Brendan Sweeney, director and co-founder of the Pittsburgh-based company Kept Shut Productions, spent 18 months shooting two independent short films back-to-back. On Feb. 28th, he and his crew will unveil the resulting works, The Door Kept Shut and Written by Quincy O’Neal, with a premiere event at the Hollywood Theater.
The Door Kept Shut follows a journalist and her crew as they interview the delusional Steven Ware. The psychological thriller weaves through Steven’s shattered mind as he relives an ordinary father-son backpacking trip that unravels into something far more sinister.
The dark comedy Written by Quincy O’Neal follows a talentless author who submerges himself within a deranged literary world. An opportunist, he profits from authors’ deaths by stealing their unfinished works and passing them off as his own. He soon begins to question his choices while trying to find a sense of balance between his thievery and conscience.
The Kept Shut Productions Double Trouble Film Premiere will begin at 6 p.m. Between screenings, Sweeney, his writer/producer, Zack Eritz, and the cast of both films will answer questions and share production stories. Tickets are $5 and are available for purchase at Showclix or at the door.
On Feb. 27th, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will present a sneak peek at their award-winning 2015 Faces of Work International Film Festival lineup with a screening of the documentary Song from the Forest.
The German film follows Louis Sarno, a musicologist from New York City who relocates to the Congo, where he abandons modern civilization to join the Bayaka people and start a family. Sarno continues with his music studies, compiling more than 1,000 hours of original Bayaka music, and then after 25 years returns to New York to show the city to his son, Samedi. Together, they meet Louis’ family and old friends, including his closest friend from college, Jim Jarmusch. Carried by the contrasts between rainforest and urban America, with a fascinating soundtrack and peaceful, loving imagery, Louis‘ and Samedi‘s stories are interwoven to form a touching portrait of an extraordinary man and his son.
Song from the Forest will screen at 6:30 p.m. in McConomy Auditorium. The event, held in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival, will feature a Skype appearance by the film’s writer and director, Michael Obert. Musical supervisor David Rothenberg will also attend to participate in a panel discussion moderated by Robert Fallon, assistant professor of music in CMU’s College of Fine Arts. Tickets to the sneak preview are $10, $5 for seniors and students, and are available for purchase at the CMU Faces of Work website. Stay tuned for more details on the festival, which begins on March 19th.
On Feb. 26th, the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) will continue its five-part documentary series The Invisible Photograph with the premiere of Subatomic: The European Organization for Nuclear Research, a film where photography and the world’s most advanced particle physics research collide.
At the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland, scientists use photographic technologies, both old and new, to probe the fundamental structures of the universe. One of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the past century, the detection of the Higgs Boson, was captured with the aid of the ATLAS Detector, the largest digital camera in the world. Elsewhere on CERN’s campus, traditional photographic emulsion is being used to conduct one of the world’s most sophisticated anti-matter experiments.
The Invisible Photograph film crew gained extensive access to the facility, including the ATLAS detector, situated 100 meters underground, and the Antiproton Decelerator hall, one of the go-to places for experiments involving anti-matter. Subatomic delves into these experiments to explore how photography can decode subatomic behavior at one of the world’s most advanced centers for technological innovation.
Subatomic will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the CMOA Theater. A conversation with The Invisible Photograph creative director, Arthur Ou, and two members of the CERN team, particle physicist Michael Doser and mechanical engineer Neal Hartman, will follow. The event continues at 7:30 p.m. with a post-screening party featuring custom cocktails. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. All tickets include a drink ticket.
On Feb. 20th, the Hollywood Theater will celebrate women in horror with two female-led films. The lineup includes the premiere of the psychological thriller Razor Days and the slasher flick Slumber Party Massacre.
Produced by Waynesburg-based indie film company Happy Cloud Productions, Razor Days is a grim story of survival and revenge set in the very real world. Starring Amy Lynn Best (A Feast of Flesh), Debbie Rochon (The Colour from the Dark) and Bette Cassatt (ThinkGeek), it tells the story of three women, each a survivor of horrific violence, who bond together first for support and then to exact revenge on those responsible for their horrific pasts, including a group of cannibalistic “weekend warriors.”
Also playing is the 1982 cult classic Slumber Party Massacre. The film follows Trish (Michele Michaels), a high school senior who invites her girls’ basketball teammates over for a slumber party when her parents go out of town. Their night of pizza, pot, and pranks gets complicated, however, when an escaped mental patient with a portable power drill shows up. Directed by Amy Ryan, and written by Rita Mae Brown, the film, which was intended as a slasher parody, has garnered praise for subverting the genre with its self-aware humor.
The Razor Days premiere begins at 6:30 p.m. with an introduction by the producers, followed by the screening at 7 p.m. A Q&A session with the cast and crew will follow. Tickets are available at Showclix.
Slumber Party Massacre will start at 10 p.m. Another screening will take place on Feb. 24th. Tickets are available at Showclix.
The 2015 Animated Feature Film Oscar nominees range from the Disney hit Big Hero Six to the acclaimed Studio Ghibli release The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. On Feb. 21st, the Regent Square Theater will showcase one of the category’s more obscure nominees with a sneak peek at Song of the Sea.
