Not long after the Mattress Factory opened in 1977, it set out to provide an experimental lab featuring site-specific installations created by artists in residence from around the world. Now local documentarian David Bernabo will help mark the 40th anniversary of the contemporary art museum with the film Site-Specific: A History Of The Mattress Factory.
Through a mix of stories and anecdotes, archival installation footage, and interviews with artists and razor-sharp co-directors Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk, Site-Specific: A History of the Mattress Factory presents an in-depth look at one of the first site-specific museums in the United States. Starting as a quirky, anything goes food co-op and artist studio space, the museum created a program of artist residencies in 1982 to focus on site-specific installation art and they never looked back.
The film parallels the installation of the museum’s 40th-anniversary exhibition with an in-depth, story-driven journey through the museum’s long history of exhibiting site-specific art. Through interviews with artists such as Ann Hamilton, Sarah Oppenheimer, Vanessa German, and Dennis Maher, the film provides an intimate, sometimes humorous, look at the indirect path a museum takes as it creates its identity.
By mining the museum’s extensive tape and video archive, the film unearths rare archival installation footage of James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, Meg Webster, and David Ellis. Detailed discussions provide the history and context for John Cage’s changing installation, Allan Wexler’s Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence, and Dennis Maher’s three-story installation A Second Home, among other works. [Synopsis courtesy of David Bernabo]
Site-Specific: A History of the Mattress Factory will premiere on May 3 at the Mattress Factory. A second screening public will take place on May 10 at the Melwood Screening Room. Tickets are free for the Mattress Factory screening and $8 for the Melwood event.
The JFilm Festival returns to bring 11 days of international Jewish-themed films, guest speakers, and more to various venues throughout the region. This year’s lineup features the Pittsburgh premieres of 20 narrative and documentary films from 12 countries.
The event opens on April 26 with Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel, a documentary about childhood friends from summer camp who visit Israel to make a movie about Jewish baseball players, never dreaming it would turn into a run for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The screening includes a Q&A with Pittsburgh native and MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo, who appears in the film, and a pop-up after-party.
Other documentaries in the line-up include Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me and Monsieur Mayonnaise. Helmed by award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the achievements and tensions that surrounded the career of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., including his conversion to Judaism and his tumultuous relationship with Black America.
Sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, Monsieur Mayonnaise follows French-born Australian artist and cult filmmaker Philippe Mora as he uncovers his father’s remarkable exploits in the French Resistance and his mother’s miraculous escape from a prison camp. The story is told through a montage of found footage and Mora’s own artistic renditions.
Among the narrative films showcased is the comedy Humor Me. Faced with a midlife crisis, Nate (Jemaine Clement), a struggling playwright, moves into a New Jersey retirement community with his father (Elliott Gould). Filmmaker Sam Hoffman’s directorial debut also stars Annie Potts, Bebe Neuwirth, and Erich Bergen, who will appear at the festival.
Representing Pittsburgh is local filmmaker David Bernabo, who will premiere his work In a Dark Wood. The documentary charts the path of composer and University of Pittsburgh music composition professor Mathew Rosenblum’s “Lament/Witches’ Sabbath,” a highly personal concerto written for world-famous clarinetist/composer David Krakauer.
Other films include the Dutch historical drama An Act of Defiance, the Israeli/German drama The Cakemaker, and Itzhak, Alison Chernick‘s documentary about legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman. The festival will also present a number of Q&As with various directors and actors and three sessions of Film Schmooze, a casual post-film discussion led by local scholars and sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Studies Program.
See the JFilm website for showtimes and ticket prices. Screenings will take place at SouthSide Works Cinema and other select locations, including AMC Mount Lebanon 6, the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, and Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
On April 10, Chatham University will celebrate women in film and media with a special event. Sponsored by Chatham’s Film & Digital Technology Program and the Steeltown Entertainment Project, the evening will showcase five Pittsburgh-based women filmmakers who will speak on their careers, the challenges they face, and what inspires them.
The panel includes Julie Sokolow, a self-taught documentarian who made waves with Woman on Fire, the story of Brooke Guinan, New York City’s first openly transgender firefighter. The film, which was acquired by Starz, depicts Guinan’s journey as she seeks acceptance in an overwhelmingly macho profession at the FDNY, where her father and grandfather also served. It also takes an intimate look at her personal life with her loving, but traditional family and boyfriend. In addition to Woman on Fire, Sokolow directed Aspie Seeks Love, a film about the dating struggles of a writer with autism.
