Rural Route Film Festival 2003
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The 1st Rural Route Film Festival was a huge success! A packed and enthusiastic crowd at Enid’s!!! A great selection of films and many filmmakers in attendance!!! Thanks to everyone who lent a helping hand! We look forward to next year, and also hope to put out a touring program to screen in other areas of the country. Stay tuned for details…

This Year’s Award Winners are…
Best Documentary: (tie) “Dental Farmer” (Directors: Ellen Brodsky and Dunya Alwan) and “As We Sow” (Director: Jan Weber)
Best Narrative: “Coming Down the Mountain” (Writer/Producer: Colin Spoelman)
Best Experimental: “oil wells: sturgeon road & 97th street” (Filmmaker: Christina Battle)
Opening Night
Section 1
1. Pernice Brothers “Working Girls” music video (James and Alex) 3.5 min.
2. “Dental Farmer” (Ellen Brodsky and Dunya Alwan) 15 min.
3. “Ellen’s Story” (Ellen Brodsky) 3 min.
4. “Dancing with Indiana” (Erik Gernand) 14 min.
5. “So Much Depends” (John Cantine) 90 sec.
6. “How Chattanooga Mooned America” (Emily Ley-Shiley) 18 min.

Section 2
7. “Crystal Hunting” (Lydia Paterson) 7 min.
8. Silver Jews “Random Rules” music video (Paul Finn) 4 min.
9. Selections from “Eight Movements” (Melanie West, Geoff Marslett) 6 min.
10. “Farmer” (Patricia Harris Seeley) 5 min.
11. “Lawrence Station Road” (Adam Burgess) 8 min.
12. “Hump” (Skip Hobbie) 12 min.
Section 3—Feature Presentation
13. “Pursuing Happiness” (Jon Andrews) 92 min.

Second Night
Section 1

1. “Y’All Come! The Hell Hole Swamp Festival” (Jay Edwards, Dave Drabik) 23 min.
2. “Auction” (Matthew Bryant) 3 min.
3. “Coming Down the Mountain” (Colin Spoelman) 23 min.
4. “Desert Songs” (Mitchell Stephens) 46 sec.
5. “Zapata’s Garden” (Chiapas Media Project) 19 min.

Section 2
6. “Billy’s Backbone” (Tom Small) 12 min.
7. Bright Eyes “Bowl of Oranges” music video (Cat Solen) 3 min. 20 sec.
8. “Marathon” (Aaron Valdez) 3 min.
9. “As We Sow” (Jan Weber) 23 min.
10. “oil wells: sturgeon road & 97th street” (Christina Battle) 3 min.

Section 3

11. “Vivian’s Beauty Shop” (Laura Kissel) 5 min.
12. “Slitch” (Dianne Bellino) 23 min.
13. Cat Power “He War” music video (Brett Vapnek) 3 min. 47 sec.
14. “Truck” (Adrianne Jorge, Tamy Ojala) 55 min.

1.The Pernice Brothers “Working Girls”
Directors: James and Alex
Ashmont Media
Length: 3.5 min.
2001, music video

Lush, haunting melodies, catchy pop/country hooks and smart bittersweet lyrics make The Pernice Brothers one of the best sort-of-kept secrets around. Shot in rural Upstate New York, the video for “Working Girls” features Joe Pernice and company riding around idealistic gravel roads in an old station wagon, and later playing frisbee with an odd version of the Grim Reaper.

2.Dental Farmer (PREMIERE)
Director: Ellen Brodsky and Dunya Alwan
City, State: Cambridge, MA
Length: 15 min.
2002, documentary

Meet dental farmer Dr. Art Rybeck, a man who combines his passion for organic farming with dentistry in West Virginia. Rybeck sees no reason why the less fortunate should go without dental care, so he has set up a second clinic in a farmhouse with a pay-as-you-wish policy. Director Ellen Brodsky follows this “radical” dentist as he works and ponders life in Dental Farmer. It’s both entertaining for its peculiar subject matter, and inspiring for Rybeck’s vigor and good nature.

