Archive for the ‘Three Rivers Film Festival’ Category


3 Rivers Film Festival to Feature Local Films

November 11, 2010

The Three Rivers Film Festival features films by and about Pittsburghers.

On Friday November 19th at 9:15 at the regent Square Theater, Mt. Pleasant will play. This film is based on the short story by local author Jim Daniels. The film features a young man who assumed that escaping his home town of Detroit would solve his problems and change his life for the better. College, however, is not quite that simple, and he falls into self-destructive behavior to allay his anxieties. The film takes place over a weekend in Pittsburgh in which the young man confronts himself and his defunct worldview. The film will be preceded by Steeltown’s 2009 Film Factory competition winners, Anywhere But Here, and Roll The Dice.

On Saturday, November 13th at 7:00 at Melwood, The Electricity Fairy will play. This film documents and examines America’s relationship with fossil fuels. The film covers the controversy over creating a coal-fueled power plant in Virginia, and connects that local issue with the national energy debate. The film mixes documentary footage with old educational films and links past policy to our present conditions.

On Saturday, November 13th from 1-6 pm, a symposium entitled Movies And Violence: A Love Affair will be held at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. The symposium will feature screenings, presentations and discussions exploring the allure and omnipresence of violence in film. Violence is not limited to horror and action, but is a key feature in slapstick humor, in drama, and in cartoons. Violence ranges from a box office draw to a key plot point. Its ever presence on the news implies that violence in itself tells a story. Violence is visceral, and it connects the viewer to the film emotionally and physically; violent scenes are often the most memorable parts of films. Watching violence is thus different than watching other films, because the body participates, not just the mind. Violence on television is like the distilled essence of sport, the catharsis of sudden pain, which is disturbing but psychologically necessary. Rather than sitting around the campfire or in the pub, telling stories of war or the hunt, we watch those stories, safely, and vicariously suffer or proclaim ourselves victorious.

On Friday, November 12th at 10:00 at the Regent Square Theater, SYNC’D II will be playing. The show features locally made silent films from a variety of genres. The films will be accompanied by live music by Black Yodel and Bigg Slurpp, a Pittsburgh band.

Go to for further descriptions and listings.


Exit through the Gift Shop at the Harris

June 3, 2010

If the streets belong to us, why can’t we make them in our own image? Graffiti is the practice of making public art at personal expense.  At its best it is social commentary, and fittingly so.

As part of the Three Rivers Film festival, the Harris Theater will be showing the film Exit through the Gift Shop, a film about graffiti and street art directed by Banksy, one of the most notorious and elusive graffiti artists.

Banksy’s art comments on society, politics, nature, art and even other graffiti. He incorporates pieces of the urban landscape into his works, which tend to show a nostalgia for nature and preurbanization. Many convey the sense of imprisonment, showing people locked up or immobilized. His art is often sarcastic, poking fun at politicians, businessmen, and the masses.


The film itself is a documentary about a man who attempted to make a documentary about Banksy. Thierry Guetta happened to start filming his cousin, known also as Space Invader, a man who created images of space invaders and plastered them around Paris. Through his cousin, he became acquainted with other makers of street art, such as Shephard Fairey, and, over the years, collected hundreds of hours of footage of their lives and works. Guetta met with a variety of artists, but would not be satisfied until he met Banksy, the most famous one. He eventually found him, and was even permitted to film him. Banksy appears in the film hooded and in shadow, his voice modified.

However, Banksy found Guetta to be himself an interesting subject matter and thus turned the film into a study of his work, and the history of the street art movement. Guetta becomes the central figure of the film. He is wacky and energetic, perpetually moving and filming, even when there is nothing of note to be filmed.

Some moviegoers see the film as sincere, while others are certain the whole thing is a stunt perpetrated by Banksy at the expense of the masses.


Short Films

January 26, 2009

Granted, the film festival was a few months ago, I finally remembered to come back and post a couple short films from the Symposium. These two films are part of the reason that I enjoyed the symposium as much as I did. Neither one is longer than about 4 minutes, and I hope you will take the time to enjoy them as much as all of the attendees did.

Dear, Sweet Emma



Repo! The Genetic Opera

November 20, 2008

I realize this entry is almost a week in the making, and my apologies for running so behind on the updates.

I went to see Repo! The Genetic Opera on Friday, and was not greatly surprised to see the line stretched around the block. I was, however, astonished to see that the line curved around the block in BOTH directions. TWO. Count ’em.

One line was for people holding guaranteed seats (aka will call), and the other was for people hoping to get in after the will call people got in. I don’t even really need to state it, but the show was definitely a sell-out, as predicted. People started lining up for the show starting at 7 pm, from what the theater staff tells me, and it was slated to start at 10 pm.