Other panelists include Njaimeh Njie, a filmmaker, photographer, and founder of Eleven Stanley Productions, a multimedia production company dedicated to nonfiction storytelling. Her first solo project, Power(ed) by Grace: Musings on Black Womanhood, was a photo and video exploration of black women’s lives in Pittsburgh. Her work has been screened in the Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Festival and the Black Bottom Film Festival. According to her website, she’s currently working with residents in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood to develop a series of mural installations commissioned as part of the Temporary Placemaking and Public Art project, through the Office of Public Art and Neighborhood Allies. (Read more about her in our interview Pop Up Premieres Founder Njaimeh Njie Sees Black And Gold.)
Panelist Olivia Vaughn is a producer at the Pittsburgh production company, Animal. She produced Fursonas, an award-winning feature documentary on Furry subculture, and Echo Torch, a sci-fi short by local filmmaker Chris Preksta. She is currently producing the documentary feature Blood Memory, about America’s Indian Adoption Era. (To learn more about Fursonas, check out our interview with film’s director, Dominic Rodriguez.)
Panelist Kristen Lauth Shaeffer is a director, editor, and Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Technology at Chatham University. Her short film Mercury in Tuna screened at festivals in Pittsburgh and all over the world. She also made 349, a collaborative animation and installation project that converted a videotaped dance performance into a series of still frames. She has received grants from The Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Pittsburgh 250 Community Connections for her work as co-creator and executive producer of Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives.
Panelist Adrienne Wagner is a cinematographer and editor. Her short documentary My Grandpa’s Garage, a personal biopic about her grandfather’s life-long love of collecting, was featured in film festivals throughout the country. She also served as DP for the feature film Bystander and currently produces video content for Hello Neighbor, Pittsburgh’s refugee mentorship program, as well as other nonprofits.
The event takes place at 7 p.m. in Chatham University’s Beckwith Auditorium, Buhl Hall (in the Science Complex). It includes a screening, panel discussion, and Q&A, followed by a reception. This event is free and open to the public.
Row House Cinema will offer two weeks of great Japanese cinema with the third annual Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival (JFFPgh). The event strives to strengthen the general understanding of Japanese culture by providing audiences in Pittsburgh with cutting-edge, original films depicting authentic representations of Japan.
“The festival is growing so fast, we had to expand it to two weeks this year, making it one of the largest Japanese film festivals in the country,” festival director Brian Mendelssohn said in an official statement.
The festival opens on April 6 with the Pittsburgh premiere of Neko Atsume House. Based on the mobile game sensation Neko Atsume, it follows a struggling novelist who develops a special relationship with a cat that has an unusual way of easing his anxieties. VIP guests will get to cuddle kittens in the Bierport Tap Room before the film.
The festival schedule will focus on four selections that push gender roles and sexual boundaries in Japan, including Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Urotsukidoji, and Antiporno. Also included are the classic samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, as well as a brand new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster masterpiece Godzilla.
The festival schedule will focus on four selections that push gender roles and sexual boundaries in Japan, including Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend, and Antiporno. Also included are the classic samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, as well as a brand new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster masterpiece Godzilla.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical – Le Mouvement Final (2018)
In this filmed version of the Japanese musical, Usagi Tsukino says farewell to Mamoru Chiba as he is set to leave for school in America. As Usagi says goodbye, she faints, and a super idol group called the Three Lights appear to catch her fall. Meanwhile, new groups calling themselves Sailor Guardians appear, but are they friend or foe?
The Day Of The Western Sunrise (2018)
A film expertly animated and produced by local Pittsburghers, The Day of the Western Sunrise tells a true story of a surprise atomic bomb test from the perspective of fishermen on the sea nearby – and in the path of danger.
Wandering samurai Sanjuro finds himself in a rough gambling town run by two warlords and their hired thugs. While Sanjuro sets out to rid the town of all these pestilences by playing the two warlords off against each other, his efforts are complicated by the arrival of the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver.
