, Salem, MA

February 20, 2014

Taking a second look at Marblehead festival films

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — You may not care for reruns when you see them on TV. But at the Marblehead Festival of Arts Winter Film Festival, where all the films have returned from previous summer festivals, audiences usually like them better the second, and even the third, time around.

“What we’re doing with the winter festival is showing films primarily from last summer’s festival, but also showing films from the past,” said Mike Evers, chairman of the film festival committee. “As time goes on, we’ll be doing the same thing, looking forward and back.”

For this year’s screenings, which will be held Wednesday, the committee has selected two “legacy” films that first appeared at the summer festival in 2006.

“‘Uso Justo’ is Spanish for ‘Fair Use,’” Evers said. “The filmmaker took some footage that he found someplace — a 1959 Mexican melodrama, some kind of soap opera — and by the use of subtitles, he made a completely different story out of it.”

Directed by Coleman Miller, the film won an award when it was originally screened at the Ann Arbor Film Fest.

“It’s about a filmmaker that has come to town and is making a film,” Evers said. “What it does is make fun of some of the cliches of experimental film. It’s a brilliant, funny piece of work. I still like to see it today. It has a long shelf life.”

The second legacy film is “Jimmy’s House of Hugs” by Julia Radochia, who grew up in Arlington and moved back there in 2006, after long detours in New York and Los Angeles.

“Julia Radochia has given us a number of films over the years,” Evers said. “This is kind of an infomercial about a special place where people can get hugs. It’s also satiric, as well.”

All the films are short, ranging from 2 to 22 minutes in length, and each one is unique, using and sometimes blending genres ranging from documentary to animation to silent film.

While most tell interesting stories, they also possess imaginative structures and styles, and it is the combination of these elements that make them rewarding to see several times.

“Bitter Sweet,” for example, is about a girl who finds a card in the back of her dollhouse with a clue that leads her on a treasure hunt.

The things that happen in the silent film, which was written and produced by Keith Wasserman of Marblehead, could be real. But the poignant and clever story is closer to a fable imagined by a child, or by an adult remembering her childhood.

The film was made in 2012, along with director and editor Micah Levin, and owes a great deal of its structure to the fact that it was created for a 48 Hour Film Project event in Boston. Participants in the project select a genre they must work in, along with props and dialogue they must use, and then have 48 hours to make a film that is seven minutes long or less.

“It creates really interesting challenges, to tell a story that has a beginning, middle and end, hopefully with some heart and soul,” Wasserman said. “It forces you to evaluate your choices and make efficient choices.”

Wasserman is one of three Marblehead residents with films in this winter’s festival, which also include John Bonner and Ties de Blij.

Bonner’s “The Broken Necklace” is a witty documentary about the obstacles he encounters when he tries to ride his bike from Marblehead to Swampscott.

It makes an interesting contrast with the film “Home” by Tanisha Garner, who is involved in the Raw Art Works program in Lynn, which introduces teenagers to several art forms.

“She’s riding her bicycle around the city and reflecting how, despite whatever its reputation is, it’s home to her and a place she loves,” Evers said.

Putting films like these together for the first time, in a program where they can complement each other, is another benefit of screening films from past festivals.

It’s at work in another pair of films on this year’s program, “Beautiful” by Devyn Jaffe, another Raw Arts participant, and de Blij’s “Ode to Beauty in Imperfection.” While both films explore notions of beauty, one involves talking to a cast of strangers on Boston Common, while the second features one man’s reflections on his relationship to his grandfather.

The winter film festival is free and will begin with the presentation of this year’s Marblehead Festival of Arts logo, which was designed by Chris Small of Marblehead.