Black Maria Short Film Fest Marks 25 Years

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Scene from 'S.P.I.C.: The Storyboard of My Life.'

A scene from Robert Castillo's S.P.I.C.: The Storyboard of My Life (2004). Black Maria Film Festival hide caption

toggle caption Black Maria Film Festival
'The Man Who Could Not See Far Enough'

A scene from Peter Rose's 33-minute film, The Man Who Could Not See Far Enough (1981). Black Maria Film Festival hide caption

toggle caption Black Maria Film Festival

The Sundance Institute isn't the only independent film organization that's turning 25 this year. The Black Maria Film & Video Festival is also celebrating its silver anniversary, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends. The Black Maria takes short, often experimental films on the road.

As Joel Rose of member station WHYY reports, the festival takes its name from the primitive studio Thomas Edison built on the grounds of his laboratory in 1892. Edison originally called it the "rotating photographic building." It was covered in black tar paper to keep out the rain, causing some performers to liken it to police paddy wagons, which were nicknamed Black Mariahs.

It was in the original Black Maria that Edison shot some of his first motion pictures. The films were short — some just a few seconds — with titles that tended to give away most of the plot, such as Fred Ott’s Sneeze and May Irwin Kiss.

John Columbus decided to name his festival the Black Maria in part because the works he was showing were all short. He founded it in 1981 with a few thousand dollars, putting it together by himself for the first four years. Now Columbus has a small jury and a staff of three to help him sort through almost 700 submissions. The jury chose about 30 films for this year’s festival; Columbus and his staff picked the other 28.

Unlike most film festivals, the Black Maria travels, bringing its films to audiences around the country and tailoring the program to each of its 70 or so venues. Screenings continue through May.

Black Maria Film Festival Schedule

3/13/06 7:30 p.m. University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo.

3/14/06 7:00 p.m. Bennington College, Bennington, Vt.

3/15/06 7:30 p.m. Passaic Community College, Paterson, N.J.

3/16/06 2:00 p.m. Berrie Center at Ramapo, Mahwah, N.J.

3/9/05 7:00 p.m. Out North Arts Center, Anchorage, Alaska

3/18/06 2:00 p.m. Madison Chamber of Commerce, Madison, N.J.

3/20/06 7:00 p.m. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I.

3/21/06 7:30 p.m. Monmouth University, West Long Branch, N.J.

3/22/06 8:00 p.m. Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.

3/23/06 7:00 p.m. University of Southern California, Los Angeles

3/23/06 7:00 p.m. County Theater, Doylestown, Penn.

3/24/06 7:00 p.m. Lascaux Micro Theater, Buckhannon, W.Va.

3/27/06 8:00 p.m. American University of Rome, Rome, Italy

3/28/06 7:30 p.m. Berks Filmmakers, Albright College, Reading, Pa.

3/30/06 7:00 p.m. Ambler Theater, Ambler, Pa.

3/31/06 7:00 p.m. Lascaux Micro Theater, Buckhannon, W.Va.

3/31/06 8:00 p.m. Millenium Film Workshop, New York, N.Y.

4/4/06 7:00 p.m. South Orang Public Library, South Orange, N.J.

4/05/06 7:00 p.m. Virginia Film Festival, Charolettesville, Va.

4/6/06 1:30 p.m. College Of Staten Island, Staten Island, N.Y.

4/8/06 1:30 p.m. Rutgers University, Camden, N.J.

4/12/06 7:00 p.m. Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass.

4/13/06 8:00 p.m. Boston Museum of Fine Arts/Balagan Series, Boston, Mass.

4/13/06 6:00 p.m Donnell Media Arts Center, New York, N.Y.

4/17/06 3:00 p.m. Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y.

4/87/06 7:15 p.m. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

4/19/06 7:00 p.m. University of Illinois, Chicago, Ill.

4/20/06 6:00 p.m. Donnell Media Arts Center, New York, N.Y.

4/21/06 7:00 p.m. Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Ala.

4/22/06 2:00 p.m. Capri Theater, Montgomery, Ala.

4/22/06 12:00 p.m. Poconos Cinema/Unitarian Fellowship, Stroudsburg, Pa.

4/27/06 6:00 p.m. Baton Rouge Community College, Baton Rouge, La.

4/28/06 7:00 p.m. Puffin Cultural Forum, Teaneck, N.J.

4/29/06 7:00 p.m. Puffin Cultural Forum, Teaneck, N.J.

5/4/06 11:00 a.m. Arts Access Prog, Matheny Med. & Ed. Center, Peapack, N.J.

5/506 10:00 a.m. A. Harry Moore School, Jersey City, N.J.

5/6/06 8:00 p.m. Ridgeview Community Church, West Orange, N.J.

5/13/06 TBD Maryland Film Festival, Baltimore, Md.

5/13/06 TBD Summit Unitarians, Summit, N.J.

5/16/05 6:30 p.m. Crandal Public Library, Glen Falls, N.J.

5/18/06 8:00 p.m. Hirshhorn Museum Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

5/19/06 8:00 p.m. Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

5/20/06 8:00 p.m. 1st Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex, Orange, N.J.

6/3/06 TBD Edison National Historic Site, West Orange, N.J.

6/24/06 TBD Long Beach Island Foundation for Arts, Loveladies, N.J.



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