Reel art: Locals screen their latest

Still from Bill Reifenberger's The Murals of Lincoln Perry
Still from Bill Reifenberger's The Murals of Lincoln Perry.

Sometimes I'm a whiner. Last year I complained the Virginia Film Festival, though rich in documentaries, was lacking in art films. Experimental reels were a favorite of former director Richard Herskowitz, but new director Jody Kielbasa put the kibosh on such esoteric fare.

But it's not a case of Kielbasa being anti-art. Rather his preference is for local and regional films. If those makers use their medium to create art or focus on art as their subject matter, Kielbasa is open to offering a venue. As proof, the 2010 festival includes UVA art prof Kevin Everson's film, BZV, local filmmaker Bill Reifenberger's documentary, The Murals of Lincoln Perry, and The Digital Media Gallery, a Downtown Mall site continuously screening interactive videos by local students and community members.

For his 30-minute short, BZV, Everson takes his distinctive neorealistic approach to examining everyday work and leisure in middle-class African-American communities and shifts it to the streets of Brazzaville, Congo. The film moves back and forth between black-and-white and color footage, and Everson's prolonged shots contain some breathtaking moments.

For example, in an early black-and white segment, Everson presents a woman in profile as she rides in a boat, her hair whipped by the wind. Suddenly, a water skier moves out from behind her face, cutting back and forth across the wake, the figure beautifully distorted by Everson's shooting the scene through the boat's windshield. The film's final section, showing a man in silhouette fishing in mauve waters, is also compelling, and its last colorful seconds perfectly punctuate Everson's work.

Reifenberger opts for more traditional filmmaking techniques in The Murals of Lincoln Perry, a documentary about the local painter who created the dazzling murals in the University of Virginia's Old Cabell Hall. Reifenberger follows Perry's progress as he supplements the original 11-panel series with two new floor-to-ceiling murals painted onsite. Affable and articulate, Perry expounds in interviews and voiceovers about his influences, technique, and challenges. Although a few scenes seem overly contrived–- e.g. Perry sketching as a music student sings The Barber of Seville–- the hour-long film is visually engaging and offers fascinating insight into Perry's process.

Meanwhile downtown, UVA students and others show their work at The Digital Media Gallery, a collaborative effort overseen by Kevin Everson and The Bridge. Viewers lounge on ottomans amid projections of a wide range of visual ideas.

With so many art-full films at this year's festival, my whining days are done.

Kevin Everson's BZV screens at 9:45pm, Friday, November 5, at the Regal 3 Downtown. Bill Reifenberger's The Murals of Lincoln Perry screens at 11:30am, Saturday, November 6, in Old Cabell Hall. The Digital Media Gallery is open daily until 10pm, November 4-7, at 101 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall.