and Professor of Visual Arts in the Lewis Center, who brought the Festival to Princeton. “The range of films is wonderful and surprising and, as someone who teaches and sees a lot of films, I’m introduced each time to fantastic works by new makers who I didn’t know about before and whose work I then begin to follow.”
Black Maria received more than 400 submissions for the 2020 Festival tour from every continent around the globe except Antarctica. Following an extensive pre-screening by experts in the field of film curation, media studies and production, the highly regarded Festival jurors, Margaret Parsons, Head Curator of Film at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and Henry Baker, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and former director of Synapse Video Center, chose 55 films for the 2020 collection and awarded the top prizes.
Works to be screened at the February 7 “Women in Film” program include, A Month of Single Frames by Lynne Sachs with footage shot by Barbara Hammer; Her Grandmother’s Gift and Faithy, hey by Emily Hubley; Northern Ice, Golden Sun by Faith Hubley; Return to Calais by Edith Goldenhar; Queen Takes Pawn by Su Friedrich; and a presentation of Edited By: Women Film Editors, a comprehensive website featuring 206 women film editors, developed and edited by Friedrich with support from Princeton University.
The five prize-winning films being screened at the February 8 Festival premiere include:
The Girl with the Rivet Gun by Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly of New York City is an animated documentary based on the adventures of three real-life “Rosie the Riveters,” Esther Horne, Susan Taylor King, and Mildred Crow Sargent. From vastly different backgrounds, these three women came of age in an America united by war but struggling with divisions of gender, economics and race.
Freeze Frame by Soetkin Verstegen of Brussels, Belgium, is a stop-motion film in which identical figures perform the hopeless task of preserving blocks of ice, as if they were archivists. Their repetitive movements re-animate the animals captured inside.
The Rain Will Follow by Eugene Richards of Brooklyn, New York, a documentary film, tells the story of 90-year-old Melvin Wisdahl, who, though confined to a nursing home, lives an interior life filled with images of the war he fought in, the struggles of the early Norwegian settlers of North Dakota, his ghost town of a home, and his love of the ever-evolving and threatened land.
The Divine Way by Ilaria Di Carlo of Berlin, Germany, is an experimental film loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and takes the viewer into a woman’s epic descent through an endless labyrinth of staircases. As her journey takes her deeper and deeper, the staircases transform, and she becomes trapped and pulled into this dangerous landscape.
Cold Storage by Thomas Freundlich of Helsinki, Finland, is a narrative film that takes place on a desolate arctic shore where a lonely fisherman discovers his prehistoric counterpart frozen in the ice and thaws him out as his newfound soul brother. The film pays homage to the virtuosic physical performances and melancholy comedy of the classic silent screen.
The Festival will subsequently travel to more than 50 museums, cultural centers, colleges, and universities throughout the United States and abroad. Venues interested in scheduling a screening should contact Festival Director Jane Steuerwald at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Festival offers programming options ranging from a custom-curated program presented by the host site, to an in-person film presentation by the Festival director, including a Q & A and dialog with the audience.
In addition to the support provided for the 2020 tour by the Lewis Center, the Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival receives generous support from New Jersey State Council on the Arts; the Charles Edison Fund – Edison Innovation Foundation; the Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs and Tourism; the Hoboken Historical Museum; WithumSmith+Brown; Lowenstein Sandler, LLP; the NBA; The Puffin Foundation; Monster Remotes; Big Sky Edit; Adobe Systems, Inc.; and Microsoft through TechSoup.org.
To learn more about the Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival and Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium, visit blackmariafilmfestival.org. To learn more about the Lewis Center for the Arts, the premiere screening, and the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented each year, most of them free, visit arts.princeton.edu.