James River Film Festival: Schedule of Awesome

by | Mar 15, 2010 | MUSIC

The annual James River Film Festival (JRFF) was established by RMIC co-founder Michael Jones, along with other Richmond area univers

The annual James River Film Festival (JRFF) was established by RMIC co-founder Michael Jones, along with other Richmond area university faculty members, media professionals and volunteers, in April 1994. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate and examine the history and continuing contributions of independently produced film and video. Each April the festival brings nationally and internationally known independent filmmakers to Richmond to screen and discuss their work.


Poe & the Avant-garde: The Fall of the House of Usher (Epstein, 1928, 50 min., silent) (Watson and Webber, 1928, 13 min., silent)

2:00 pm – Richmond Public Library, Main Branch, Basement Auditorium
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Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher was the source of two experimental film adaptations in 1928, in France and in the U.S. The best known is by French director Jean Epstein, who also cited as a source Poe’s The Oval Portrait – surreal, atmospheric, very avant. The American version, by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber, is an attempt to capture the mood of Poe’s tale through optical distortions, prismatic refractions, shadows and multiple exposures. Introduced by Michael Jones.

Virginia Film Office Reception
5:00-6:30 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Free admission (Cash bar)
Meet and mingle with festival guests and volunteers, area filmmakers, professionals and film enthusiasts over hors d’oeuvres and beverages courtesy of the Virginia Film Office. Open to the public.

JRFF Juried Competition Finalists (Approx. 90 min.)
Co-sponsored by the Virginia Film Office and Virginia Production Alliance
6:30 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Every year the James River Film Festival, the Virginia Film Office and the Virginia Production Alliance co-sponsor a national juried competition of short films in any genre – animation, narrative, experimental, documentary. And every year we screen the jurors’ selections and award $2,000 in prizes, including the Virginia Filmmaker Award and People’s Choice Award. Our jury of film professionals and academics in the Richmond area screens each entry at least twice. This years jurors are Jim Collier, professor of media at Radford University; Robert Ellis, JRFF critic-at-large; Megan Holley, screenwriter/filmmaker; Trent Nicholas, adjunct professor of film studies, Virginia Commonwealth University; Janet Scagnelli, animator/filmmaker. After the screening of the finalists, the awards will be announced, including the Virginia Filmmaker Award and populist People’s Choice Award, so come and be heard! Since 1994 the JRFF has awarded more than $28,000 to independent filmmakers in Virginia and states nationwide.

This year’s finalists are:

* Karen Aqua (Twist of Fate, 9 min.)
* David Ellsworth (Surface Kinetic, 14 min.)
* Erik Gernand (Non-Love Song, 8 min.),
* Dennis Iannuzzi (Vitruvius’ Toybox, 6 min.),
* Barton Landsman (Banana Bread, 9 min.),
* Richard Martin (Apart, 8 min.),
* Hans Montelius (Mannen med kulorna, 15 min.),
* Jeffrey Jon Smith (The Miracle, 29 min.),
* J. Darin Wales (Plink, 9 min.)

After the screening, the jury will announce the awards, including the Virginia Filmmaker Award and the populist People’s Choice Award. Since 1994 the JRFF has awarded more than $28,000 to independent filmmakers!

Georges Méliès meets Hotel X Live!
8:30 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
The French father of special effects meets Richmond’s most versatile ensemble – only the highflying Hotel X can match the daring feats of illusionary agility achieved by one of the greatest artists of the primitive film era – Georges Méliès, magician and pioneer filmmaker. Méliès made more than 400 films in his career, almost all in the fantasy realm, and is best known for the first international blockbuster, A Trip to the Moon (1902). Tonight’s program features these less often seen, magical Méliès masterpieces: The Impossible Voyage, The Black Imp, The Wonderful Living Fan and The Mermaid.

Fugazi: Instrument (Jem Cohen, 1999, 105 min.)
with director Jem Cohen!

10:30 p.m.
Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
Filmed between 1988-1997, Cohen’s slice-of-Fugazi-life is comprised of interviews, early benefits and concerts, news bites and dreamy, associative images of road life. A true collaboration between Cohen and the activist hardcore band from DC, Instrument has an organic feel, as if formed by the band and the music as much as by the filmmaker. Highlights include the band at Lorton Correctional Institute, Ian swinging and singing from a basketball goal during a high school show and hypnotic sequences of Fugazi fans in close-up. Jem Cohen will be on hand to introduce the film and to answer questions afterward.


For Memories’ Sake (Ashley Maynor, 2009, 29 min.)
Quick Feet, Soft Hands (Paul Harrill, 2008, 26 min.) with filmmakers Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill

10:00 a.m. – Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
Filmmaker Maynor reveals the rather extraordinary life of a seemingly ordinary woman, Southern housewife and grandma, Angela Singer. Yet this Southern homemaker has taken an average of 12 photos daily for 35 years, amassing a remarkable archive of 150,000 pictures of family and friends; this personal archive becomes the focus in this moving generational portrait of life and love. “A particular and universal story.” – Tom Rankin, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University.

