Experimental film comes to Pittsburgh

For fans of experimental film, this year’s Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers, should provide plenty of options. The festival will showcase a variety of movie genres, including foreign, independent, and classic.

The festival, in its 26th year, opened Friday with a showing of Oscar-contender Grace is Gone. The film stars John Cusack, portraying a father unable to tell his young daughters their mother has died in Iraq. “The content is as strong as it gets,” said Andrew Swensen, director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

The Cannes, Toronto, and Sundance film festivals are some of the industry’s biggest festivals. Swensen said, “The films that we’re showing, we are getting them fresh off of many of these festivals; many of our films are award winners at these other festivals.”

This year’s festival emphasizes experimental film and digital media. Present on the schedule are two programs from Mark McElhatten, curator of the New York Film Festival’s “Views from the Avant-Garde.” McElhatten reviewed films from the New York Festival to bring to Three Rivers, allowing Pittsburghers to view the best and most recent movies out of America’s largest city.

The festival features some special lectures, including a talk with McElhatten Nov. 10. Many of the films will also have receptions following their viewings, in addition to appearances from the filmmakers behind them. For this reason, Pittsburgh Filmmakers began planning this year’s festival as early as last December. “The reason we start planning so early,” Swensen said, “is it takes a long time to get on these people’s calendars.”

The culmination of this year’s festival will be the viewing of several films by noted experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger, as well as an appearance by the famed underground director. Other appearances during the festival, which runs through Nov. 15, will include the directors of films Golden Days, Punk’s Not Dead, Pascua Lama, and The Blue Eyed Six.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust worked with the Three Rivers Festival, leading to the inclusion of the films Walkabout and Kalkadoon Man, an extension of the Cultural Trust’s Australia Festival. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Carnegie Mellon’s Student Development Office of Artistic and Intellectual Development, and PITT ARTS also worked with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers to create this year’s Three Rivers Film Festival.

Some films shown in the weeks ahead will highlight film achievement around the world. Filmmakers will be showing The Band’s Visit, an Israeli film about an Egyptian police band lost in Israel. The film was recently disqualified as the country’s nomination for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film because less than 50 percent of its dialog was non-English. The Band’s Visit’s replacement for Israel’s nomination is another Three Rivers selection, Beaufort, which follows the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon in 2000.

Swensen said he is looking forward to the showing of Woody Allen’s 1979 masterpiece Manhattan, as well as Eloquent Nude, a documentary following the photography of Edward Weston and his relationship with subject Charis Wilson. He has already seen and enjoyed many of the festival’s films, including his current favorite The Violin, a Mexican film about street musicians living in an oppressive society in the 1970s.

With an excellent selection, the Three Rivers Festival has something to attract any movie buff.