Hundreds of people turned out on July 24th and 25th for the 2nd Annual Rural Route Film Festival at Galapagos in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Saturday night’s 2nd show got sopacked that we had to sit folks on hay bales in the corners (donated for props by NYC’s Federation of Black Cowboys)…and some people even chose to stand for the full 2+ hrs!
Filmmakers and guests came from as far away as Montana, Kansas City, Iowa, and the Netherlands to see an acclaimed solid line-up of rural-themed films. Certain attendees were especially joyous upon winning oddball rural door prizes such as cans of chewing tobacco, videotapes from Appalshop, six-packs of PBR, and Rural Route t-shirts, and virtually everyone helped themselves to the free hemp granola bars donated by Nature’s Path.
And the winners are!…
Best Fiction – “Sobre La Tierra (Upon the Earth)” by Argentina’s Maria Florencia Alvarez
Best Experimental – tie between “Season on the Move” by Montana’s Cindy Stillwell and “Westless American” by Erik Nelson of the Netherlands
Best Documentary – “Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song” by Kentucky’s Mimi Pickering
Thanks to Idaho Red for their cutie-pie bluegrass music, DJ Kentucky Straight, and to Galapagos’s beer and bourbon special, making for an all-around-rowdy-goodtime at the Friday night opening party. Excellent coverage from “The Daily News“, “New York Press“ and Brooklyn’s own “Block Magazine“!
2004 RURAL ROUTE FILM FESTIVAL
(Click to See 2004 Pics!)
Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, July 25
Showtimes: 6:00-8:00 & 8:15-10:15 PM each night
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Westless American NEW YORK PREMIERE
Erik Nelson, 2003, 5.5 min., exp.
Western United States
Westless American takes you on a sprint through six U.S. states, eight national parks, eight national monuments, and seven state parks, covering 9,000 miles in six minutes. It’s an abbreviated Forest Gump without Tom Hanks, or the box of chocolates. Erik Nelson is a filmmaker and professional basketball player living in the Netherlands. www.bottomunion.com
Gheens, Louisiana is a Cajun community about 30 miles from New Orleans. It has less than 1,000 people, yet every year on Mardi Gras the population increases to over 20,000. Trucks filled with teen-aged boys and men dressed as ghouls attack the town bearing switches. They chase the children to “beat the sinful stuff out of them” so they can be clean for the lent. The children can either fall to their knees and say “Pardon! Pardon!” or make the Mardi-gras maskers chase them, often taunting and daring them to keep on beating them. Far from abuse, these children look forward to this annual festival as “just a very painful game!” Filmmaker Rene Broussard is founder and director of Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center in New Orleans. www.zeitgeistinc.org
When a body is found on the highway just outside of town, the Sheriff of the rural desert village, Putnam, wanders around town reluctantly looking for a friend he knows is guilty. Along the way he runs into some interesting folks who each have their own stories to tell. The soundtrack features Hank Williams, George Jones, and the Old 97′s.
The idea of an anti-MTV karaoke video was conceived by Bright Eyes singer/songwriter Conor Oberst and director James Frost, and was shot throughout southern California. Frost has been making music videos since 1997 for bands such as Royal Trux, Pearl Jam, and Buffalo Tom. The video he co-directed with Alex for the Pernice Brothers’ “Working Girls” was featured in last year’s Rural Route Film Festival. www.saddle-creek.com
El Pozo (The Pit) NEW YORK PREMIERE
Rachelle Dang, 2003, 5 min., exp.
South Randolph, Vermont
This tightly edited diptych reveals two simultaneous actions set outside a northeastern farmhouse. Director Rachel Dang creates a landscape of reflections where the rhythmic movement of earth, shovel, and hammer give the viewer a look into the past.
Sobre La Tierra traces the path of two boys crossing the Puna Juje–a Desert in northwest Argentina. Each carrying a bag, the boys enter an abandoned house from two different roads and collapse from exhaustion. The next morning they meet, and to their surprise the two bags have become one. The gritty nature of their argument is reflected in the texture of the super 8 cinematography. Winner of Best Short at Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival and First Mention at the Milan Film Festival.
Monteith McCollum combines interviews, retro television spots, time lapse photography, and dry wit to create a quirky, yet meditative portrait of 100-year-old Milford Beeghly and his obsession with hybrid seed corn. Directed by Beeghly’s grandson, this intimate film contemplates the peculiar philosopher of the soil. Winner of the Truer than Fiction Independent Spirit Award, Grand Jury Award for Best Feature at Slamdance, Best Documentary at South by Southwest, and Grand Jury Winner for Best Film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, among many others. www.der.org
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Billy in the Lowgrounds
Alan Lomax, 1966/1997, 60 min., doc.