Set against the backdrop of our national pastime, Award winning filmmaker Paul Harrill’s latest film, Quick Feet, Soft Hands, follows a young couple’s pursuit of the American Dream. Greta Gerwig (Baghead, Hannah Takes the Stairs) stars as Lisa, a young woman whose hopes of moving up are tied to Jim, a minor league baseball player. As Jim falls deeper into a batting slump, the couple must cope with the day-to-day realities of being young and poor. And they must confront the prospect that they may never make it to the big leagues. “American viewers addicted to plot and action in their films stand to learn a lot from the work of Paul Harrill. … He restores mystery to the events of our everyday lives – not the bogus mystery of who–done–it, but the genuine, unfathomable mystery of what we are and why we do the things we do.” – Ray Carney, film critic and author.

Ashley Maynor and Paul Harrill will be on hand for a Q&A session following the film.
Filmmakers Salon! Following the Q&A filmmakers are invited to participate in a more intimate discussion with Ashley and Paul – we’ll move to the Plant Zero Café for coffee and conversation about the joys and challenges of what Paul refers to as “self-reliant filmmaking.”

Wild Blue Yonder (Celia Maysles and Charlene Rule, 2009, 75 min.)
with director Celia Maysles!

12:00 noon –Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
Autobiographical interrogation of filmmaker Maysles and her relationship with father David Maysles, who with brother Albert produced some of the most important American documentaries of the ‘60s and ’70s – Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens. The Maysles worked in an American vein of cinema verité they dubbed “direct cinema.” Daughter Celia strives to establish contact with her father’s memory (he died when she was seven) and his career through family and friends – as revealing of familial relations as her father’s and Uncle Al’s Grey Gardens (1975).

An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story (Susan Morgan Cooper, 2009, 85 min.) with producer and ex-Richmonder Cindy Lou Adkins!

2:00 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
An Unlikely Weapon is an insightful profile of late Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Eddie Adams, whose fame rested largely on a single photograph he took in the streets of 1968 Saigon. One of the most-recognized photographs of the 20th century – a Vietcong prisoner being executed by Saigon police – changed history and the life of the man who took it. His brilliant career spanned thirteen wars and the biggest names in entertainment and politics, but somehow that never seemed enough for the iconoclastic Adams. Narration by Kiefer Sutherland; interviews with Tom Brokaw, Gordon Parks and Peter Jennings. Producer and ex-Richmonder Cindy Lou Adkins will be present for a Q&A after the screening.

I AM COMIC (Jordan Brady, 2009, 86 min.) with director Jordan Brady and narrator/interviewer Rich Shydner

4:00 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
Through candid interviews and privileged backstage access, director Brady explores the world of the working comedian. Featuring Sarah Silverman, Jeff Foxworthy, Tim Allen, David Attell, Kathy Griffin, Janeane Garofalo, Louis C.K., Phyllis Diller and others. We also track retired stand-up Rich Shydner’s comeback – big in the 1980s, he tries to make it with new audiences after a thirteen year absence. Introduced by John Porter. Mr. Brady and Mr. Shydner will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.

Jem Cohen Retrospective with filmmaker Jem Cohen!
7:00 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
Jem Cohen is a New York-based filmmaker/media artist whose works are built from his own ongoing archive of street footage, portraits, and sound. His films and installations often navigate the grey area between documentary, narrative, and experimental genres. Cohen has worked extensively with musicians including Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Fugazi, Vic Chesnutt, the Ex, Terry Riley, Elliott Smith, R.E.M., Sparklehorse, and the Orpheus Orchestra. Join Jem Cohen for a rare treat – a personally guided tour through his body of work, featuring a selection of short films handpicked by Cohen himself.

Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Steven Sebring, 2009, 109 min.)

9:30 pm – Plant Zero Art Center
Admission $5
Director Sebring’s acclaimed documentary portrait of poet/musician Patti Smith was in production for over a decade. Shooting in 16mm black and white, Sebring chronicles Smith at home, on the road, at concerts and readings. While coping with the loss of husband Fred, friends Allen Ginsberg and Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith returns to the stage, immersing herself in her work and the causes she champions. The director, who claimed never to have watched a rock-doc before, offers up a rare glimpse into the life of revered, generational icon Patti Smith.


