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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the January 23, 2002

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New Jersey Film Festival

Springtime — a time when the birds chirp, the bees

buzz, and a young person’s fancy turns to thoughts of one night


A rich array of one-night showings of some of the 20th century’s most

exciting and artistically successful films highlight the 20th


season of the New Jersey Film Festival this spring at Rutgers


Films by John Cassavetes, Wim Wenders, G.W.Pabst, bolster a schedule

that also includes an interesting mix of new films from challenging

young filmmakers that are given three screenings over a single


"It’s an exciting lineup," says Al Nigrin, the festival’s

founder and curator. "We mix in some new films that deserve a

wider audience but will never be seen at the local multiplex, such

as `Hybrid’ and `The Fourth Dimension,’ with favorites like `The


of Oz’ and Francis Ford Coppola’s recent re-release of his masterpiece

`Apocalypse Now Redux,’ complete with nearly an hour of additional

footage that didn’t appear in the 1979 original."

Kicking things off this weekend, Friday through Sunday, January 25

through 27, is Stephanie Black’s "Life and Debt," a


that investigates the impact economic globalization can have on a

developing nation. Using conventional as well as unconventional


film techniques, Black’s camera probes the "mechanism of debt"

that is destroying the local Jamaican agriculture and industry,


them with sweatshops and cheap imports. The film features a vigorous

reggae soundtrack by Ziggy Marley. It will be shown at Scott Hall,

room 123, on the Rutgers College Avenue Campus. All screenings are

at 7 p.m.

Vietnamese-American experimental filmmaker Trinh Minh-ha’s acclaimed

film "The Fourth Dimension" will be shown at Scott Hall on

February 22 to 24. It is an elegant reflection on time, travel, and

ceremony in the form of a journey. Minh-ha examines the culture and

social rituals of Japan in this multi-layered work that ruminates

on the experience of time and the impossibility of ever truly


David Lynch’s darkly delirious "Mulholland Drive," a sleazy,

but untidy film reminiscent of 1940s film noir. will be screened March

1 to 3. Lynch’s surreal story involves a beautiful young woman who

stumbles away from a car crash to on Hollywood’s mythic Sunset


and eventually meets up with an aspiring actress with her eyes set

on movie stardom. This visually impressive film is chock full of


trademark twists of reality and unexpectedly eerie psychological


Nigrin, who is also an experimental filmmaker, has been the festival’s

curator since it began in 1982. "It started out as very much a

seat-of-our-pants type of operation," he explains. "It was

a free program on Monday nights and we showed a total of six films

in a smelly basement classroom, starting out with a retrospective

of the films of Man Ray."

That first year, a total of approximately 300 people attended the

six screenings. But by the early ’90s attendance had risen to


to 5,000 patrons seeing 30 to 40 screenings per year. "And we’ve

continued to grow," says Nigrin. "We now have 120 screenings

per year with an annual attendance of over 15,000."

Nigrin was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, where

his father was a pediatrician and his mother worked as a lab


He graduated from Rutgers in 1983 with a masters in French literature

and then switched his focus to film, receiving his MFA in film in

1986. Apart from his work with the Rutgers Film Co-op, Nigrin also

teaches four courses a year, serving as a lecturer in the Program

in Cinema Studies. He lives in Somerset with his wife and seven cats.

Billed as a one-night-only screening in honor of the Rutgers Film

Co-op’s 20th anniversay is a Nigrin favorite, Abel Gance’s 1927 epic

masterpiece "Napoleon," featured on Saturday, April 6 at Scott

Hall. Created at the dawn of the sound era, and reconstructed to its

original 240-minute version by Kevin Brownlow in 1981,


is a heroically sympathetic portrait of the French ruler, and features

Gance’s groundbreaking triple-screen, three-color (monochrome on each

screen) finale. This reconstruction was a labor of love for Francis

Ford Coppola and his father, Carmine Coppola, who composed and


the live orchestral accompaniment at its 1981 Radio City Music Hall


Among the other films that will be given only a single screening is

G.W. Pabst’s 1928 silent classic "Pandora’s Box" on February

7. This gem features the only truly great film appearance of Hollywood

icon Louise Brooks, playing a prostitute named Lulu. But Brooks’


is so charismatic and unforgettable that her image is still a regular

feature in fashion advertisements. An expressionistic film, rich in

shadows and visual innuendo, "Pandora’s Box" elegantly plays

on the dark passions of murder and lust.