In the Irish import from Tomm Moore, Oscar-nominated director of The Secret of Kells, Ben and his little sister Saoirse—the last Seal-child—must embark on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea. The film takes inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land.
Song of the Sea will screen on Feb. 21st and Feb. 22nd. Check website for showtimes. Tickets are $9, $7 for students and seniors.
Last year, Pittsburgh became the backdrop for The Chair, a documentary series that follows two first-time filmmakers – indie multihyphenate Anna Martemucci and YouTube star Shane Dawson – through the ups and downs of bringing a full-length feature to the screen. Created by Chris Moore (Project Greenlight, Good Will Hunting) and produced by actor and Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto (Star Trek, American Horror Story), the show went on to air on STARZ last fall. On Feb. 17th, Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the first season of the The Chair on DVD.
The Chair charts the path of two up-and-coming directors who must produce their own unique versions of the same script. Both directors are given the same budget, and shoot at locations in and around Pittsburgh. Each episode documents the creation, marketing, and theatrical release of both adaptations. Through multiplatform voting, audiences determine which director will be awarded $250,000.
The five-disc set includes all ten episodes and the final movies made for the competition, Not Cool and Hollidaysburg. Not Cool will also be available the same day as a single DVD release.
In honor of Black History Month, the Heinz History Center and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will host the From Slavery to Freedom Film Series, a selection of films celebrating the African-American experience. On Feb. 11th, the two organizations will present Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind, a feature documentary about an immigrant turned revolutionary.
Marcus Garvey is one of the most contradictory and enigmatic figures in American history, both visionary and manipulative, a brilliant orator and a pompous autocrat. He was a strong advocate of black self-help and unity among people of African descent, yet was willing to collaborate with the Ku Klux Klan. He inspired African Americans to support his economic enterprises with their hard-earned money, yet lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the mismanagement of those schemes.
Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind, the first comprehensive documentary to tell the life story of this controversial leader, uses a wealth of material from the Garvey movement-written documents, film and photographs-to reveal what motivated a poor Jamaican to set up an international organization for the African diaspora, what led to his early successes, and why he died lonely and forgotten. Among the most powerful sequences in the film are articulate, fiery interviews with the men and women whose parents joined the Garvey movement more than 80 years ago. Together they reveal how revolutionary Garvey’s ideas were to a new generation of African Americans,West Indians and Africans and how he invested hundreds of thousands of black men and women with a new-found sense of racial pride.
Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind will screen at 5:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Homewood. The event is free.
On Feb. 11th, the University of Pittsburgh Asian Studies Center will present Lessons in Dissent, a feature documentary about student activism in China.
Directed by Matthew Torne, and filmed over 18 months, Lessons in Dissent is a portrait of a new generation of Hong Kong democracy activists. School boy Joshua Wong dedicates himself to stopping the introduction of National Education. His campaign begins to snowball when an interview goes viral on YouTube, and with the new school year fast approaching, a showdown with the government seems inevitable. Microphone in hand, and still in his school uniform, he leads 120,000 protesters into battle.
Meanwhile, former classmate Ma Jai fights against political oppression on the streets and in the courts. Having dropped out of school and dedicated himself to the social movement, he endures the persecution suffered by those not lucky enough to be protected by the media’s glare.
Lessons in Dissent will screen at 6 p.m. in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. A panel with Torne and Department of Sociology professor Michael Goodhart will follow. The event is free and open to the public.
On Feb. 6th, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures will present Mala Mala, the first feature documentary to depict the transsexual community in Puerto Rico.
Mala Mala reveals the power of transformation through the lives of nine trans-identifying individuals. A unique exploration of self-discovery and activism, featuring a diverse collection of subjects that include LGBTQ advocates, business owners, sex workers, and a boisterous group of drag performers who call themselves The Doll House, the film portrays a fight for personal and community acceptance paved with triumphant highs and devastating lows. Through cinematography that encapsulates the candy-colored, vivacious personalities as well as their frequently dark personal experiences, directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles present the passion and hardships reflective of this distinctively binary human experience.
Mala Mala will screen at 4 p.m. in Posvar Hall, Room 1500. A discussion with Santini and Sickles will follow. The event is free and open to the public.
On Feb. 6th, the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society (PLGFS) will celebrate Valentine’s Day early at the Union Project with LGBTQ Speed Dating and and a screening of the 1999 satirical comedy But I’m a Cheerleader.
The feature debut from director Jamie Babbit stars Natasha Lyonne as Megan Bloomfield, a high school girl who’s more interested in her fellow cheerleaders than her football player boyfriend. When Megan’s conservative family suspects her of being a lesbian, they send her away to a conversion therapy camp run by a homophobic counselor and her “heterosexual” son. Rather than go straight, however, Megan meets and falls in love with Graham (Clea DuVall), a rebellious college student who inspires her to finally embrace her sexuality. The film also stars Cathy Moriarty, Eddie Cibrian, and RuPaul.
The event begins at 7 p.m. But I’m a Cheerleader screens at 8:30 p.m. Participation in the speed dating is not required to watch the film. The festivities will include snacks and raffle prizes. Admission is $5.