Virginia Creepers: The Horror Host Tradition of the Old Dominion (Sean Kotz & Chris Valluzo, 2009, 120 min.)

with directors Sean Kotz & Chris Valluzzo, Bill Bowman (The Bowman Body), Mark Bartholomew (Dr. Gruesome) & Matt Pak (Skeeter), Craig T. Adams (Uncle Felonious and other characters on Dr. Madblood), Rick Clark (The Keeper), John Dimes (Dr. Sarcofiguy) and Jerry Moore (Karlos Borloff)
1:00 pm – The Byrd Theatre
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Admission $5
For more than 50 years the hosted horror late-night movie was a Friday or Saturday tradition in every Virginia television market. The feature was inevitably a B-movie, the cornier the better, but not nearly as corny as the hosts themselves! This doc takes you back to the days of local, live television with photos, interviews, sound bites, and clips thought to be lost forever – lively and funny, a walk down memory lane of nightmarish proportions. See Bowman play his ukulele and hum the theme song once again – fun for kids of all ages! DVD signing and panel discussion the directors and horror shows hosts after – meet the Bowman Body in person! Introduced by John Porter.

The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa, 1958, 126 min., b&w, in Japanese w/subtitles) Restored 35 mm print!

4:00 pm – The Byrd Theatre
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Admission $5
In commemoration of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s birthday centennial, we’re proud to present The Hidden Fortress, the inspiration behind George Lucas’ Star Wars and one of his most popular and accessible films. Quick synopsis: In the 16th century, a cynical samurai (Mifune) is hired to escort disguised princess (Chiaki) and two clownish sidekicks (think Chewbacca and R2D2!) through the enemy’s kingdom. An avowed fan of American action directors John Ford and Howard Hawks, Kurosawa shows their influence here with this charming blend of suspense, action and comedy. George Lucas says, “Kurosawa’s ability to transform a vision into a powerful work of art is unparalleled.” Francis Ford Coppola called Kurosawa “One of the greatest directors ever to work in the cinema.” A treat for all ages!

Benjamin Smoke (Jem Cohen, 2000, 70 min.) with director Jem Cohen

6:30 pm – VCU Grace Street Theatre
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Admission $5
This profile of Atlanta-based rocker Benjamin Smoke (who died in 1999 at age 39), falls somewhere on the fringe of Werner Herzog’s documentary subjects and Harmony Korine’s Gummo, for both gravitate to the outsider – often in extremis – as subject. Robert Dickerson is the charismatic Benjamin Smoke, a sometimes drag queen whose love of Patti Smith records and a desire to become an artist and rocker led to a bubble of fame in Georgia and underground circles. Smoke’s story is heroic and inspirational, and director Cohen captures his subject with compassion and respect.

The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1948, 87 mins.) on 35mm! With guest critic Peter Schilling

8:30 pm – VCU Grace Street Theatre
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Admission $5
Like the best films noir, The Lady from Shanghai, is the sordid tale of double-cross and murder. But in the hands of Orson Welles, the movie is also an examination of his doomed marriage to Rita Hayworth. Welles plays Michael O’Hara, a not-too-bright Irish seaman, who falls for Hayworth’s Elsa Bannister, and sails the seas with the femme fatale and her loathsome husband (Everett Sloane). Despite being cut almost in half by the studio, and with a plot so complex even Welles couldn’t figure it out, Lady remains a classic thriller whose climactic shoot-out in a hall of mirrors is one of the iconic scenes in film history. Introduction by guest film critic Peter Schilling.


The Charles Bukowski Tapes, Part I (Barbet Schroeder, 1987, 120 min.) (Note: Part II plays Tues., 3/23, 8:30 pm)

6:30 pm – The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
Presented in two parts, each composed of 26 vignettes of 3-4 minutes, The Charles Bukowski Tapes offers fans a close-up rarely seen. Filmed by director Schroeder while waiting for a go-ahead on the feature, Barfly, Bukowski ruminates and essays on women, writing, his childhood, NY agents, Hollywood, Henry Miller and his favorite bars among other topics. Filmed at Bukowski’s San Pedro house and other LA haunts, Bukowski, now finally famous, seems to fully enjoy the camera crew’s attention. Forget Factotum, forget Barfly – this is the genuine Chinaski.

The Biggest Picture presents a Big River Double Feature:
Big River (Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, 2009, 30 min.) and
Big River Man (John Maringouin, 2009, 94 min.)
8:30 pm – The Firehouse Theatre
Big River, the new documentary by King Corn filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, explores the ecological consequences of industrial agriculture. It is a companion to King Corn, screened at last year’s James River Film Festival. Trading their combine for a canoe, the filmmakers set out to follow the trail of the pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of their one acre of corn – all the way from Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico. “A sharp and clever reminder that nothing ever really goes away, certainly not the soup of chemicals we’re pouring on our fields.” – Bill McKibben, author, educator, and environmentalist.

Big River Man, a winner at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, is about the world’s greatest endurance swimmer – 52 year-old Martin Strel swims whole rivers to highlight their pollution to the world. A national hero in his native Slovenia, Martin attempts his greatest feat yet – to swim the entire length of the Amazon River, all while drinking two bottles of wine a day. Director Maringouin says he set out to make a documentary with an environmental message, “but that message got eclipsed by insanity.”