This sequel to Yojimbo draws wandering samurai Sanjuro into the local politics of a group of young men determined to clean up corruption in their town. However, the town’s evil Superintendent is determined to kill off anyone standing in his way, so it’s up to Sanjuro’s cunning and swordcraft to ensure that the Superintendent’s plan does not come to fruition.
Your Name (2016)
The fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the fifth highest-grossing non-English film worldwide tells the story of a high school girl in rural Japan and a high school boy in Tokyo who swap bodies. They build a connection by leaving notes for one another until they wish to finally meet, but something stronger than distance may keep them apart.
Director Sion Sono takes on the Japanese movie studio Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno (romantic pornography) works of the 1970s and 80s in this film-within-a-film. Fashion star Kioko is bored in her apartment, waiting for a meeting with Watanabe, a chief-editor who’s interviewing her. In the domination and humiliation game between her and her assistant, the roles will slowly invert. Unless it’s all fiction?
See the monster movie that spawned a multimedia franchise, including 32 feature films and that has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest-running film franchise in history. Created by the H-bomb, a 164-foot-tall dinosaur-like monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy Japan and the rest of the world. Can the monster be destroyed before it’s too late?
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970)
The third in a series of five films which depict a gang of vicious teenage schoolgirls who get their kicks from gang fights, street muggings, and rock and roll. This time Mako and her gang The Alleycats clash with racist macho pigs The Eagles after Mako starts dating an Afro-Japanese man. Row House will screen a new restoration of the film.
Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend (1989)
The precursor to the infamous genre of tentacle porn, this complicated horror/fantasy/erotica tells of parallel realms of demons and man-beasts and a 3000-year-old legend that foretells the coming of the Overfiend—a being of unimaginable power that will unite all three realms into a land of eternity.
* Please note that some films in the festival contain graphic sexual imagery or sexual violence and may not be suitable for everyone.
The Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival takes place from April 6-19 at Row House Cinema. Tickets cost $9 general admission, $7 for matinees before 6 p.m. Opening night event tickets cost $15-30 and $10 for closing night. Discounts apply to college students, Lawrenceville residents, and guests who come in costume. You can also purchase a full festival pass for $36.
Body Farm, a joint feature-length movie production between KVT Productions and Nickel 17 Films, follows an independent film company that sends a videographer ahead of a story to investigate a body farm where human decomposition is researched. The footage she sends back leads the rest of her team to follow her footsteps to uncover a grisly medical abyss.
Directed by Nicholas LaMantia and writer Brandon Keenan, the low-budget film was shot around the Pittsburgh area and at the famed West Virginia State Penitentiary, as well as in the mountains of North Carolina and in New York City.
The Body Farm premiere takes place at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $8 online or $10 at the door.
When failed filmmaker Doug Stevenson leaves his video camera in the local park overnight, he accidentally records something horrific. To top it off, it might have something to do with his new neighbors that moved into his quiet suburban neighborhood. With the help of his bumbling teacher buddies, Doug goes on a wild ride to save himself, his friends, his ex-wife, and the entire neighborhood. Directed by Ben Dietels and starring Steve Rudzinski, David Ogrodowski, Jack Davis, and Vincent Bombara.
Slaughter Drive screens at 7:30 p.m. Guests are encouraged to wear their best Halloween costume for a contest to win a BPO DVD prize pack. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
From October 25-29, the August Willson Center will screen 90 films from 20 countries for the first-ever Pittsburgh Shorts Film Festival. Presented by Film Pittsburgh, the event will feature special programs, visiting filmmakers, parties, and more.
The festival opens with an opening night showcase of eight films, including Rated. The award-winning short follows Maggie, a wife and mother who must find the courage to own up to her behavior when she wakes up to find every adult has received a YELP-like star rating floating above their head. While most everyone has a shining 4 and 5-star rating, Maggie’s got just 2.5.
The event also includes an after-party with drinks, schmoozing, and food provided by Big Burrito. Tickets for Opening Night cost $15-25.
From there, the festival includes a diverse array of films, including a family matinee with eight kid-friendly shorts. Among the local films presented are three selections from the annual Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Project. The group includes Girl Seeking Wood, the story of a young Amish woman whose life changes forever when she finds a cell phone.
