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.
From August 26-27, Carnegie Screenwriters, a nonprofit group of tri-state writers, actors, and filmmakers, will hold their inaugural Script & Screen Festival. Hosted by the Tull Family Theater, the event will highlight scripts and short films from the Pittsburgh region and all over the globe, including works from Argentina, Iran, Russia, and The United Kingdom.
“Pittsburgh is very much a supportive community when it comes to filmmaking,” said festival director Wendy Grube in a press release. “We hope to bring more area film folks together through this event and encourage folks from other parts of the country and world to travel to the area, share their works and connect with our local filmmakers.”
The festival opens with a reception and seated script reading of three short scripts. Representing Pittsburgh is DIG by Robert Brian Taylor of Mount Lebanon. Also being presented are Giancarlo Fusi‘s Hell to Pay: The Legend of Robert Johnson, a story about the famous bluesman who allegedly sold his soul to the Devil, and Edward Santiago’s Western tale The Badge, the Gun and the Hangman’s Noose.
The following day will include a roster of films, all of which are under 20 minutes in length. Screenings will occur in 90-minute blocks followed by a short break and recognition of the attending filmmakers.
The reception and script readings will take place on August 26 at 6 p.m. Screenings will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on August 27. Tickets for the reception and screenings are available online or a the door.
Last August, local horror filmmaker Fred Vogel started shooting his eighth feature film in Pittsburgh. On August 17, the Hollywood Theater will premiere the finished product, The Final Interview, a thriller about a desperate reporter and a killer.
Veteran TV journalist Oliver Ross (Grainger Hines) visits Western Penitentiary for a live broadcast. There he confronts Darius Tidman (Damien Maruscak), a death row inmate and infamous Pittsburgh murderer, hours before his execution. The face-to-face interview is a last-ditch effort for Ross to salvage his declining career. While he spars verbally with Tidman on air, behind the scenes he wrestles with his own personal demons as his ex-wife and show director Rhonda Cox (Diane Franklin) attempts to keep him on track and guide him through the broadcast. Oliver must push through a dark world of the murder and his own mind.
For the first time, area LGBTQ+ filmmakers have the chance to screen their short movies in a local film festival created for and by them with the Pittsburgh Underground Film Festival (PUFF). Launched by Reel Q, PUFF celebrates “diverse LGBTQ+ communities through the presentation of overlooked and out-of-the-box films, workshops, lectures, and panels.” See below for event dates and details:
Ovarian Psychos (dir. Kate Trumbull LaValle and Joanna Sokolowski, 2012)
The event opens with Ovarian Psychos. The documentary follows The Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade, a raucous group in Eastside Los Angeles that uses their bicycles to confront the violence in their lives. At the helm of the crew is founder Xela de la X, a single mother and poet M.C. dedicated to recruiting an unapologetic, misfit crew of women of color, yet she struggles to strike a balance between motherhood and activism. Evie, a bright-eyed recruit, joins the crew despite poverty and the concerns of her protective Salvadoran mother. Meanwhile, Andi Xoch, a founding member and street artist, journeys to become a new leader within the crew.
Ovarian Psychos screens at 7 p.m. in the Melwood Screening Room. Doors open at 6 p.m. Cast members from the film will make an appearance.
Only In Pittsburgh!
Presented in cooperation with the Melwood Screening Room’s Film Kitchen series and the Indie Oaks Festival, Only In Pittsburgh! serves as a showcase for LGBTQ+ short films made by the local burgeoning film community. The featured works include the educational film parody How to Find a Man, the Dusty Springfield-inspired Mama Said, and The Toothmans, a documentary about a rural Pennsylvania family and their transgender daughter.
Only In Pittsburgh! begins at 12:30 p.m. in the Melwood Screening Room. Doors open at 12 p.m.
Lives of Their Own: Pittsburgh Queer History Project Screening
Join archivist Harrison Apple as she presents video content from the Pittsburgh Queer History Project, an oral history and media archive aimed at preserving a record of LGBTQ nightlife from 1960-1990. The lecture includes a full screening of the 1989 Ms. Pittsburgh Pageant. This event is free and open to the public.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (dir. David France, 2017)
When Marsha P. Johnson, the beloved self-described “street queen” of Christopher Street, was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, the NYPD called her death a suicide. Protests erupted but the police remained impassive and refused to investigate. Now, 25 years later, Oscar-nominated director and journalist David France (How To Survive a Plague) examines the death and extraordinary life of a trans icon.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson screens at the Melwood Screening Room. Doors open at 3 p.m.
The Revival: Women and the Word (dir. Sekiya Dorsett, 2016)
Jade Foster recruits a group of five dynamic poets and musicians to become stewards of a movement that builds community among queer women of color, upholds literary arts excellence, and occupies living rooms across the country. The documentary follows their international female-led, salon-styled tour.
The Revival: Women and the Word screens at 6 p.m. the Melwood Screening Room. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Event includes a post-screening poetry performance.
Breakfast with Queer PGH
Join Queer PGH for an early lecture about their mission to promote LGBTQ+ voices and perspectives. Created in 2016, the volunteer-run online magazine “made by and for queer folks in Pittsburgh” has become a platform for artists, writers, photographers, and “general queer enthusiasts.”
Toonseum sponsors a selection of short films from LGBTQ+ animators. The program includes the 1930s-style cartoon musical Happy and Gay, the animated documentary webseries Dating Sucks, A Genderqueer Misadventure, and a look at the work of Jeffrey Krell, an openly gay American cartoonist known for the syndicated comic strip Jayson.
Get Animated! starts at 12:30 p.m. in the Melwood Screening Room. Doors open at 12 p.m.
Spiritual sanctuary, sex, sisterhood and a gathering of faeries. A bearded nun. Through an intimate lens, this feature documentary takes us on a journey with Sister Missionary P. Delight, one of the founders of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. In 1979, Mish, as he is affectionately known by his friends, created an Order of gay male nuns to promote a philosophy of promulgating universal joy and expiating guilt. Both he and the Order have come a long way since then. Today, the Sisters are spread out across the globe, and Mish lives in the middle of the woods of the Deep South, in a community of Radical Faeries. JOY! follows Mish and his community over a seven year period, chronicling the history of the movement and the highs and lows of his own personal journey.
JOY! Portrait of a Nun screens at 2:30 p.m. in the Melwood Screening Room. Doors open at 2 p.m.
All PUFF events take place at the Melwood Screening Room. Tickets to all screenings cost $10. Lectures and workshops are free.
The Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival (PIFF) returns to the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks to showcase a variety of short and feature-length films. From June 23-25, the event will screen 59 selections from the U.S. and all over the world, including many made right here in Pittsburgh.
The festival kicks off with an opening ceremony, followed by a reception for attendees to mix and mingle. The evening will also include screenings of the animated short Corky and A Fancy Piece of Homicide, a neo-noir psychological thriller from local filmmaker Joseph Varhola. Starring Pittsburgh-based stage and screen actor Bingo O’Malley (Out of the Furnace, Creepshow), the “psychological murder mystery” follows a retired private eye who once served an extended prison sentence for killing a man he was hired to investigate. He now approaches the completion of his memoir to set the record straight. One night, envelopes containing photographs with connections to the past anonymously begin to show up at his front door, along with a mysterious man (Mark Tierno) who is receiving photographs of his own.
From 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on June 24, the festival presents 17 submissions, among them My Name is Joan, a documentary short about a woman who was illegally adopted in the 1950s, and a selection from Italy titled The Rope. Also included is
On Saturday and Sunday, the festival will also present Made In PA, two blocks of films either made in Pennsylvania or by Pennsylvania filmmakers. The chosen selections include director Jes Paul‘s narrative short Promenade and Teaching Peace, a documentary about one man’s mission to spread the virtues of pacifism.
PIFF will also show films hailing from Canada, France, the UK, Israel, and Hungary.
In 2014, Row House Theater opened in Lawrenceville, making it the first movie theater to operate in the neighborhood since 1965. On June 21, Row House and its sister store, Bierport, will celebrate three years of good films and good beer with a special birthday bash at Belvederes Ultra-Dive.
“It’s a chance to celebrate with our patrons, our vendors, and the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our success couldn’t be realized without them,” said Row House owner Brian Mendelssohn in a press release.
A video mashup of Row House movies and favorite staff memories will serve as the backdrop for the evening as DJs Selecta and Nate Da Barber keep people moving on the dance floor. Sample some food truck bites from Blue Sparrow, sweet treats by Yummyholic, and crafts by Songbird Artistry. There will also be drink specials and complimentary Row House popcorn, party hats, and kazoos.
Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $6. Guests with the SRVD app will have access to exclusive drink specials for the evening. As part of the birthday celebration, Row House will also host a week of their favorite films from June 16-22.
In 1996, the locally produced documentary Struggles in Steel: A Story of African-American Steelworkers premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, bringing to light the forgotten contributors to an industry that defined Pittsburgh. On June 8, The Battle of Homestead Foundation will present a special screening of the film at the historic Pump House.
When a local television station did a program about the closing of the major steel mills in the Pittsburgh region, Ray Henderson, a former mill worker who had worked in the mills for 18 years, couldn’t help but notice that not one Black worker was shown. This despite the fact that African-American workers had formed a critical part of the labor force in western Pennsylvania for 125 years.
With his old friend and independent filmmaker Tony Buba, Henderson set out to collaborate on a history of African-Americans and their contributions not just to the steel industry, but to the labor movement itself. Through eloquent living witnesses and revelatory archival footage, the film presents a striking counterpoint to the stereotypical Black male image.
