CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Reel passion: Ford takes it to the Bridge

When I met James Ford eight years ago, he was burning with creative energy as a high school student enrolled in Light House Studio's first video workshop. Since then, he's studied film and video at the California Institute of the Arts and interned at Anthology Film Archives in New York City, transforming himself into a veritable walking encyclopedia of the moving image. 

Now Ford's back in Charlottesville as the director of the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative's Film Series. And he's still on fire.

The Bridge Film Series originated in February 2006 when volunteer Sarah Lawson suggested using the organization's gallery space at 209 Monticello Road to screen shorts by avant-garde filmmaker Hollis Frampton. Bridge Founders Greg Kelly and Zack Worrell welcomed the chance to offer more than "just art on the walls," and that first night led to screenings every other Thursday evening.

In keeping with its mission, the Bridge invited community members to curate film nights (UVA art professors Kevin Everson and William Wylie, among others, have each hosted programs). Ford jumped at the chance, and after putting together several well-received nights of little-seen footage, including "Experimental Abstraction" and "Narrative Deconstruction," he took over as the Film Series director this past winter. 

"There are just so many films out there being made and not shown," he says. "I'm finding new films every day."

Ford opened the Series summer schedule June 28 with a night of skate videos, co-sponsored by the Black Cat Skate Shop. On July 12 and 26, Ford will present a two-part series, "Experimental Travelogues." Among its highlights are The Glass System, a film about Calcutta by Mark LaPore, and several shorts by noted filmmaker Jonas Mekas. 

Ford is particularly excited to screen Mark Rose's The Man Who Could Not See Far Enough, which features footage Rose shot while traversing a suspension cable of the Golden Gate Bridge. "It's touching and technically mind-boggling." Ford says. The summer series concludes August 9 with a bike-in night of two-wheeled entertainment, co-sponsored by Community Bikes.

Ford's future Film Series plans include finding more ways to involve the community. Among other things, he'd like to put together programs to foster discussion of the works presented. Nevertheless, he hopes to keep the relaxed atmosphere where people can see something unexpected and then shout out questions while he changes reels. 

"It's just going so well," he says, "and I just enjoy it so much."

On July 12 and 26, the Bridge Film Series presents "Experimental Travelogues," beginning at 8pm each night. $5. 209 Monticello Road. 984-5669. For more information and schedule updates, see