Sunday, November 05, 2006

Final Revelations

     The festival is over, and I have only a few more revelations to offer.
     The attendance records we broke, and the comments and emails I’ve received, are very gratifying. But, since I was running around giving introductions and doing festival business, I was only able to watch two film programs—Live…From the Hook and the Black Maria Festival program. The first one was a big gamble for me, since I had only seen a few minutes from it before promising it a slot, and I saw the completed film at the same time as the rest of the audience.  It turned out to be the highlight of the weekend for me and many others. I didn’t share the deep connection with the Charlottesville live music scene that most people in the audience clearly had, and yet the sense that there is something extraordinary about this scene came through powerfully to me. The rapport between the musicians of different bands, their self-effacing humor, and their taste for musical experimentation was absolutely inspiring. And I just got a wonderful message of thanks from singer Johnny Sportcoat himself (Bob Girard) that made my week.
     I also loved the experimental films that John Columbus brought for his Black Maria program, especially the flowing video abstractions of Leighton  Pierce’s  Viscera.  The spectacular beauty that emerged from the artificial, chemically induced decay of Phil Solomon’s Clepsydra and the natural nitrate decay of Bill Morrison’s How to Pray were pure examples of cinematic transcendence.
     I was glad to have the opportunity to screen, at the end of that program, my most exciting film discovery of the year, DeeDee Halleck’s documentary  Bronx Baptism, which DeeDee  filmed with Richard Serra and Babette Mangolte in 1980. It portrays a reconstituted movie theater in the South Bronx, with a glass window where the screen used to be. Behind the window/screen, the Puerto Rican congregation could view a live parade of baptismal bathers. The three artists who made the film stumbled into this phenomenal space of sacred, community performance art, and they recorded it with a sense of awe and  wonder that came through strongly even in the much-faded print. DeeDee Halleck was present, and she indicated that my enthusiasm is inspiring her to search for the negative and strike a new print, which I hope others will screen and rediscover.
     Robert Duvall seemed to have  a great time, and his rapport with David Edelstein on stage was something to behold. Duvall, Liev Schreiber, and Morgan Freeman all really enjoyed their forum with Drama students, and everyone seemed charged by the incredible gathering of talent in the room.
     I am always eager to hear reports from others about what they experienced, both good and  bad, at the festival, and so  I encourage people to send  comments to this blog about their experiences.
     Also, over the next few weeks, I am preparing theme proposals for the Festival’s Advisory Board, and so now is your chance to influence the theme selection  for our 20th anniversary event. Somehow, we’ve got to top this last one, and given the amazing turnout and critical response, it ain’t gonna be easy.


Anonymous John Lindsey said...

It was an excellent program! I am a high school student from Roanoke, Virginia who has been attending the last four years and I have highly enjoyed every festival. The Bunuel selection 'The Milky Way' was defnitely my highlight, as I have never had a chance to experience Bunuel on the big screen before. I rather enjoyed 'Jonestown' and actually had no idea that one of its survivors would be there to discuss it. Thank you for keeping the arts alive in Virginia.

12:14 AM  

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