Featuring interviews with over 70 African-American workers, Struggles In Steel documents the shameful history of discrimination against Black workers and one heroic campaign where they won equality on the job. (Synopsis courtesy of Braddock Films)
The Struggles in Steel screening takes place from 7-9 p.m. and includes a discussion with Buba. The event is free and open to the public.
Last summer, two Pittsburgh cultural organizations – Film Pittsburgh (formerly JFilm) and Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PF/PCA) – joined forces to produce the Three Rivers Film Festival (3RFF). Sponsored by Dollar Bank, the 35-year-old annual event is considered the oldest and largest film festival in the region. An official press release stated that JFilm and PF/PCA aimed to transform 3RFF into “a highly visible event, generating more awareness of the festival’s rich offerings, promoting tourism to the city, and helping to elevate the art form of independent cinema within Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape.”
That transformation begins with this year’s 3RFF, which takes place from November 16 – 20, and offers 31 films at venues throughout the city.
The festival opens with the Pittsburgh premiere of director Eddie Rosenstein‘s work The Freedom to Marry. Presented in collaboration with Reel Q, and supported in part by the ACLU – PA, the documentary shows how, over the last four decades, the same-sex marriage has gone from a “preposterous notion” to one of the most successful civil rights campaigns in the world. Largely focused on Pittsburgh native and marriage equality pioneer Evan Wolfson, the War Room-style film captures the final frenetic months of the movement’s Supreme Court legal battle.
The screening takes place at 7 p.m. at the August Wilson Center. The evening will also feature a post-screening reception and conversation with Rosenstein and Wolfson.
The schedule includes other films making their Pittsburgh debuts, including director Sophia Takal‘s female-led thriller Always Shine, David Byrne‘s musical tribute to color guard Contemporary Color, and Robert Greene‘s experimental nonfiction film Kate Plays Christine.
The latter follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards, The Girlfriend Experience, Listen Up Philip) as she prepares to play Christine Chubbuck, a real-life Florida newscaster who committed suicide live on-air in 1974. As Sheil investigates Chubbuck’s story, she uncovers new clues and information, and becomes increasingly obsessed with her subject. The film went on to win the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
3RFF will also highlight films from around the world, including the Polish film Blindness, the Swiss-German family film Heidi, and the Spanish-language biopic-narrative hybrid Neruda. Also featured is the UK film Trespass Against Us, an intense drama that stars Michael Fassbender as an outlaw at odds with his crime boss father, played by veteran actor Brendan Gleeson.
The lineup will also showcase a selection of short films, a double-feature looking at independent filmmaking in Pittsburgh, and a special presentation of the newly restored German silent film Varieté. Made in 1925, the story of a seedy ex-trapeze artist who abandons his family for an exotic dancer offers high-flying cinematography and pre-Code sexuality. Its 3RFF premiere will include live musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.
Click here for the complete 3RFF schedule and details. Tickets for regular screenings cost $12, $8 for students 26 and under with valid ID. Special pricing applies to the opening night screening and the Varieté screening. All tickets are available for purchase online or at the door.
As urban populations continue to grow, the access to decent housing shrinks. On November 10th, the Carnegie Museum of Art will examine how people throughout South America are trying to solve the problem with a preview of the locally produced documentary Within Formal Cities.
The film by intern architects Brian Gaudio and Abe Drechsler showcases innovative housing and infrastructure projects in Lima, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Bogotá. During their travels, Gaudio and Drechsler interviewed more than 40 architects, designers, community members, and government agencies to learn about the housing crisis and the innovative ways designers are addressing it.
Within Formal Cities begins at 6:30 p.m. in the CMOA Theater. Gaudio will introduce the film and conduct a post-screening Q&A. The event is free. Those interested in attending can RSVP at the event Facebook page.
The screening is a program of Building Optimism: Public Space in South America at CMOA’s Heinz Architectural Center.
Since it opened in 2014, Row House Cinema has entertained audiences with an eclectic selection of beloved classics, acclaimed new releases, and offbeat cult films. Now moviegoers can support the local single-screen theater and receive special perks with the Row House Film Club.
The program offers identical benefits with two payment options: the $10-a-month Sustaining Membership and the $100-a-year Annual Membership.
“The Film Club gives members a personalized experience every time they walk through our doors,” says Row House owner Brian Mendelssohn in an official statement.
Each member receives the following benefits:
- One free movie ticket as a thank you for joining
- One free birthday movie in the month of your birthday
- One free movie entry each month with complimentary small popcorn
- Access to advance and discount tickets for special events and screenings
- On-screen recognition at each movie screening
- Invitation to an Annual Member Appreciation Day
Those interested can sign up for Row House Film Club online.