3. ELLEN’S STORY (3 min.) (story of how Ellen Brodsky met the eccentric Dr. Rybeck)

4. Dancing with Indiana
Director: Erik Gernand
City, State: Atlanta, GA
Length: 14 min.
2000, fiction

In Indiana…a boy and a basketball have a destiny. Winner of Best Screenplay at the Colossal Film Crawl in Columbia, South Carolina.

5. So Much Depends
Director: John Cantine
City, State: Apollo, PA
Length: 90 sec.
2001, experimental

The approach to the yard as a place where so much life is experienced…from leaf raking to flute practice.

6. How Chattanooga Mooned America
Director: Emily Ley-Shiley
City, State: Columbia, SC
Length: 18 min.
2001, documentary

Director’s nostalgia for her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee led her to rediscover a favorite childhood memory–the Moon Pie. Compelled to create a documentary from the pride felt in seeing how a local favorite snack has become a national icon, How Chattanooga Mooned America is a tongue-in-cheek presentation of the Moon Pie’s rise to popularity. The film features the son of the Moon Pie’s inventor, the President of the Moon Pie Cultural Club, and, for the Moon Pie connoisseur, a Moon Pie Fashion Show and Festival.

The Moon Pie was invented in 1917 and sold to small grocery stores in the South. The snack was originally created for the residents and blue-collar workers of the small, self-contained coal mining communities in and around the Appalachian Mountains, where the workers favored the Moon Pie because it tasted good, was a solid snack without lots of air, and it felt good to chew. It was popular blue-collar tradition to have a Moon Pie and an RC Cola for lunch—each only a nickel a piece for many years.

7. Crystal Hunting
Director: Lydia Paterson
City, State: Philadelphia, PA
Length: 7 min.
2001, documentary

Lydia Paterson and family (+dogs) casually roam the pastures of Pennsylvania looking for crystals in the ground.

“Like finding the perfect crystal, rurality is something that stays with you. It’s something you can keep in your pocket and hold on to whenever you need to feel something solid in this mixed-up, increasingly urbanized world. Crystal hunting is a tradition in my family—a ritual that unites us each muddy Spring.”

8. Silver Jews “Random Rules”
Director: Paul Finn
Drag City Records
Length: 4 min.
1999, music video

Clever, witty rock band, The Silver Jews, poke fun at and celebrate country music in postmodern fashion through wordplay about honky tonks and rhinestone suits, alongside familiar jangley C&W riffs. Guitarist Stephen Malkmus’ (of Pavement fame) current project is Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks. SJ Front man, David Berman, is also a critically acclaimed poet/writer, who lives in Nashville, TN.

9. Three Selections from “Eight Movements”
Directors: Melanie West and Geoff Marslett
City, State: Austin, Texas
Length: 6 min.
2003, experimental

Flickering Super-8 and engaging musical accompaniments enhance these three selections from “Eight Movements”. Co-director Melanie West was born on a ranch in the Cerrillos Hills of New Mexico. Melanie’s father, Archie West, is interviewed in the first selection, “Atom on Atom”, describing the secrets of handling matches. The Art Car Parade in Houston is captured in “Collision” as four women talk about the challenges, rewards, and experiences of being creative. In “Bidding of Our Hearts”, a group of women ranging from co-director Geoff Marslett’s five-year-old niece to his mother jump rope in an unmowed field.

10. Farmer
Director: Patricia Harris Seeley
City, State: Redwood Meadows, Alberta, CANADA
Length: 5 min.
2001, experimental

A voice in the past evokes memories of life on a Canadian-Ukrainian farm in the 1930s with a boy and his grandfather. Beautifully shot on b&w (&color) 16mm in Alberta, Canada, this piece won Best Cinematography award at Canmore Int’l 7 min. Film Fest. Featuring award-winning poetry by the director, as well as the best shot of a pig in this festival.