Infinite Animation: The Life and Work of Adam Beckett (A selection of short films, Approx. 90 min.)
6:30 pm – The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
Adam Beckett (1950-1979) left an indelible mark on the world of experimental animation. Influenced by John Whitney Sr. and his love of science fiction, his award-winning films consist of magical evolving geometric and abstract shapes created with his pioneering optical printer techniques. His ingenuity would attract George Lucas, who made him the head of the rotoscope and animation department for Star Wars. Titles include The Letter, Heavy-Light, Evolution of the Red Star, Kitsch in Synch and more. Adam’s biographer, Pamela Turner, associate professor in VCU’s Kinetic Imaging Department and Director of the Adam Beckett Project for iotaCenter, will introduce.

The Charles Bukowski Tapes, Part II (Barbet Schroeder, 1987, 120 min.) (Note: Part I plays Monday, 3/22, 6:30 pm)
8:30 pm – The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
Presented in two parts, each composed of 26 vignettes of 3-4 minutes, The Charles Bukowski Tapes offers fans a close-up rarely seen. Filmed by director Schroeder while waiting for a go-ahead on the feature, Barfly, Bukowski ruminates and essays on women, writing, his childhood, NY agents, Hollywood, Henry Miller and his favorite bars among other topics. Filmed at Bukowski’s San Pedro house and other LA haunts, Bukowski, now finally famous, seems to fully enjoy the camera crew’s attention. Forget Factotum, forget Barfly – this is the genuine Chinaski.


The Builder (Rick Alverson, 2009, 94 min.) with co-writer and director Rick Alverson
6:30 pm – The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
Many Richmonders know Rick Alverson through his music (Spokane); now come get to know Rick Alverson, filmmaker, through his new feature, The Builder. From its opening meditative moments when we first meet “the builder” as he moves through his morning rituals – taking a bath, cutting his hair with scissors, making coffee, boiling eggs and eating – we know right away this is not your standard movie fare. Following an Irish immigrant carpenter from coastal Queens to the Catskills to Richmond and beyond, The Builder is an American existential portrait that explores the gulf between the idea of a thing and the thing itself. Alverson explains: “This type of production is meant to be small, intimate, local – I cast people who I know, whose personalities I understand, so that I can recontextualize them in the film. I really don’t want to project a worldview. I find that reprehensible, arrogant. A film should be much more communal, something captured that we’re looking at together.” Rick Alverson will be on hand to introduce the film and for a post-screening Q&A.

The Secret To A Happy Ending: A documentary about the Drive-By Truckers (Barr Weissman, 2010, color, 101 min.) with filmmaker Barr Weissman and artist Wes Freed

9:00 pm – The Firehouse Theatre
Admission $5
This is a film about the redemptive power of rock and roll; it’s about the American South, where rock was born; it’s about a band straddling the borders of rock, punk and country; it’s about making art, making love and making a living; it’s about the Drive-By Truckers. This film documents the band and their fans as they explore tales of human weakness and redemption. With unparalleled access, this documentary encompasses three critical years of touring and recording as the band struggles to overcome trauma and survives a near breakup, in a persistent search for a happy ending. Filmmaker Barr Weissman will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A and artist Wes Freed, who created original artwork for the film, will sign and sell STAHE movie posters.


The James River Film Festival and the VCU/UR French Film Festival present …

Marching Band (Claude Miller, 2009, 95 min.) with French director Héléna Cotinier, French producer Annie Miller and production manager and Richmonder Isaac Regelson

6:30 pm – The Byrd Theatre
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Admission $5 (free to French Film Festival Pass holders)
French director Miller and his crew followed the marching bands of Virginia State University and University of Virginia through the waning months of President Obama’s 2008 Campaign. Given the importance of the youth vote to Obama’s success, Miller has recorded the optimism and dreams of a whole generation in this revelatory documentary.

Les plages d’Agnès / The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2008/2009 U.S.; 108 min., French w/English subtitles) Richmond Premiere – on 35 mm!

9:00 pm – The Byrd Theatre
Google Maps
Admission $5 (free to French Film Festival pass holders)
French New Wave director Agnès Varda’s latest and declared final film is a visually sumptuous and multi-layered essay, the cinematic memoir of an artist whose life is inseparable from her art and memories. Tracing her life via clips of her films and those of husband/director Jacques Demy – revisiting locations of previous shoots, observing crowds passing in the streets – Varda (Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond) settles ultimately on the beaches in her life as the film’s abiding motif for time’s passage. Richard Brody of The New Yorker declared it “A work of art!” and the Film Comment critics’ poll named it “One of the year’s ten best!”

See you on the river…

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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