Those looking for a fright should check out the Thrills and Chill Program featuring 10 indie horror shorts, including Great Choice, an Overlook Film Festival selection about a woman who gets stuck in a Red Lobster commercial. There’s also a Halloween bash with a photo booth, food and drinks, and a live DJ.
The 47-minute-long travel documentary The Vacation follows Chef Tom Hambor and Dr. Brad Walter, owners of the Highland Park bakery Food Glorious Food, as they lead a small band of interested travelers through a culinary tour of Italy. Narrated by Maristella Cacciapaglia.
Also screening is director David Bernabo‘s 15 Short Films About Legume. The 36-minute-long film looks back at the 10-year history of the Oakland restaurant Legume through interviews with past and present staff, farmers, and customers.
It’s that time of year again, and Pittsburgh has tons of movie events to get you in the Halloween spirit. Scare yourself all month long with festive horror screenings, parties, and festivals.
The Indie Horror Drive-In Film Festival – Riverside Drive-In Theatre
On October 6-7, the Riverside Drive-In Theatre will present a creepy crop of short and feature-length independent works for the second annual Indie Horror Drive-In Film Festival. See schedule below:
7:35 p.m. – The Blood Shed
8 p.m. – Close Calls
10:30 p.m. – Pool Party Massacre
12 a.m. – 3 Dead Trick or Treaters
7:35 – 8 p.m. – The Stylist and Knob Goblins
8 p.m. – Circus of the Dead
10 p.m. – Family Possessions
11:45 p.m. – Shorts Block with John The Carpenter, Born Again, and Gwilliam
12:20 a.m. – Space Babes from Outer Space
Admission to the Indie Horror Drive-In Film Festival costs $8 per night.
Haunted Oaks Film Festival – Oaks Theater
On October 7, the Oaks Theater will showcase 13 locally made short films during the Haunted Oaks Film Festival. Selections include Blue Mountain Motel: The Innkeeper by Nathan King and Seth Smiley and the 2016 48 Hour Horror Film Project film When Madness Creeps In. The event also includes a cocktail hour where guests enjoy $5 and mingle with cast, crew and fellow horror lovers, a directors Q&A, and a chance to cast your ballot for the Audience Award. Films begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10.
Manor At Midnight – Manor Theatre
The freaks come out at night when the Manor Theatre presents their latest Midnight at the Manor movie lineup. The schedule includes David Cronenberg’s The Fly (October 7), the horror comedy What We Do In The Shadows (October 14), a restored print of Night Of The Living Dead (October 20 and 21), and The Shining (October 28). All shows will start at midnight, with the exception of Night Of The Living Dead. Please note that there will be two Night Of The Living Dead shows each evening at 10:45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.
Row House Cinema: Midnight Edition – Row House Cinema
Row House Cinema will present three horror hits for their Midnight Edition series. Selections include the 2014 indie Goodnight Mommy (October 7), the J-horror classic Ringu (October 21), and the Guillermo del Toro film The Devil’s Backbone (October 28). Tickets to all shows cost $10.
AMC Waterfront 22: Classic Movie Nights – AMC Loews Waterfront 22
AMC Loews Waterfront 22 will inject some horror into its Classic Movie Nights series with a few spooky selections. On October 6, it’s the 1975 cult musical Rocky Horror Picture Show, followed by the witchy romantic comedy Practical Magic on October 11, Friday the 13th on Friday, October 13 (of course), The Lost Boys on October 18, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice on October 25, and The Crow on October 30. Tickets cost $5. VIP seating is also available.
Friday the 13th Movie and Beer Tasting – Oaks Theater
On October 12, enjoy a bloody good time when the Oaks Theater pairs beer with a screening of the slasher classic Friday the 13th. The 1980 film pits a group of teen camp counselors against a killer with a ruthless vendetta. Event begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8.
The Old Dark House – Hollywood Theater
From October 13-15, the Hollywood Theater resurrects a lost horror gem when it shows the new 4K restoration of The Old Dark House (1932). Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale added a comic spin to his adaptation of the 1927 J. B. Priestley novel Benighted, which follows a group of lost travelers who take refuge in a gloomy, secluded mansion. The atmospheric thriller features a post-Frankenstein Boris Karloff, Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart of Titanic fame. Tickets cost $5-8.