These historic blue grass performances will be screened during intermission and before and after the regular festival line-up. At the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, folklorist Alan Lomax took some of the old time musicians aside and filmed historic footage of them making music in an informal atmosphere. This footage is made available in this video for the first time. You will see such legendary artists as Clark Kessinger, Jimmy Driftwood, Kilby Snow, The Coon Creek Girls, Ison J. Fontenot, Al and Virginia Mann, Tex Logan, and Grant Rogers performing some of their most stirring numbers.
The Alan Lomax Archives represent an exceptional assemblage of audio and videotape, 16-mm film, photos, published recordings, and assorted papers documenting folk music, dance and ritual from around the world. The Archives were created over the course of 60 years, and symbolize the lifelong determination of Lomax to recognize the artistic achievements of worldwide local cultures. www.alan-lomax.com
Anthology Film Archives will be screening films from the Alan Lomax Collectionthis August, with additional films from Appalshop (see below).
Saturday, July 24, 2004
This unusual narrative takes a ride with a strange man and his “friend” as they pass through rural Illinois. Drifting along, the film becomes uncomfortably funny as we realize Jim may not be all there, and neither is his friend. The concept for the film came to director Chad Schneider during a melancholy moment at an Italian fast food place in St. Louis, where he composed the rough draft on a paper napkin. A native of St. Paul, Chad is currently an MFA student at Columbia.
There are few places more remote in the U.S. than the middle of the Texas panhandle. Yet from the isolation is born a city of 200,000 that considers itself the hub of the region, with neighbors such as Plainview, Brownfield, Idalou, and Floydada. This film is both a love letter and gentle mockery of Lubbock—a city of cotton and cattle, where Jesus and political conservatism define the modus operandi. www.lizzymcglynn.com
You might have flashbacks of half-awake middle-of-the-night TV watching when you see The Visitor, a short film written by and featuring Des Moines resident, Gene Hamilton. A farmer’s life is changed forever when he discovers that an alien with a screwdriver and a golden crown has landed in his field.
Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor are Azure Ray. The ladies’ third full-length album, Hold on Love, lets out an eloquent, reverberating, satisfying breath. Still intimate enough you can hear lips pulling apart and piano hammers striking, Hold on Love travels the aurally deeper road with layer upon layer of all-encompassing sound. True southerners at heart, Azure Ray’s music can’t help but sway and smolder like neo-American gothic balladry. Director Sam Jones is a still photographer and documentarian whose credits include I am Trying to Break Your Heart the critically acclaimed film about the rock band Wilco. www.saddle-creek.com
In our modern-day litigious society, who would have thought to hack a hole through their family barn and race cars through it? Well, the LaFever family did. Now the Annual Barnyard Car Race has become a town tradition, drawing an audience of hundreds on one Saturday every August. The rules of the race are simple: no car can cost more than $300, each car must have a 4-cylinder engine, and hitting another car’s driver’s-side door is strictly prohibited. But the townspeople have come to see more than just an offbeat race – they’re eager to witness the moment when one of the 25 competitors finally dethrones Jonathan LaFever, the race’s four-time undefeated champion. This year, the wait may well be over, as the competition is more fierce than ever. www.4cylinder400.com
A Season on the Move NEW YORK PREMIERE
Cindy Stillwell, 2003, 13 min., exp./doc.
A meditation on two agricultural traditions and the seasons in which they occur, A Season on the Move gives us an up close look at wheat cutting and sheep shearing in the North Central United States. Juxtaposing beautiful color and rich black and white photography, and alternating the sounds of combines, weather forecasts, shearing combs, and sheep voices, the film creates a portrait of these distinct agricultural lifestyles. The cycle of seasons takes us from the wheat harvest of late summer to the shearing season in early spring. Filmmaker Cindy Stillwell teaches at Montana State in Bozeman, where she has also been producing and shooting local TV ads. Sound designer Jeff Arnsten is a Bozeman musician who has done work for NPR, films, and commercials.
From the coalfields of West Virginia to the factories of Baltimore, Hazel Dickens has lived the songs she sings. A pioneering woman in bluegrass and hardcore country music, Hazel has influenced generations of songwriters and musicians. Her songs of hard work, hard times, and hardy souls have bolstered working people at picket lines and union rallies throughout the land. Her powerful, piercing vocals power the soundtracks for Harlan County USA and Matewan. The Washington Post called her “a living legend of American music, a national treasure” and in 2001, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded her with a National Heritage Fellowship. In this intimate portrait directed by Mimi Pickering, interviews with Hazel and fellow musicians such as Alison Krauss, Naomi Judd, and Dudley Connell are interwoven with archival footage, recent performances with such artists as Billy Bragg, and includes 16 powerful songs.