11. Lawrence Station Road
Director: Adam Burgess
City, State: Saratoga, CA
Length: 8 min.
2002, documentary

The last two farmers in Silicon Valley/Stranded on a dirt island of what was once known as “The Valley of Hearts’ Delight” are the last two survivors of farming in today’s “Silicon Valley.” While their world has been consumed with homes and electronic buildings, Ben and Joe Francia continue their way of life as taught to them by their father 74 years ago. Despite pressure to sell and retire, the brothers cling on to all that they know and love. Nicely shot in a personal style on 16mm.

Director: Skip Hobbie
City, State: Austin, TX
Length: 12 min.
2003, documentary

Hump is a short documentary following a camel trek in the West Texas desert. Viewers are introduced to Doug Baum, owner and operator of the Texas Camel Corp. The film explores Doug’s loving relationship with his camels while he leads four trekkers across the desert near Monahans, Texas.

13. Pursuing Happiness (WORLD PREMIERE)
Director: Jon Andrews
City, State: Brandon, VT
Length: 92 min.
2003, fiction

In one small Vermont town, three people find themselves at crossroads in their lives. As they make the choices that their hearts demand, their stories draw inexorably closer, finally converging on a moonlit night in a way that none of them could have imagined. Matt, a humble farm kid, is falling in love for the first time, as his family struggles to stay afloat. Charlie, an uptight but charismatic pastor, is fighting temptation and doubt as his marriage nears the point of collapse. Nan, a once-active retiree, is caring for her husband as his ailing mind becomes a threat.

Even ordinary lives have their epic moments. This very John Sayles-esque narrative is the first feature from Yale grad and Student Academy Award winner, Jon Andrews. Excellent performances from an entirely non-professional cast, and great use of locations in the rural VT community that Andrews recently returned to after spending several years in NYC highlight this subtle and intriguing story about challenges, choices, and the drama of the everyday.
Rural Route is the world premiere for Pursuing Happiness!


1. Y’All Come! The Hell Hole Swamp Festival (NEW YORK PREMIERE)
Producers: Jay Edwards and Dave Drabik
City, State: Atlanta, GA
Length: 23 min.
2001, documentary

Jay Edwards and Dave Drabik document an unabashed celebration of American culture in this DV short that visits Jamestown, South Carolina (population 83). Wry, affectionate man-on-the-street interviews and music montages mix to make the local participants and organizers the stars of the film. Meet the in-coming and out-going Miss Hell Hole Swamp. See the town mayor model his gams in the Sexiest Legs contest. Watch as folks compete in bull riding, tobacco spitting and arm wrestling while sneaking a taste of the local moonshine.

Director: Matthew Bryant
City State: Wichita Falls, TX
Length: 3 min.
2002, documentary

The farmers, the cattle, and most importantly–the auctioneer… Experience three minutes from a live cattle auction.

Auction is not so much a short documentary as it is a morsel of experimental rural video art. Capturing the perpetual jibber-jabber of a Texas livestock auctioneer, director Matthew Bryant doesn’t try to interpret his banter. Instead he treats the voice like a saxophone mid-jazz solo and tosses in some percussive editing, and cattle kicks, to round out the measure. Bryant calls Auction “the poetic auditory experience of a livestock auction.”

Director: Colin Spoelman
City, State: New York, NY
Length: 23 min.
2002, fiction

Coming Down the Mountain confronts prescription drug abuse in rural Kentucky on beautifully shot 35mm. In a dysfunctional home an Appalachian father and son sit on opposites sides of a malcontent mother. Each maintains a closeted, private life, but allusions from one to the other make certain that neither man’s affairs are secret. In fact, we are led to believe the boy, Joe (Kett Turton), wishes he knew less about his father, Paul Skidmore (Frank Hoyt Taylor). What follows are two storylines that run alongside each other like parallel lanes on a winding highway. Sometimes the men run side-by-side, sometimes they position themselves for a head-on collision.
We find Joe to be less of a rebellious kid than an embarrassed son. His father has an addiction to the drug Oxycontin, a prescription pain killer he acquires from local folks on government medical assistance. He’s also a dealer. In the end father and son confront their notions of escape as their paths converge at home.

