The fourth annual American Museum of Natural History Margaret Mead Traveling Film Festival will bring six films on three nights to the University of the Virgin Islands on April 9 through 11.
The Communication Program in UVI's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is hosting the remarkable series of films, described as all new, all striking and all revealing about the world far from the Virgin Islands. The series is co-hosted by the Virgin Islands Montessori School International Academy in Red Hook, on St. Thomas.
The Traveling Festival is featured at museums, universities, and colleges throughout the United States and abroad, according to UVI Professor of Communication Dr. Alex Randall. "If you love to learn about other people in other places in the world, this is for you," Dr. Randall said. "UVI has arranged for all of the films in this year's series to be shown to the whole community on St Thomas and St. Croix," he added. All films in the program are free and open to the public.
Dr. Randall said the films to be shown represent some of the very finest independent cultural documentaries available in the United States. He said festival organizers at American Museum of Natural History in New York screen dozens of the best innovative non-fiction films and select the top offerings for the traveling show.
The festival's Friday evening films are about love. They include a love story from India, about an old man named Babaji, who is a sage and seer who is reputed to be over 100 years old grieves for his lost wife and prepares for the next world while people in his community depend on him for their lives. The second story is "Blind Love" - a story about two couples in the Czech Republic and their fantasies, which they cannot see. The story is touching and charming and a window on the world of people who are blind. On Saturday night, the film "Cooking History" features a tour of the world's battle fields with an eye on the foods that keeps armies marching. The film "Hotel Sahara" follows. It features people in Mauritania living a sparse existence on the margins of the world hoping for passage to a better life in Europe. Sunday evening's lineup opens with "The Last Days of the Shishmaref ." It depicts the Eskimo of Alaska's Seward peninsula who are living with melting arctic glaciers which are reducing the size of their frozen world. The last film is "The Living," about the people of Ukraine who were caught in the vice of history and we are led to discover their scattered stories that tell of life under Soviet Communism.
Films will be shown each evening from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Administration and Conference Center on UVI's St. Thomas campus and in Room 401 of the Evans Center on the St. Croix campus. While everyone in is invited, seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information contact Dr. Randall at (340) 693-1377 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, April 9
Program One: Babanji, An Indian Love Story
Jiska Rickels - 2008 - 72 min - India/The Netherlands
Baba Basant Rai buried his wife nine years ago, and yet still grieves. Prescribing and preparing traditional remedies, Babaji, as he is affectionately called, attends to the community outside Hazaribagh, in Jharkhand, India, curing fevers and stomach ailments as well as exorcising the malevolent ghosts that walk among them. As knowledgeable and accomplished as he is in using the natural world to help the sick, Babaji was unable to save his beloved wife. Digging a grave next to hers, he lies down in it and waits for death. Meanwhile, the people of the town depend on Babaji, who is rumored to be more than 100 years old. They marvel at his eccentricity and longevity, regarding him as a "star" and their road to possible notoriety. A portrait of one man's sorrow, the film is also a window into traditional Hindi culture, its beauty and limitations, and how it struggles to accommodate, and resist, modernity.
Program Two: Blind Love (Slepe Lasky)
Juraj Lehotský - 2008 - 77 min - Slovakia
Sitting around the parlor one afternoon in their home in Levoca, Slovakia, Peter and Iveta imagine an underwater world, him noodling on the piano, her knitting vigorously. Director Juraj Lehotský obliges the married couple's fantasies, rendering them in a fanciful vignette. But neither Peter nor Iveta can see it. They are both blind. Combining moody, low-light cinematography, an artist's eye for composition, and a sharp ear for quotidian sounds, Blind Loves depicts the day-to-day world of four blind couples, rich in other sensory experiences.
Saturday, April 10
Program Three: Cooking History
Peter Kerekes - 2009 - 88 min - Austria, Bosnia, Croatia, etc.
What keeps the armies of the world going? Tanks, submarines, airplanes, bullets, bombs? Actually, bread. Bread and blinis and sausage and coq au vin, even "monkey meat" rations. As one cook puts it, without food, the army would be in a shambles. Taking a tour of 20th century battlefields, Peter Kerekes revisits its mess halls and field kitchens, asking the cooks to recreate the meals they served at the front. One Russian woman prepares blinis she once made for the soldiers fighting off the Germans outside Leningrad. Another hunts mushrooms in a Czechoslovakian forest. Hungarians slaughter a pig for kolbasz. A German sings a fight song while baking black bread for the soldiers who just took Poland. A French conscientious objector chases a cockerel for his dinner. Reliving the battles while they prepare the food, the cooks are proud of their roles in serving their countries yet remain haunted by the suffering. Using humor, poignancy, and reserve, Kerekes elevates the much-maligned documentary technique of reenactment while subtly making his point that if the armies of the world were indeed in a shambles, there might not be any wars.
Program Four: Hotel Sahara
Bettina Haasen - 2008 - 86 min - Germany, Mauritania
The temporary residents of Nouadhibou, Mauritania, have come from all over Africa to wait for transport to Europe, and the chance at a better life. Bettina Haasen's intimate camera ushers us through the provisional world of these migrant workers as they pick up odd jobs and sleep in sparse rooms, all under the constant threat of deportation. Sandwiched between the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean, they try to stoke their individual dreams in a place where the only thing not fleeting is their desire to reach their destination.
Sunday, April 11
Program Five: The Last Days of Shishmaref
Jan Louter - 2008 - 95 min - The Netherlands, U.S.
Inupiaq Eskimo have lived in Shishmaref on Sarichef Island off Alaska's Seward Peninsula for an estimated 4,000 years. Bound by the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait, the residents of Shishmaref rely on the frozen north to sustain their way of life, hunting walrus and bearded seal, caribou and ducks, and whatever else the seasonal bounty provides. As the world debates the causes and effects of global climate change, the Arctic glaciers melt, eroding the coast of this island community and leaving the land vulnerable to the powerful storms that rage closer and closer to shore. As a result, The Inupiaq are losing their homes and the ability to sustain their way of life. Against the stark white background of Alaskan winters, this moving documentary tells the story of the some of the first climate-change refugees who must relocate to the mainland and face an uncertain future.
Program Six: The Living (Zhyvi)
Sergiy Bukovsky - 2008 • 75 min • France, Ukraine
Fed by four major rivers, Ukraine is a land of fertile steppes that used to be known as the Breadbasket of the Soviet Union. A Slavic culture that was once the hub of Europe, 20th century Ukraine has been carved up and dominated successively by Russians, Austro-Hungarians, and Soviets, all of whom recognized its strategic value. When Stalin implemented forced collectivization as part of his Five Year Plan to industrialize and de-privatize the USSR, he ordered Communist officials in the Ukraine to starve the resistant rural population. The resulting Holodomor was witnessed by few outsiders; one of these, British journalist Gareth Jones, left behind evidence in his personal diaries. While sharing entries of these piercing, first-hand accounts, director Sergiy Bukovsky juxtaposes propaganda cinema of the era showing a happy, productive peasant population against snippets of testimony of Holodomor survivors. Children at the time, these witnesses' scattered remembrances slowly fit together to complete a horrific chapter in Soviet history, which cost the lives of 25,000 Ukrainians each day.