The sixth annual American Museum of Natural History Margaret Mead Traveling Film Festival visits the University of the Virgin Islands on April 13, 14 and 15. Viewings are scheduled on both St. Thomas and St. Croix from 7 to 10 p.m. each day.
This year's seven films are “some of the very finest independent cultural documentaries in the United States," according to local organizer Alex Randall, a UVI professor of communication. Dr. Randall said the films are for individuals who love to learn about other people in other places in the world. "These films are real eye openers, world class cinematography and subjects that stretch the imagination and bring a slice of the outside world to our community.” The festival's UVI visit is presented by the Communication Program in UVI's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
The public is invited. Admission is free, but seating is limited. The films will be shown in the Chase Auditorium (Business 110) on the St. Thomas campus, and in Evans Center (EVC 401) on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.
The festival is assembled in New York at the American Museum of Natural History, where dozens of the innovative non-fiction films are screened and the best are select for the traveling show. UVI is once again serving as host to this traveling festival of excellent films from around the world, while the Virgin Islands Montessori School International Academy in Red Hook is acting as co-host.
The following is a synopsis of the seven films:
All for the Good of the World and Nošovice
2010, 82 minutes, Czech Republic
Czech provocateur Vit Klusák is at it again. Co-director of the 2004 documentary comedy Czech Dream, about the opening of a fake hypermarket, he has turned his sardonic attentions to another micro-front in the globalization skirmishes. In September 2009, Hyundai inaugurated its latest factory at the foot of the Beskid mountains in a Czech village of cabbage fields and pasturelands with less than one thousand inhabitants. Nošovice’s bucolic heart was carved out when the Korean automobile manufacturer pit neighbor against neighbor and forced the principle landowners to sell and make way for the mechanized behemoth. Motivated as much by activism as by a sense of the absurd, Klusák gains unprecedented access to the shiny new plant and to the now altered lives of the Nošovice villagers. Combining cinematic flourishes normally reserved for feature films, Brechtian techniques of participatory drama, and old-fashioned journalistic muckraking, Klusák shows how Hyundai broke its corporate promise to contribute “all the best for the world.” Stick around through the end credits for the director’s hilarious sauerkraut commercial.
Laura Gamse 2011, 80 minutes, South Africa, United States
Mthetho taught himself to sing in Italian by playing the music a phrase at a time and sounding out the lyrics until he had learned the whole song. Now, in his untrained, heartfelt tenor, he can belt out tear-inducing renditions of “Santa Lucia” and “O Solo Mio.” This young man is just one of the many dedicated Cape Town artists and musicians profiled in Laura Gamse’s pastiche documentary about art in hard times. Rappers, b-boys, graffiti artists, jazz and blues musicians share their work and describe how post-Apartheid South Africa has served as both agent and obstacle to the act of creation. Shot with the intensity of breaking news footage, The Creators reminds us how urgently the world needs its artists.
Jarred Alterman 2011, 54 Minutes Portugal, United States
Prima ballerina Geraldine, photographer Kees, and their two boys, Christiaan and Louis, left Holland in 1980 to take up residence at the Convento São Francisco de Mértola. Strategically situated at the convergence of two rivers in southeastern Portugal, this vacant monastery was left decaying for centuries until the Zwanikken family arrived and transformed it with their eccentric and earthy endeavors. In the airy studio converted from the estate’s chapel, son Christiaan builds kinetic sculptures from discarded electronics and the skulls and bones of deceased wildlife. Combining the family’s home movies with his own observant photography, filmmaker Jarred Alterman casts these fantastical creatures as supporting characters in the film, as they literally move across the landscape, animating the ancient grounds.
Lotte Stoops, 2011, 70 Minutes, Belgium, Mozambique
The Grande Hotel in the West African seaside town of Beira is a monument to the grandeur and folly of Portuguese colonial rule. Once billed as Africa’s most luxurious resort, it was later used as a headquarters in Mozambique’s revolutionary war. Belgian filmmaker Lotte Stoops weaves in and out of the 120-square-meter complex, while off-camera, locals, former guests, and revelers recount their experiences of the hotel’s storied past. These memories clash with the black-and-white visuals as Stoops’s camera exposes the living conditions of the hotel’s new residents. Landings of staircases are converted into single-family dwellings, elevator shafts become dumps, expansive hallways are makeshift marketplaces, and the pool a rainwater laundry. Long since stripped of its valuable fixtures, the building’s glass windows, water pipes, the very cement holding it together are scavenged for scrap. Living in this shell of former luxury, the squatters manage to create a self-enclosed community as the place they call home crumbles around them. As one voice in the film says, the history of the hotel is the history of the country itself.
Memoirs of a Plague
Robert Nugent, 2011, 77 minutes, Australia, Ethiopia, Italy, Tanzania
With an opening reminiscent of a 1950s horror flick, Memoirs of a Plague brings the conventions of science-fiction bug movies to documentary. Visiting entomologists and sage locals track locust invasions in Ethiopia, Egypt, and Australia, looking for evidence of the dreaded insect in the landscape and in weather patterns. Bracing for the inevitable, farmers hunt down early signs of them in fertile seedbeds and dry riverbeds, scientists study their life cycle in the lab, school children learn early to hate them, and pilots wait for orders to drop insecticide bombs to kill them. Meanwhile, tales are told about the last time the unwelcome swarms ravaged crops and darkened the skies. Robert Nugent’s camera waits at each horizon line for the coming onslaught as preparations are made with a mishmash of outdated science and enduring folklore. Told with a storyteller’s relish for suspense, Memoirs of a Plague mixes archival footage of past plans to eradicate locusts with Nugent’s own remarkable macro-photography of the misunderstood and maligned “hopper,” which, after all, is only doing as nature intended.
Floris-Jan van Luyn, 2009, 70 Minutes, China, The Netherlands
Filmmaker and journalist Floris-Jan van Luyn is on the front lines of modern China, depicting the country’s major historical shifts through the experiences of the individuals living through them. In Rainmakers, he introduces us to four ordinary people who have become environmental activists out of necessity. Kept awake at night by the noxious fumes of a garbage incinerator, a Beijing woman unites her neighbors in a mass protest. A fisherwoman in a southern province circulates a petition to clean up the river polluted by a nearby paint factory. A tough-minded housewife from Hunan writes letter after letter to officials demanding the shutdown of a nearby factory poisoning her village’s groundwater. A small community of shepherds in Inner Mongolia devise a plan to reclaim desiccated pastureland. While the government pays lip service to green economic policies, these hopeful citizens brave bureaucracy, cynicism, greed, and violence in their fight for the most basic of human rights: clean air and clean water.
To the Light
Yuanchen Liu, 2011, 69 minutes, China, United States
The father of two, Luo originally became a coal miner to pay off the fine for violating China’s One Child Policy. Young Hui, son of another miner, prefers to be coal-train driver than take work far from home. For many families, coal mining has become a principal source of income and the only alternative to factory jobs in distant cities. But the mines are notoriously dangerous and, every year, claim an estimated 5,000 lives. Taking his camera deep underground, Yuanchen Liu exposes the perils faced by these miners, the slim rewards, and dire consequences when things go wrong. In spite of the risks, the working poor continue to flock to the mines, unable to heed the warning that earning a living wage may also mean dying for it.
For more information contact Dr. Alex Randall via email at email@example.com or call (340) 693-1377.