Spoelman now lives in New York, but he is originally from Harlan, KY where he grew up under the guidance of a Presbyterian minister father. He feels Appalachia is under-represented in fiction filmmaking, and he is proud to voice this regional story. Coming Down the Mountain has played at the San Francisco Film Festival, the Dahlonega Film Festival, and the Florida International Film Festival.

4. Desert Songs
Director: Mitchell Stephens
City, State: Alpine, NJ
Length: 46 sec.
2001, experimental

It is difficult to imagine a life more “rural” than that lived by this tribe of nomads, whose tents sit deep in the Sahara – a day’s walk, with camel, from the nearest town. This very short video by NYU journalism professor, Mitchell Stephens, considers the charms of such a life, as well as – from the perspective of a visitor who spends a night there – its limitations. Mitchell Stephens has traveled around the world, writes regularly for Feed magazine, and received much critical acclaim for his books, the rise of the image the fall of the world and A History of News, which received “Notable of the Year” from The New York Times.

5. Zapata’s Garden
Chiapas Media Project
Mexico/Chicago, IL
Length: 19 min.
Tzeltal and Spanish w/ English subtitles
2002, documentary

Shot and produced by indigenous men and women videomakers in the Autonomous Municipality of Emiliano Zapata, this video looks at the new society that the Zapatistas are building. Zapata’s Garden shows how this new municipality is fighting the effects of globalization and government corruption through their work in the collective garden. Community members talk about the importance of collective work in building this new society. “We don’t want things to be as they were before. Now we have land to work, and with it we will feed ourselves and our children.”

6. Billy’s Backbone
Director: Tom Small
City, State: New York, NY
Length: 12 min.
2003, fiction

A country boy from Kentucky arrives alone in the big city late at night, intending to set up house with his long-distance girlfriend. He soon finds himself lost in a rough neighborhood, barely escaping danger. When he finally arrives at his girlfriend’s apartment, he has a few more surprises waiting for him.

7. Bright Eyes “Bowl of Oranges”
Director: Cat Solen
Saddle Creek Records
Length: 3 min. 20 sec.
2002, music video

Born 1980 in Omaha, NE and recording since he was 13, Conor Oberst possesses an incredible ability to tell stories with his songs and paint intricate pictures with his words. As the mastermind behind the acclaimed Bright Eyes collective, Oberst’s genius is found in a pretense-free, orchestral approach to songwriting. His most recent, most musically vigorous and rockin’ project, Desaparecidos, toured the nation and released Read Music/Speak Spanish to enormous amounts of critical acclaim.

The video for “Bowl of Oranges” is entirely animated with still photographs and puppets, and shot on a multi-plane 16mm set up. Each shot took approximately 4 hours to assemble. Director Cat Solen worked to parallel the folk-like aesthetic in Oberst’s music through process, imagery, colors, and movement. The puppets are based on two of the director’s friends who live in a garden (an empty lot neighboring residential houses in a northern suburb of Berlin, Germany).

8. Marathon
Director: Aaron Valdez
City, State: Austin, TX
Length: 3 min.
2000, experimental

Marathon documents a small West Texas town, where the director’s great grandfather lived in a one-room shack while working on the railroad. The film uses B&W Super-8 to document the town and many of its old building facades before its homogeneous “revitalization.”

9. As We Sow
Director: Jan Weber
City, State: Brooklyn, NY
Length: 23 min.
2003, documentary

As We Sow opens on the winter landscape of the central Iowa plains with the lone voice of an Iowa farmer: “This is basically the heart of Iowa. It’s all farms here, but you’re not going to see any farmers. They’ve just disappeared.” What happened to the farmer? Why have they left the land? Why should the displacement and disappearance matter to people outside of the isolated rural countryside of Iowa?