A Celebration of George Romero – Various venues
Pittsburgh will come together to honor a late horror master when Row House Cinema and company present A Celebration of George Romero. From October 13-19, the week-long tribute will feature screenings and programming presented by several local businesses. Events include Romero movies at Row House Cinema, the “resurrection” of the Pittsburgh zombie store House of the Dead, a mini Zombie School with The ScareHouse, a #RomeroWasHere Scavenger Hunt at Romero film locations throughout Western Pennsylvania, and a horror-themed trivia night at the Row House Cinema sister store, Bierport. The Douglas Education Center will also present makeup and special effects demonstrations by George A. Romero’s Filmmaking Program and Tom Savini’s Special Makeup and Effects Program. Event dates and times are available at the Row House Cinema website.
Living Dead Weekend – Living Dead Museum
The Living Dead Museum will once again host a weekend of zombie-themed fun for the whole family in Evans City, PA. From October 20-22, enjoy numerous activities in EDCO Park, including discussion panels and meetups with Living Dead cast and crew members, a pet walk and costume contest, parties, vendors, and more. The event will also honor the late George Romero with a double-feature screening of his films Day of the Dead and Knightriders at the Strand Theater. Ticket prices vary.
Row House of Horrors – Row House Cinema
From October 20-31, Row House Cinema scares up more great movies for Row House of Horrors. Selections include the wacky sequel Evil Dead 2, the 1982 American horror classic Poltergeist, the 1993 comedy Hocus Pocus, and director Dario Argento’s 1977 work Suspiria.
Hollywood Theater Halloween Party with The Lost Boys – Hollywood Theater
On October 21, vamp it up for the annual Hollywood Theater Halloween Party. The event features a vampire theme in honor of the evening’s screening of The Lost Boys, the 1987 film about two brothers who discover their town is a haven for blood-sucking teens. Don your best vampire look and compete in the costume contest, which includes a category for the best 1980’s-inspired vampire. Transform yourself into a Reagan-era monster at the 1980’s hair bar and vampire makeup station. There will also be vendor tables, a raffle, tasty treats, and other scary fun. Doors open at 7 p.m. The screening takes place at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15, $12 for Hollywood members, $20 day of event. The event is BYOB.
48 Hour Film Horror Project Festival – Oaks Theater
The Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Horror Project challenged 19 teams to write, shoot, edit, and score their own horror shorts over the course of a single weekend. On October 28, the resulting films will premiere at the Oaks Theater and compete for a variety of awards. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and are available at the door.
Silents, Please! Nosferatu with the Andrew Alden Ensemble – Hollywood Theater
On October 29, the chamber music group Andrew Alden Ensemble will provide live musical accompaniment to the 1922 silent film Nosferatu. Presented as part of Hollywood Theater‘s Silents, Please! series. German director F. W. Murnau‘s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula follows the blood-thirsty Count Orlok as he relocates from his castle in the Carpathian mountains to a small German town, where he feeds on the unsuspecting populace. Tickets cost $8-10.
In the 1990s, before Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat took the internet by storm, a very large cat was making a name for itself in Pittsburgh. On August 26, the Oaks Theater will present the premiere of Frank and the Wondercat, a film about the special bond between a local man and his famous feline friend.
The feature documentary by Tony Massil and Pablo Alvarez-Mesa follows Frank Furko, an 80-year old eccentric living in the Pittsburgh suburb of Plum. Taking stock of his life, Furko tries to reconcile with the 40 years working on the family farm with his domineering father, the end of his 20-year marriage, and his role as a celebrity derived from an unusual but deeply felt friendship with Pudgie Wudgie, his 20-pound performing house cat. From humble beginnings training in their Pittsburgh living room to NFL tailgate parties, the National Enquirer and The Maury Povich show, this is a portrait of their odyssey together. Shown through Furko’s homemade VHS archives – footage that is equal parts hilarious, bizarre and beautiful – their relationship was a remarkable testament to the power of interspecies connection. [Synopsis courtesy of IMDB]
Frank and the Wondercat screens at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. A pre-show event with Humane Animal Rescue will feature adoptable cats and kittens, giveaways, raffles, and information about the shelter. A meet-and-greet with Furko will take place after the show. Tickets cost $8-10.