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.
On March 29, the Tull Family Theater in Sewickley will launch Science on Screen. Taken from the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Science on Screen initiative, the monthly series pairs films that explore science-based issues with noted experts in the field. It includes four events from March through June and covers topics such as memory loss, sleep issues, meal preparation, and math. Before each screening, experts from local organizations will give 10-20 minutes talks and take questions from the audience.
See dates and details below:
Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith) spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband (Jon Hamm). With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her daughter and son-in-law (Geena Davis and Tim Robbins) to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past, Based on the play by Jordan Harrison, Michael Almaryeda’s film wonders how, if given the opportunity, would we choose to rebuild the past, and what would we decide to forget?
The includes a talk by experts from University of Pittsburgh’s BRiTE Center, which offers physical, musical and mental activities to those with mild cognitive impairments.
Sleepwalk with Me
Based on comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia’s successful one-man show, Sleepwalk with Me tells the semi-biographical story of burgeoning stand-up comedian struggling with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship threatening to race out of his control, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore. Director/star Birbiglia co-wrote the script with NPR personality Ira Glass, who also produced the film.
The screening includes a talk and Q&A by Dr. Daniel Shade, director of Allegheny General Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Clinic, and Rachel Falsone, a nurse practitioner trained in insomnia and sleepwalking.
Adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen, director Gabriel AxelOscar-winning 1987 film tells the layered tale of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late nineteenth-century Denmark.
The event includes a discussion on the multiple dimensions of food preparation by Leah Lizarondo, CEO and co-founder of the innovative anti-food waste nonprofit 412 Food Rescue, and Sister Lyn Szymkiewicz, director of ecology and environment at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, who manages a 94-acres preserve including beehives, chickens and community gardens.
The Man Who Knew Infinity
Written and directed by Matthew Brown, The Man Who Knew Infinity is the true story of friendship that forever changed mathematics. In 1913, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), a self-taught Indian mathematics genius, traveled to Trinity College, Cambridge, where over the course of five years, forged a bond with his mentor, the brilliant and eccentric professor, G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), and fought against prejudice to reveal his mathematic genius to the world.
Dr. Harsh Mathur, a quantum physics professor at Case Western Reserve University, will provide context by discussing the film’s subject and his impact on the field. Mathur shares an Indian heritage with Ramanujan and has a special interest in physics history.
The Tull Family Theater will accommodate group sales for 10 or more people, discounted from $11 general admission to the $8.75 rate reserved usually for seniors 65 and older, children 10 and younger, and military and college students with IDs. Adults and youth are encouraged to attend.
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.
Chatham University will highlight leaders in sustainability and environmentalism during their latest spring Falk School of Sustainability & Environment speaker series. As part of the lineup, the school will feature two documentaries. See schedule and details below:
A self-described “steward of the earth,” Nance Klehm has built a reputation among environmentalists as an ecological systems designer, a permacultural grower, a horticultural consultant, and a teacher and speaker. Weedeater trots alongside Klehm through various landscapes, gathering together a collection of her thoughts and philosophies on everything from wild, uncultivated weeds to human waste composting to soil. The film attempts to sketch Klehm’s character as well as reflect the depth and complexity of her intimate relationship with the earth and all of its inhabitants.
Includes a talk by Klehm.
Power of One Voice
The Power of One Voice: A 50-Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson examines Carson’s legacy and the continuing implications of her environmental work. The documentary pulls insights from a variety of speakers at the 50th-anniversary celebration of her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring.
Includes a discussion with Patti DeMarco, former director of Chatham’s Rachel Carson Institute.
Both events take place at the Esther Barazzone Center on Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus.
Local artist Matthew Buchholz is best known for his movie-inspired pop art business Alternate Histories. While his work displays a fascination with Godzilla, King Kong, and 1950s space invaders, he decided to return to his more high-brow film roots with Hitchcock 52, a year-long project dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock.
“My background is in film production and criticism and I’d been feeling that I was getting away from my love of movies,” says Buchholz, an NYU film school grad who managed the BAMcinématek program for almost seven years before moving to Pittsburgh. “I wanted to do something that got me thinking and writing critically, and Alfred Hitchcock was my first real film obsession.”
When Buchholz realized Hitchcock made 52 feature films – excluding the auteur’s lost 1927 work The Mountain Eagle – the synergy “was too good to ignore.” Starting last January, he set about watching one film per week and writing about it. He completes his monumental task on December 30 at Row House Cinema, where he will present a screening of North by Northwest.
The 1959 thriller stars Cary Grant as a New York ad exec forced to go on the run after a case of mistaken identity makes him the target of a mysterious organization. Regarded by scholars and critics as one of the greatest American films of all time, it became notable for its ambitious use of setting – including the famed crop duster scene and the iconic Mount Rushmore finale – and laying the groundwork for modern action thrillers.
“It’s my favorite Hitchcock movie and probably my favorite film of all time, so I’m always looking for a reason to watch it on the big screen,” says Buchholz.