Appalshop is a multi-disciplinary arts and education center producing original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia, and books in the heart of Appalachia. Appalshop’s education and training programs support communities’ efforts to solve their own problems in a just and equitable way. Appalshop began in 1969 as a federal War on Poverty program to train disadvantaged Appalachian young people for jobs in the urban film and television industries. Rather than leave their rural homeland, the trainees incorporated as a not-for-profit dedicated to creating opportunities for regional self-expression. www.appalshop.org
Anthology Film Archives will be screening films from Appalshop and Alan Lomax Collection this August.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Green in Gray
Jason Ferris, 2003, 4.5 min., doc.
New York, New York
In order to find balance in New York City, the most urban of environments, community gardeners create small rural oases in the very center of the city. Two community gardeners talk about their need for nature, even as they choose to reside within a concrete jungle. Director Jason Ferris grew up on a farm in Mississippi, and currently works for the PBS series Wide Angle in NYC. He will be attending Union Theological Seminary in the fall, and is working on films about hunting in Mississippi and progressive religion and politics.
In These Hills was created in conjunction with a photography project while Portland filmmaker Chris Bennett was living in Bloomington. The black-and-white super 8 documents the limestone quarries and surrounding farmland which now lay dormant throughout southern Indiana, serving as a ghostly reminder of the once thriving industry. Music by Indiana band, Early Day Miners. www.wanderlustfilm.com
For the ten workers of Broerman Poultry Processing, every weekend of the past 12 years has been spent slaughtering chickens. This short documentary reveals the surprisingly close relationships among these workers, despite the gruesome nature of their job. Shot with a single digital camera over the course of eight weeks, the colorful interviews and graphic supporting footage give new perspectives on family values, hard work, and what happens inside a slaughterhouse.
I’ve never made a film before. I’m a designer who grew up on a small farm in central Ohio. My family owned a poultry slaughterhouse in which I worked for 11 years, starting at age ten. It was my job to cut the feet off the chicken and turkeys. It took a friend to convince me that not everyone grew up working in a slaughterhouse. I realized the slaughterhouse I had worked in all those years was bizarrely entertaining enough that it might make an interesting documentary. – Matthew Broerman
A North Dakota neo-noir thriller!!! Director Christopher Jacobs teaches film at the University of North Dakota. He has worked as a movie theater manager and projectionist, is the movies editor for High Plains Reader, and was on the building committee for the restoration of the local Empire Theatre. www.und.nodak.edu
David Fishel, 2004, 13 min., exp./narr.
Iowa City, Iowa
This series of Kafka-esque scenes fits its name like a six-fingered glove. Fifteen writers were given the surreal task of completing a screenplay unaware of what their fellow authors were scribbling. Once scripted and directed, the scenes were compiled on a DVD and programmed to play in random order so you never know how auto mechanic Del Berham’s life will unfold. Includes music by William Elliott Whitmore and Ten Grand, Winner of Student Freestyle Award at 2004 Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival. www.nocinfishel.com
Paul Tucker, 2003, 24 min., doc.
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Father and son, Willie and Tom Thomson, breed long-haired cattle at Woodneuk Farm in the Renfrewshire hills that overlook Glasgow. They always show cattle at their local Neilston Show, one of Scotland’s best-loved rural traditions. Jean Wardrop has been winning trophies in the baking section of the Neilston Show since 1967. This year she lets the cameras into her kitchen to show them how she makes that unbeatable fatless sponge. Finally, we follow the Scott family as they prepare vegetable animals for the children’s section in the craft tent. A feel-good documentary, which brings out the value of team work, long-haired highland cows, and a woodpecker made from a turnip.
Emily Evans Sloan sends a postcard to her late sister in this experimental film. The viewer observes old home movies of children at play, while listening to M. Ward’s “Undertaker”. Less morbid than it sounds, the films is Sloan’s attempt to recall life with her sister. Using found footage, she assembled the film in a changing bag.
Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem, World Feels Dusty, the film explores a woman’s creativity, the power of water in the high desert and the search for personal release. Vocalist Eleanor Ranney sings the words of Dickinson’s poem as the crisp black and white photography meditates on the young actress and landscape. Three segments from director Melanie West’s film Eight Movements were featured in last year’s festival. http://www.swervepictures.com
Less of a documentary and more of a chronicle, The Chair Project interweaves director Elaine Beck’s personal video journal with television news coverage reporting the controversy surrounding her interactive art installation in Oskaloosa, IA. From 2001 to 2002—rain, sleet or snow—Beck would arrange and photograph upholstered chairs in the front yard of her otherwise respectable turn-of-the-century home. The exhibition soon prompted vandalism, theft and a lawsuit filed by the city against the furniture sculptor. In this document, Beck examines questions of art, taste and the division between public and private space. www.elainebeck.com
Skiing off cliffs with waterskis and a parachute, BASE jumping off bridges, buildings, and mountaintops, or skydiving out of airplanes, one thing’s for sure, Shane McConkey is one of the raddest, most versatile, wackiest, and most extreme skiers in the industry. Produced by innovative action sports outfit Matchstick Productions, Focused will dizzy even the most ÒextremeÓ viewer. www.mspfilms.com
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Crit Street, 2003, 12 min., exp.
Cedar Falls, Iowa
The unrelenting sameness of place is explored in this experimental road trip. On this journey it is also the parallax and the rude unsteadiness that reminds us that although the rural landscape appears to pass us in hasty patterns, this speed is not the changing position of things but rather a change in the position of the person looking. Been (T)here has been screened as an ongoing gallery installation at the UNI Gallery of Art.
E.A. McKeever, 1990, 8 min., exp.
This montage of photos taken in small towns across Missouri and Iowa features feel good music by John Cougar Mellencamp. McKeever was awarded a free case of Mountain Dew upon completion of his film.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Tired of his monotonous office-job life, Joe sticks it to his boss and heads for the great outdoors. In a bait shop, he stumbles across a news clipping about a mythic, slippery fish evading capture in ponds across Florida. Joe sees the opportunity to earn the respect he’s been denied for so long and sets out with his friend (a cameraman for the Outdoors Channel) to catch it.
This aptly titled documentary remembers West Virginia short story author Breece D’J Pancake, who committed suicide in 1979. Though he cut his life short at the age of 26, Pancake is credited with reviving an interest in contemporary regional literature and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. His work has been compared to William Faulkner, James Joyce and Flannery O’Connor for the strong sense of place found in his characters. It is this relationship, between place and identity, that director Jason Freeman explores in this elegy.
Director, Nik Fackler, has created a period piece for the second Azure Ray video being shown in this year’s festival. His idea for using shadow puppets came from seeing 4th graders making them for a fun day project. Fackler wrote, directed, and edited two short films before graduating from Millard West High School in Omaha, NE in 2002. Since then he has continued making shorts, begun directing music videos, and has a feature-length screenplay in development. www.nikfackler.com
A rebellious streak defines Marcin (Rafal Mackowiak), a 21-year-old living in a small Polish town. His world revolves around his longtime girlfriend, his mechanic job in his father’s garage, and his idolization of James Dean and The Smiths. Marcin is faced with difficult life choices when his father dies and a slew of relatives converge on the small Polish hamlet for the funeral. As Marcin deals with their narrow minds and critical commentary, he also must act to stay with his girlfriend (Sylwia Juszczak), who reveals her plan to leave Poland for a life in the United States. This award-winning Polish feature asks the question, Does one have to leave the small town for the big city to be a success?
2004 HONORABLE MENTION:
Broken Limbs: Apples, Agriculture and the New American Farmer
Jamie Howell and Guy Evans, 2004, 57 min., doc.
This eco-doc looks at the plight of apple growers in Washington state in the age of globalization and points the way to sustainable U.S. agriculture for the little guy. www.bullfrogfilms.com
Coal Bucket Outlaw
Tom Hansel, 2001, 26.5 min., doc.
Built around a day in the life of a Kentucky coal truck driver, this film looks at the people who haul the fuel that powers over 50% of the electricity in this country. www.appalshop.com
The Maya of Toledo – Ancient Culture, Modern Lives
Robert Flanagan, 2003, 38 min., doc.
The Kekchi and Mopan Maya of Southern Belize live in small villages without electricity or running water. Growing their own food, hunting and gathering from the jungle, they retain a purity and balance that the industrialized world has lost. Produced by Ajax Films, NYC.
Wilderness and Spirit, A Mountain Called Katahdin
Huey, 2002, 100 min., doc.
The spirit of Katahdin and the people who have been drawn to Maine’s Great Mountain is captured in this lush documentary. Director Huey eplores ways of thinking about the wilderness and how people, past to the present, have found spiritual solace and strength in this mountain called Katahdin. www.filmsbyhuey.com