As We Sow searches for answers in the words of the people themselves, taped on their farms, in their towns, at their offices, and around the supper table in their homes. As We Sow bears witness to the changes occurring across rural America and the powerful forces behind the replacement of family farms with factory farms. As farmers leave the land in record numbers, contract production and marketing and the associated industrialization of agriculture continue to expand; with the consolidation of food production into fewer and fewer hands, farmers are rapidly becoming obsolete. As We Sow reveals a desperate struggle for the land itself, who controls it and how, and at what cost to people and communities, to animals and the environment, and to the very essence of our democracy.

10. oil wells: sturgeon road & 97th street
Director: Christina Battle
City, State: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Length: 3 min.
2002, experimental

Christina Battle describes her affection for the Canadian prairie in this simple but striking experimental film. Both her repetition of image and use of deteriorating hand processed footage serve to mimic the rustic oil wells that litter the Albertan countryside. As they churn, so the film churns. As the wells draw on the earth, oil wells draws on the pumps. Her film was funded in part by the National Film Board of Canada’s Filmmaker’s Assistance Program.

11. Vivian’s Beauty Shop
Director: Laura Kissel
City, State: Columbia, SC
Length: 5 min.
2001, documentary

In this short video portrait, the clients of Vivian’s Beauty Shop discuss their hair, the styles that come and go, and their commitment to a once-a-week visit to stylists Terry and Judy, who have been doing hair since they were in high school.

12. Slitch
Director: Dianne Bellino
City, State: Brooklyn, NY
Length: 23 min.
2001, fiction

Slitch is a short comic film about a teenage girl’s summertime lust, featuring fantasizing, bubble gum, and bicycle riding. Directed by Dianne Bellino and shot on location in sunny oceanside Rhode Island, Slitch stars singer/songwriter, Will Oldham as a mentally unbalanced surfer, blending in seamlessly with a cast of lovely local ladies. The Continental OP (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Papa M) provide the original soundtrack of beautiful instrumentals and funny punk songs.

13. Cat Power “He War”
Director: Brett Vapnek
Length: 3 min. 47 sec.
Matador Records
2003, music video

Cat Power’s Chan Marshall has a voice unlike anyone you’ve heard before, combining raw intimacy with a gruff, chalky confidence. Her lyrics’ plain-spoken lines belie an otherwordly perspective on primal human emotions. Broken down to their essentials, many of her songs could have been written sixty years ago on a rural Mississippi back porch, but Chan ably personalizes the traditional so it sounds handmade for the modern day.

Directors: Adrianne Jorge and Tamy Ojala
City,State: Long Island City, New York
Length: 55 min.
2002, documentary

Most truckers like to say that all of America is their “backyard.” With a favorite coffee shop in Gloucester, Massachusettes, a favorite diner in West Liberty, Iowa, best chapel in Sharock, Texas, friendliest motel in Phoenix, AZ… They know this country the way most people only know their own neighborhoods. In Truck, Two NYC women hit the road, hitching rides from rig to rig, chronicling truckdrivers, and the emotional and physical confrontations that these men and women steer through everyday. Folks with nicknames like The Professor, Shithouse Mouse, Too Low, Super Chicken and more remember the good old days, and lay it all out from lot lizards to the 12-gauge one driver kept in his cab to Christmastime meals in truck-stop diners. Truck shows how this uniquely American way of life just keeps on truckin’
“I highly recommend Adrianne Jorge and Tamy Ojala’s documentary film Truck: On the road with truckdrivers, the filmmakers have a way of getting to what’s special about the truckdriver subculture. And it’s fascinating.” -Albert Maysles, Maysles Films Inc.

Honorable mention:
“Ole and Lena” by Les Sholes, Grand Forks, ND. Narrative feature about a Norweigan North Dakota farming family chosen by an L.A. production company for a reality TV series.

“Boy Scouts without Honor or Humanity” by Jonathan J. Detrixhe, Brooklyn, NY. Narrative feature about Boy Scouts who sell crystal meth in small town Kansas.

“Razing Appalachia” by Sasha Waters, Iowa City, IA. Documentary on coal mining in West Virginia.

“Greater Southbridge” by Rod Murphy, Asheville, NC. Director revisits hometown in MA to capture some very colorful characters.