It was pure luck that I even managed to get in (despite the fact that, hey, I WORK here!). I imagine half the people waiting to get in after will call were turned away because we were at capacity. Almost the entire staff was outside, doing crowd control. I definitely appreciated the effort they had taken. Dealing with a crowd that large with that much efficiency is no easy task!

The show was delayed by about 45 minutes. The staff wanted to ensure that every seat had a behind in it, and the director (Darren Lynn Bousman of Saw II fame) and screenwriter (Terrance Zdunich, who also played Graverobber in the movie) were present. They gave a speech beforehand, which definitely had the crowd engaged.

I have to admit that a few weeks ago when I started researching this movie, I had a moment of horror when I was sent a link to reviews from GreenCine, most of which stated how absolutely terrible the movie was. When I received the link, I opted to find more neutral and/or positive reviews of the movie so that I could promote it effectively. However, after having seen Darren Lynn Bousman get up on his proverbial soapbox and praise the negative criticism as well as the positive reviews, I couldn’t help myself: I joined in the with the crowd in having a “let’s stick it to the man!” moment.

I actually took a video of the speech beforehand, but as it’s not exactly kid-friendly, I’d need to check with my bosses before actually posting it here. Of course, I’ll be glad to send it to anyone interested. As Bousman and Zdunich said, anyone talking at all helps the movie out promotion-wise.

And as if being present weren’t enough….the terrible two stayed until after 2 am to talk with everyone who wanted to ask questions/get things autographed. Check me out in all my blogging glory!

Bousman, blogging enthusiast, Zdunich

L to R: Bousman, blogging enthusiast, Zdunich

Comparison-wise, it really was like my first night at Rocky Horror Picture Show. I had seen RHPS on late-night cable once upon a time, and was wondering to myself how the hell it was as popular as it was. Realization came the night I stepped into a theater with people in full costume and became part of the interactive show…it’s about the audience experience. And I have to say, Repo! is much the same. It was definitely all about the audience experience. There was a goth fabulous mood to the theater Friday night, complete with people who had traveled 14 hours, people in costume, roller derby girls, and a plethora of goth-chic girls in corsets and 6-inch heels.

Now, I’m completely anti-gore. Ask anyone that knows me. I cringe as if I were the one being hurt. There were definitely points in the movie where my hands flew to cover my eyes so fast that I wound up nearly punching myself out…yet, I was drawn to watch. The story itself was fascinating and reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedy meets Greek tragedy (hopefully I didn’t give TOO much away with that analysis) with random comedic points (and an even more random cameo by Joan Jett). I really enjoyed the graphics and visuals used in the movie. I was also astonished to see a GOOD performance by Paris Hilton (she played a spoiled brat…imagine that!), and that the singing was spectacular. As far as the rest of the movie goes, it’s definitely something I’d see again (with an audience) so that I can pick up on the nuances I missed last time around.

I have to say that I’m in agreement with Bousman about the movie being something different from what you’re used to seeing, which is what they struggled to bring to the table…something different from typical Hollywood fare; something that would be appealing to movie-goers who are hungry for variety. I enjoyed it, but it definitely seems to have a polarizing effect. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts?


Symposium–The Short Film: A Genre Unto Itself?

November 18, 2008

As stated before, I made it to the symposium. I was that girl that showed up late and looked lost until lunch arrived. Lunch always makes me think straight again when I’m confused.

At any rate, my impression of the symposium was fantastic. I got to see Ernie Gehr speaking about time as it affects his art. His speech went through the first optical coin tricks to the first animations and later, moving pictures as first explored by the Lumière brothers. We saw two of his short films, one by the name of Greene Street, where objects and shadows floated surrealistically until you realized it was a time-stop filming of the sun’s movement and the lights and shadows it caused on the buildings of Greene Street.

After the speech was finished, we moved into concurrent afternoon sessions. I could not stay until the very end of the symposium, but what I saw was definitely interesting. The panel discussion I chose was about short film and audiences in the era of YouTube. With the explosion of user-created content, especially short movies and videos, the short film has more exposure than ever, but is it its own market? We first explored the topic by watching this, which got the panel discussion off to a hilarious start:

YouTube Contest Challenges Users To Make A ‘Good’ Video

Unfortunately, as most know, YouTube is a catch-all (a term used in discussion by panelist Ralph Vituccio) where not every video is of great artistic merit. With this flood of content, what is a viewer to do? Panelist Kim Ann Pfau (who organizes the Sandy Valley Independent Short Film Series) advocated seeing short films as an audience experience, as the reactions of the crowd around you can greatly affect your perception and enjoyment of the film. All expressed concern over wide exposure via sites like YouTube or Atom Films, or the traditional film festival circuit.

