Black Maria Film Festival at Prairie Theater

Emma Klein, News Reporter

Independent filmmakers from around the world brought themes of homelessness, animal ethics, leave and Native American history to UWO – Fond du Lac screens at this year’s Black Maria Film Festival.

The festival focuses on short films including narrative, experimental, animation and documentary, showing films nationally and internationally. Many films are centered around substance abuse, sustainability, immigration and LGBTQ issues.

According to an NPR article, the Black Maria Film Festival is named after Thomas Edison’s film studio, nicknamed the Black Maria because the walls of the studio were covered with black tar paper and looked like a police paddy wagon which were called Black Marias.

A crowd-favorite film earning Global Insights Stellar Award was “The Elephant’s Song” by animator Lynn Tomlinson, which told the story of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in America.

When the animation, which used oil-based clay on glass, began, it looked like a moving oil painting.

The documentary “Birthday” by John Psathas and Liliane Calfee hoped to spread compassion and hope by exploring poverty in Chicago through the life of a homeless man, hoping to spread compassion and hope.

The experimental film “Ghost Dance for America, 1890” by Karl Nussbaum depicted a Native American response to Westward expansion, how western expansion is still relevant today and traditional aspects of Native American life such as architecture, landscapes, song, dress and dance.

Meanwhile, “Black Dog” by Wooseok Shin brought to light “black dog syndrome,” a phenomenon where dark-furred dogs are less frequently chosen in shelters compared to white dogs.

Shin used narrative storytelling to show the life of a black furred shelter dog waiting for an owner. Many audience members said during and after the performance how heart-wrenching it was that the boy in the film did not take the black dog home with him.

The Black Maria Film Festival tours all over the country with upcoming screenings scheduled at Fort Myers, Florida, Hoboken, New Jersey, and Cooperstown, New York. This year marks the sixth UWO-FDL has been a destination for the festival.

The Black Maria Film Festival was a great free event for students, faculty, staff, and the Fond du Lac community to experience independent short films.

The UWO-FDL Fine Arts and Lectures Committee will meet this week to discuss whether to bring back the event next year.