"Gloria," John Cassavetes’ 1980 film starring his wife Gena

Rowlands as an ex-mob mistress who goes on the lam to protect a young

boy being chased by the mob, will be screened on Friday April 26.

Cassavetes, who made such remarkable independent films as


"A Woman Under the Influence," and "Lovestreams" from

the 1960s through the 1980s, is still one of the underappreciated

filmmakers of the 20th century. While "Gloria" is certainly

the most commercial film of his career, and exhibits the fewest


Cassavetes touches, it nevertheless is a strong film and can serve

as a nice introduction to Cassavetes’ work.

"Wings of Desire," German filmmaker Wim Wenders’ 1987 film

of reluctant angels who wish to experience the joys and sorrows of

earthly love, screens on Friday and Sunday, April 5 and 7. Visually

stunning and filled with ethereal dialogue that rings with poetry,

the film is nicely humanized by the salty performance of Peter Falk,

playing himself as a simple actor making a film in Germany.

"This festival has always been a labor of love for me," says

Nigrin. "We offer a lot of great work on the big screen that most

people wouldn’t have the chance to see otherwise."

— Jack Florek

NJ Film Festival

New Jersey Film Festival screenings are Fridays through

Sunday in Scott Hall, Room 123, Rutgers College Avenue campus, near

the corner of College Avenue and Hamilton Street. Thursday screenings

are in Loree Hall, Room 024, Douglass College campus, near the corner

of Nichol Avenue and George Street; with selected free events at


Books, Route 18 South, East Brunswick. Admission $5; all programs

begin at 7 p.m. Call 732-932-8482 or on the Web at:

Life and Debt, directed by Stephanie Black (2001), Friday

to Sunday, January 25 to 27. Before the Nickelodeon, directed

by Charles Musser (1982), Thursday, January 31.

Ghost World, directed by Terry Zwigoff (2001). $5., Friday

to Sunday, February 1 to 3. Pandora’s Box (1928) directed by

F.W. Pabst, Thursday, February 7.

Apocalypse Now Redux, directed by Francis Ford Coppola

(2001), Friday to Sunday, February 8 to 10.

United States Super 8 Film & Digital Video Festival,


to Sunday, February 15 to 17. The Wizard of Oz (1939), directed

by Victor Fleming, Thursday, February 21. The Fourth Dimension,

directed by Trinh T. Minh-Ha (2001), Friday to Sunday, February 22

to 24.

Sans Soleil (1982) directed by Chris Marker, Thursday,

February 28. Mulholland Drive, directed by David Lynch (2001),

Friday to Sunday, March 1 to 3. Heart of Glass (1976), directed

by Werner Herzog, Thursday, March 7. The Day I Became a Woman,

directed by Marziveh Meshkini (2000), Friday to Sunday, March 8 to

10. Tundra A Movie, directed by Victory Furniture and Bruce

Conner (1958 and 1998), free, Wednesday, March 27.

Napoleon (1927), directed by Abel Gance, Saturday, April

6. Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders (1987), Sunday,

April 7. The Town is Quiet, directed by Robert Guediguian


Friday to Sunday, April 12 to 14.

Blossoms of Fire, directed by Maureen Gosling (2001);

Also Hybrid, directed by Monteith McCollum (2001), Friday to

Sunday, April 19 to 22. Peanuts and Grain, directed by Albert

Gabriel Nigrin (1995-2002), free, Wednesday, April 24.

Gloria (1980), directed by John Cassavettes, Friday, April

26. Everything For a Reason, directed by Vlas Parlapanides


Saturday, April 27.

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