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Student-run Johns Hopkins Film Festival offers eclectic mix as it turns 20

Organizers add new programs that celebrate Baltimore film culture

Image caption: "My Neighbor Totoro"

Movie lovers, take note: The Johns Hopkins Film Festival is just around the corner, turning Shriver Hall into a veritable arthouse cinema from Thursday to Sunday. This year's offerings are as eclectic as usual, exploring Amish pornography, a New York City sanitation worker's lifetime collection of trash treasures, and the age-old tradition of sheep herding in Iceland —among other highlights.

The festival's organizers, members of the student-run Johns Hopkins Film Society, whittled down more than 100 submissions from around the world to select this year's features: two full-length documentaries and eight shorts. And with its 35mm retrospective, the festival spans the '70s, '80s, and 90s with three classics: the dark comedy Harold and Maude; the iconic Japanese animated fantasy My Neighbor Totoro; and Sofia Coppola's 1999 featured film directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides.

As it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the festival will introduce new programs to highlight its maturing role within the Baltimore film community. A discussion panel on Friday will give a handful of established local cinephiles a chance to take the floor; and a sort of festival-within-the-festival on Saturday will showcase the work of promising local high school and college filmmakers.

The full roundup (a form of which is also available on the Film Festival's website) is detailed below. Admission is free to all events for Hopkins students and staff, and Friends of the Maryland Film Festival get free passes to everything but the 35mm shows; otherwise screenings are $5 each or $10 for a day pass. All events take place at Shriver Hall on JHU's Homewood campus in North Baltimore, aside from Friday's events at the JHU/MICA Film Centre in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

Thursday, March 31

7:30 p.m.: Harold and Maude on 35mm. The 1971 Hal Ashby cult classic explores the unusual relationship between a morbid teenager and a quirky 79-year-old woman who shares his hobby of attending funerals.

Friday, April 1

6:30 p.m. at the JHU/MICA Film Centre:

  • A panel of Baltimore cinephiles—including Hopkins film professor Jimmy Joe Roche, filmmaker Skizz Cyzyk, and artist Becca Morrin—will give presentations on film topics of interest.
  • The panel will be followed by a release party for the latest issue of WAVEWAVE, the Film Society's triannual zine, which features interviews, criticism, and original art related to cinema.

Saturday, April 2

2:30 p.m.: The Baltimore Student Filmmaker Program, a debut feature for the film festival, will screen 10 selected short films produced by young filmmakers from local high schools and colleges, including the Baltimore School for the Arts, the Park School of Baltimore, Towson University, and Maryland Institute College of Art.

4:30 p.m.: Documentary Shorts Program

  • A Thousand Autumns, directed by Bob Krist, follows a young farmer and his team as they take part in Iceland's age-old tradition of herding sheep and cattle from the remote highlands to autumn grazing pastures.
  • Dead Sites, directed by Jason Outenreath, captures one artist's mission to place handmade crosses at exact coordinates where immigrants have died attempting to cross the deadly Sonora Desert.
  • One Man's Trash, directed by Kelly Adams, looks at the lifetime of treasures accumulated by a veteran New York City Department Sanitation worker who finds new meanings in other people's discarded ephemera.
  • Goodnight Ladies, directed by Christianna Miller, explores the legacy of the world's most famous fox hunter, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum.

6:30 p.m.: The documentary feature Waiting for John, directed by Jessica Sherry, explores the religious movement that grew out of adoration for cargo the American military brought to a remote island in the South Pacific during World War II. The "John Frum Movement" persists today with ceremonies and rituals in one small village.

9 p.m.: The Virgin Suicides on 35mm. Adapted from the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, the 1999 directorial debut of Sofia Coppola tells the story of five teenage sisters in suburban Detroit who are confined by their parents after the youngest sister's initial suicide attempt.

Sunday, April 3

4:30 p.m.: Fiction Shorts Program

  • Pulling Up Roots, directed by Cecelia Condit, explores "an entire lifetime of emotions in mere minutes" as Condit uproots exotic plants and flowers against the backdrop of an abandoned housing project in Western Ireland.
  • Great Moments in Amish Pornography, directed by Nicolas DeGrazia, features members of the award-winning Chicago sketch comedy troupe The Comic Thread as they answer the burning question of "What really happens when the sun sets in Amish country?"
  • Business Ethics, directed by Nick Wernham, follows a young businessman who goes forward with engineering a Ponzi scheme despite the knowledge that he will eventually face the consequences.
  • Vegas, directed by Saj Pothiawala, tells the story of an awkward bachelor who engages with a cosplay prostitute named Vegas for one night.

6 p.m.: The documentary feature The Flying Dutchmen, directed by Kendal Miller, follows two old friends embarking on an American road trip via experimental motorcycle, as one of the men grapples with an progressing condition that will leave him blind.

8:30 p.m.: My Neighbor Totoro on 35mm. The award-winning 1988 Japanese animated film, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, tells the story of two professor's daughters who interact with friendly wood spirits in post-war rural Japan.

Posted in Arts+Culture

Tagged film, film society

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