It’s definitely an experience I would recommend if film and the visual arts are your passion in life.


Tomorrow’s film symposium

November 13, 2008

Meet the blogger!

No, don’t go for me (even though I’ll be there for at least a portion of the festivities)…go for the chance to talk with several industry professionals and independent filmmakers. I have briefly mentioned the event before, but I also don’t mind repeating myself!

Plus–lunch. Need I say more? Talking and eating are definitely my fortes. In fact, I believe talking and eating are my DREAMS in life, my raisons d’être.

Details about pricing as well as the ticket-purchasing link to can be found here. See you tomorrow!


Andy Horbal Post

November 13, 2008

From my very esteemed colleague, Andy Horbal of Mirror/Stage:

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for more than eight years now, which is long enough to have settled into quite a few routines. I walk to work along the same route every day (down Ellsworth Avenue), read the City Paper in the same order every week (Food-On Screen-Savage Love, etc.), and every year I acquaint myself with the lineup of the Three Rivers Film Festival in exactly the same manner. As ruts go, this last one isn’t so bad. The first thing I do is scan the list of titles for movies I’ve been waiting for because I heard good things about them when they played festivals like Cannes, Sundance, or Berlin earlier in the year, like Waltz with Bashir [2008] and Ballast [2008] on this year’s slate. These films take priority when I’m deciding what to see.

Next I look up the showtimes for the special events I’m interested in and the “classic”-type films I’ve never seen on the big screen, like Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960) at this year’s fest. Whichever screenings I can make it to get added to my list.

Now I have a tentative schedule to work with, which allows me to move on to the last, arguably most important, step: I identify one or two open dates, see what’s playing on them, and pick films I’ve never heard of to see on those days based solely on how compelling their descriptions are. I intentionally avoid reading about these films before I see them and I go into them with an empty, open mind.

Film savvy types have, I think, a tendency to regard anything they haven’t already heard of with suspicion: if it was any good, they would know about it, right? In my experience, though, this argument doesn’t hold up, especially not when we’re dealing with a festival like the 3RFF that uses its strong relationships with talented but unsung filmmakers across the state, country, and even the globe to bring in excellent films that, for whatever reason, aren’t on the critical community’s radar yet.

All year long I look forward to having the opportunity to see the latest work by prominent auteurs like Nuri Bilge Ceylon and Andrzej Wajda before most of my friends; the most memorable screenings I attend each year, though, are invariably the ones where I discover something completely new to me. Last year I was impressed by the potential of Azazel Jacobs, whose newest film Momma’s Man (2008) is at this year’s fest, months before my critic friends were in on the secret; in 2007 I was stunned by the quality of homegrown products like Dodo (2006) and An Independent Portrait (2006); in 2004 I was stymied by a film called Bazaar Bizarre (2004) that was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

These experiences are all special to me because they’re properly mine. My reaction to each of these films wasn’t influenced by either the response of the critics or by expectations based on their directors’ oeuvres: it was just me and the movies together in those theaters, allowed to meet as strangers for once.

So, from one moderately old hand at 3RFF attending (I have been to a third of them), a little advice: don’t be afraid to let the good people at Pittsburgh Filmmakers do a little bit of the work of deciding what to see for you this year. These films were all chosen for a reason: take a chance on one of them. The potential reward of an unforgettable cinematic experience far outweighs the minimal risks involved.

One film ripe for discovery that you might want to take a flyer on is Twists of Fate (2008). Director Jerzy Stuhr is best known in this country as an actor in Krzysztof Kieslowski films like Three Colors: White (1994) and Camera Buff (1979), but his work behind the camera deserves recognition, too. I first discovered his film Big Animal (2000) (which went on to play the 2004 3RFF) at a 2001 CMA Cinema (RIP) series called “Through Polish Eyes” that made such an impression on me that I registered for an Introduction to Polish class the day after it ended.

All three of his films that I’ve seen (all of which are available on Netflix, including my favorite, A Week in the Life of a Man [1999]) star Stuhr himself as a sort of Everyman character faced with a series of moral questions that challenge us, the audience, to ask ourselves what we would do in his situation. They’re “difficult” in a refreshingly different sort of way.

Jerzy Stuhr, who was here in Pittsburgh at that series in 2001, was at Wednesday’s 8pm screening at Melwood to field questions after the film.

As for me, I’m going to take a chance on either Cherry Blossoms (2007) or Mock Up On Mu (2008), or possibly both. If you know anything about them, don’t tell me!