NEW PORT RICHEY — The world-famous Black Maria Film Festival will make a stop at Richey Suncoast Theatre at 7:30 p.m. April 28, showing a collection of 10 award-winning short films created by filmmakers from around the world. They range in length from four to 15 minutes.
The Black Maria (pronounced Muh-RYE-uh) was started 36 years ago in West Orange, N.J., and named in honor of the first-ever movie studio built by Thomas Edison 114 years ago. Neighbors thought it looked like the police wagons they called Black Marias, thus the name.
Edison's studio looked like a tar-paper-covered shotgun house, and it moved on a big turntable, so the roof could be raised to catch the sun's rays and light the movie's subject matter. The first movie showed one of Edison's employees sneezing over and over.
To launch the festival, founder John Columbus asked for entries of short films. Hundreds poured in, and Columbus and his staff chose 70 to take on tour around the world.
By chance, Rob Mateja, an instructor at Marchman Technical College, knew some of those involved in the Black Maria project. He, Deborah Pentivolpi, Marie Skelton and the late Charlie Skelton got together to bring some of the winners to Richey Suncoast for a local showing in 2010, and it has been returning ever since. The sponsors were enthralled by the art deco building and felt the theater would be the perfect venue (beating out several other area venues) for the films.
For the past couple of years, it's been held in conjunction with the local Thomas Meighan Film and Video Festival, a tribute to the theater's founder, but that festival is on hiatus this year.
Mateja works with Black Maria officials to choose films from the top 70 winning entries that he feels would most appeal to local audiences. The films include animation, documentaries and narratives from Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the United States. This year's selections are:
• Mr. Sand (8 min.): An animated tale about early cinema, using a mix of techniques, and starring a mysterious Mr. Sand.
• Boomerang (5 min.): A hand-drawn, animated film whimsically showing the workings of nature and the universe.
• Rabbit Blood (5 min.): An animated tale set in an old, mysterious Turkish country house.
• The Boxer (15 min.): A documentary about a child drug dealer given a second chance by an understanding judge.
• Joan (7 min,): A documentary about a woman diagnosed with sarcoma who is determined to have a full life.
• Make Them Believe (13 min.): A documentary about a young Russian who dreams of becoming an American wrestling star.
• Roxy (9 min.): A narrative about Roxy, an aging prostitute in central Europe, where neighbors try to burn down her "love mobile" to run her out of the area and how she responds.
• The Last Projectionist (11 min.): A documentary about a mom and pop drive-in theater that is struggling to decide whether to convert from film to DCP (digital cinema package) at great cost, or just close.
• There's Too Many of These Crows (4 min.): An animated film about the war between birds and humans.
• Rosie, Oh (9 min.): A story about a little girl who wanders into her neighbor's house looking for her lost dog.