Though North by Northwest is the last Hitchcock 52 selection, it’s not the director’s final film (that title goes to the 1976 dark comedy Family Plot). Buchholz explains that he chose to watch Hitchcock’s films out of chronological order to keep the experience more interesting for himself and for the reader.
“I felt it would be better to jump around and when possible and compare and contrast movies like the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much and the 1956 remake,” says Buchholz. “Beyond that, it was often based on my whim and what I felt like watching that week.”
Hitchcock 52 allowed him to take a more balanced approach to analyzing the work of a director often regarded with blind reverence. Even as he praises Hitchcock’s enduring brilliance, he also takes a step back to point out flaws or moments that fail to stand the test of time.
He also deals with the uncomfortable aspects of Hitchcock, who has frequently garnered criticism for his depictions of women, people of color, and characters coded as gay or transgender. In one Hitchcock 52 post, Buccholz touches on the glaring homophobia displayed in the 1929 film Murder! and relates it to the director’s frequent attempts at exploring sexuality “in a shocking and provocative manner.”
“You can argue that Hitchcock provided some of the most sympathetic portraits of coded gay characters to be seen before 1960,” he writes. “But virtually all of his ‘gay’ characters (Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, the Leopold & Loeb-like duo of Rope, Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train, and Leonard in North by Northwest) fall into the ‘deviant sexuality’ camp; they’re villains who commit or attempt murder and are caught and punished.”
In his most recent post on The Birds, Buchholz even confronts his own hypocrisy when it comes to actress Tippi Hedren, whose long-held claims that Hitchcock sexually assaulted her during production on Marnie resurfaced in her recently released memoir.
“I admit that, because of my idolization of Hitchcock, I overlooked Hedren’s accusations in the past, in part because Hedren is the only actress to ever make these claims,” says Buchholz. “But reading her book, and seeing how respectful she still is to him, it makes me think that something must have happened. Because why would I believe the women who say these things about Woody Allen and Bill Cosby but not Hitchcock? It’s disappointing, obviously, and I’m wrestling with my feelings in [The Birds] essay.”
While Buchholz says he enjoyed doing the project, he doubts he will pursue another one like it.
“Surprisingly, while I thought it would reignite my critical passion, it’s actually driven me back to thinking more creatively, and trying to find a way to write or make movies,” says Buchholz. “It’s impossible to spend so long with someone so talented and not be inspired.”
The Hitchcock 52 screening of North by Northwest begins at 7:35 p.m. with an introduction by Buchholz. He will briefly discuss the Hitchcock 52 project, what he has learned, and why North by Northwest is his favorite Hitchcock film. Tickets cost $9 and are available for purchase at the Row House website or at the door.
Last month, four organizations – the Chatham University Women’s Institute, New Voices Pittsburgh, the Women and Girls Foundation, and the Women’s Law Project – launched Just Films. The series includes ten documentaries covering a wide range of issues such as immigration, human trafficking, trans families, and paid leave. Many of the films were made by women and will screen in Pittsburgh for the first time.
On October 27th, Just Films welcomes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker for the Pittsburgh premiere of Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil.
Directed by Donna C. Roberts and Donna Read, and narrated by Walker, the documentary depicts the Candomblé religion in Bahia, Brazil, a vibrant culture which evolved from the ways of enslaved Africans. Elder women leaders tell stories of Candomblé’s history, social challenges and triumphs, grounded in strong community, and Earth-based wisdom and practice.
Walker will participate in a post-screening panel along with Roberts and Candomblé priestess Dr. Rachel Elizabeth Harding. Dr. Huberta Jackson-Lowman, president of The Association of Black Psychologists, will serve as moderator.
All Just Films events are free and open to the public. The series will continue through June 2017.
Does the mention of wire hangers trigger your Faye Dunaway impression? Is Valley of the Dolls one of your favorite films? Do you know what happened to Baby Jane? On September 17th, Bricolage will present a night devoted to camp cinema with Brian Edward In Person & On Film.
Edward, a local performer best known as the creator of the musical comedy Amish Burlesque and host of ‘Burgh Vivant, will use outrageous clips, personal anecdotes and wit to roast an array of classic camp films, including Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Auntie Mame, Sunset Boulevard and Mommie Dearest.
Doors for Brian Edward In Person & On Film at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. The event includes an opening performance by the all-gay improv troupe LGBTQ-Bert. Cocktails and silent auction will follow. Tickets cost $20 and are available for purchase at Showclix. All proceeds benefit the Reel-Q Film Festival.
The University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Filmmakers will present the 18th annual Russian Film Symposium from May 2nd through May 7th. Titled Recycle, Restage, Rewind, the event will interrogate the curiously frequent production of sequels and remakes recently in the Russian film industry. The symposium will also bring well-recognized scholars and critics working in Russian film.
