Movie stars: Film Festival spaces out


Still from Craig Baldwin's Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America.

In the past, the Virginia Film Festival has attracted its share of celebrities, but this year it’s boasting true stars. No. Real. Stars. Really real–the kind you might admire through a telescope at UVA’s McCormick Observatory, where the Festival will offer some of its most scintillating, dare I say stellar, "Aliens"-themed programming.

Jumping into the “microcinema” trend–which takes art-house to a new level by showing experimental films in venues like basements and storefronts (think the last few scenes of Be Kind Rewind)–Festival director Richard Herskowitz plans to screen films in a small 40-seat room as well as in the larger dome room at the Observatory. It’s unclear what films will show in which space, so show up early to make sure you get a seat.

Two of the leading microcinema impresarios, Craig Baldwin and Ed Halter, have curated programs for the unusual venue. Baldwin, whose Other Cinema operates out of a former bakery in San Francisco’s Mission District, has put together a series of shorts entitled, “Space Brothers and Others,” (Thursday, 8:15pm) which includes his own cult classic, Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America, a pastiche of found footage crafted into a narrative about CIA intervention in Central America. “He has an encyclopedic memory for shots,” says Herskoqwitz. “And he writes this narrative that’s very hyperbolic sci-fi, but also political.”

Halter, a Bard College prof. who operates Light Industry in Brooklyn, N.Y., will give a clip-illustrated lecture, “Ancient Astronauts,” (Saturday, 7pm) examining Sun International, the source of numerous hokey, pseudo-science documentaries in the 1970s. Halter will show Sun International’s Chariots of the Gods in its entirety. Particularly appropriate for the Observatory, the film postulates alien responsibility for Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids, and other ancient structures.

Other McCormick offerings include a 70th anniversary radio broadcast of War of the Worlds (Thursday, 7pm), and a collection of astronomy-themed artistic shorts, “Desired Constellations,” curated by experimental filmmaker Jeanne Liotta (Friday 7pm). Two other Observatory programs feature George and Mike Kuchar, the mad scientists of underground movies: “Blips, Demonoids and JuJu Cults” (Friday, 9:30pm) celebrates the Kuchars’ distinctive lowbrow, sci-fi cinema from the late ââ?¬Ë?70s and early ââ?¬Ë?80s; and Secrets of the Shadow World (Saturday, 9:30pm) documents George Kuchar’s wacky world via his trying to make a UFO feature (be forewarned, it’s a rambling 140 minutes).

Herskowitz says the Observatory offers unique potential as a venue, “We’re hoping these very strange films we’re showing in the microcinema will attract alien visitors.”

The University of Virginia’s Leander McCormick Observatory is located at 600 McCormick Road. The box office opens one hour before scheduled screenings.

2 comments

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