The Postman’s White Nights (2014)
Directed by Andrei Konchalovskii, and featuring a cast of non-professional actors, this drama produces an elegiac portrait of an isolated Far Northern village where the postman is the only connection to the outside world.
In director Sergei Solovjev‘s sequel to ASSA, the heroine of the original cult film completes her 22-year prison sentence for killing her lover. Once out, she experiences some peculiar twists of fate.
The Forty First (1956)
Based on the eponymous novel by Boris Lavrenyev, director Grigorii Chukhrai‘s groundbreaking Soviet exploration of sentiment and sexuality tells the story of a tragic romance between a female Red Army sniper and a White Army officer.
Dukhless 2 (2015)
Playboy Max Andreyev tries to turn over a new leaf, living on an island in South-East Asia. But certain circumstances force him to go back home, where he faces a difficult choice.
Elki 2 (2011)
The continuation of a highly popular Russian franchise about people coming together for the holidays follows a little a little girl writing a letter to Santa, a group of teenagers, a evil official and a wealthy businessman.
Forbidden Empire (Viy) (2014)
An 18th century English cartographer, Jonathan Green, sets out on a journey to map the uncharted lands of Transylvania, only to discover the dark secrets and dangerous creatures hidden in a cursed, fantastical Ukrainian forest.
Vocal Parallels (2005)
A film “tapestry” finely woven from the preserved threads of the Soviet empire. Directed by Rustam Khamdamov.
Angels of Revolution (2014)
Legendary Communist fighter, the beautiful Polina-Revoluzia, is asked by the newborn Soviet government to bring order to the north of the Soviet Union. The shamans of the two native populations, Khanty and Nenets, refuse the new ideology. Polina convinces five of her friends to go with her, former colleagues-in-arms who have now become metropolitan artists: a composer, a sculptor, a theatre director, a Constructivist architect, a famous director. They will have to try and reconcile the culture of the Russian Avant-garde with the Ancient Paganism of the peoples who live in the virgin forest around the great Siberian river Ob. Based on a true story.
Kiss Them All! 2: We Will Live (2014)
A comic battle for control over the usually somber funeral ritual. Directed by Zhora Kryzhovnikov.
The Irony of Fate 2 (2016)
The classic 1976 romantic comedy continues when a batch of new characters, all children of the original film’s heroes, finds their fates becoming intertwined.
The Dawns Are Quiet Here (2015)
A remake of a World War II film about a group of young female anti-aircraft gunners. Directed by Renat Davletiarov.
The Land of Oz (2015)
Set in the industrial, frozen Urals, this modern interpretation of the classic Oz story is full of incredible events, unexpected meetings, spontaneous confrontations and fairy-tale solutions of emotional conflicts.
Daytime panels and screenings are free and will take place on Pitt’s campus at 1500 Wesley W. Posvar Hall. Evening screenings will take place at Melwood Screening Room and are $8 regular admission, $7 for seniors and students, $4 for Pitt and Art Institute students.
Over the course of her distinguished career, Dash has written, directed and produced stories about the black experience for film and TV. In 1991, her debut feature Daughters of the Dust, a period drama about three generations of Gullah women on St. Helena Island, became the first theatrically released feature-length film by an African-American woman in the US. She has also received honors and awards from various organizations and festivals for her work.
An Evening with Julie Dash will begin at 5:30 p.m. and includes an informal Q&A with Dash and screenings of clips from her extensive filmography. Filmmaker Billy Jackson will moderate. A dessert reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public. Guests can register at Eventbrite.
The talk is in correlation with the Carnegie Mellon University Lecture Series presentation of Requiem for Rice. The national multimedia event is a tribute to those enslaved, exploited and brutalized on Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations who remain, unburied, unmourned and unmarked. Dash, who serves as part of the project’s creative team, will also appear at the event.
Requiem for Rice will take place on April 4th at 4:30 p.m. in CMU’s Porter Hall 100.
Established in 2006, The Propeller Group, an artist collective based in Ho Chi Minh and Los Angeles, creates multimedia work that combines filmmaking, advertising, politics, and history. On October 22nd, the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) will present a screening and talk to open its fall Forum Gallery exhibition, which features The Propeller Group’s work The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music.
The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music is a visual and musical journey through the fantastical funerary traditions of South Vietnam. Part documentary and part visionary reenactment, the 21-minute video follows brass band musicians, spiritual mediums, professional criers, and street performers through the mournful and euphoric public ceremonies of a multi-day wake: a set of colorful rituals that resonate with funeral traditions in New Orleans and other parts of the “global south.”
The Propeller Group reception and artist talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. The evening includes a post-screening discussion with Propeller Group founders Phunam Thuc Ha, Matt Lucero, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen, as well as special guest Dr. Matt Sakakeeny, Assistant Professor of Music at Tulane University. A cocktail reception in the Scaife foyer will follow. Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to RSVP at the CMOA website. The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music exhibition will run from October 23rd through March 21st in the museum’s Forum Gallery.