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See you this fall!

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Sonic Youth: 30 Years of Daydream Nation

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Tickets Available here

With Steve Shelley, SY archivist Aaron Mullan, and Tannis Root/Kung-Fu co-founder Bill Mooney in conversation.

Sonic Youth released their sixth album Daydream Nation in October of 1988 and performed the material live that year and through 1989. The album was an immediate critical success. Robert Palmer wrote in Rolling Stone that it “presents the definitive American guitar band of the Eighties at the height of its powers and prescience”. Time has not dimmed the album’s luster: It was selected to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2005, and in 2013 Consequence of Sound declared “the record simply rules.”

In celebration of the album’s 30th anniversary, Sonic Youth, in conjunction with SY archivist Aaron Mullan, will present a program of Daydream Nation-related films. The rarely-screened 1989 documentary Put Blood in the Music will be shown in a new restoration. Rare and unseen gems from the band’s archive, plus live footage of the band performing songs from the album in 2007/2008 will round out the bill.

Put Blood in the Music 1989 Dir. Charles Atlas (SY Edit): Charles Atlas’s first major recognition came for his work with Merce Cunningham as the company’s filmmaker-in-residence from 1978-1983.

Put Blood in the Music is a unique documentary on the downtown New York music scene. In a collage of music, performance, and commentary, Atlas captures the energy and pluralism that characterize this urban milieu. Reflecting the eclecticism of his subject, Atlas re-structures the conventional “talking head” format to allow a fragmented, fast-paced compendium of voices and sounds. Presented here is the Sonic Youth segment of the film, in a context which is less a documentary than a cultural document, a vivid time capsule of the late 80’s New York music scene.

Sonic Youth Archives: Steve Shelley: ”Through the years and as the times changed we recorded our live shows as often as we could afford to on cassettes, DATs, CDs and when possible on multi-track recorders and videotape. We collected fan-generated audience tapes, shady bootlegs and anything we could get our hands on. We now maintain an archive of hundreds of hours of Sonic Youth concerts and we’re starting to share some of our favorites (often from the best-uncirculated source possible).


Tickets Available here

26th Annual James River Film Fest event schedule

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26th James River Film Festival RVA/2019

“Eclectic celluloid for the cinematic soul since 1994”


RVA Filmmakers of the ’70s, ’80s,’90s 

Visual Arts Center, 8 pm, donations accepted

A selection of 16 mm films from pre-digital Richmond filmmakers–from satire to the experimental—makers include David Williams, Tammy Kinsey, Michael Hensdill, F. T. Rea, Michael Jones.  TRT approx. 105 min.



Land without Bread (Bunuel,’32, 27 min.) & Detour (Ulmer, ’46, 67 min.)

Richmond Main Public Library, 2 pm, admission free

Luis Bunuel’s only documentary, an abject portrayal of isolated peasants in Spain, was banned on release. A unique work in cinema from the surrealist director of Un Chien Andalou.  The brilliance of Edgar Ulmer’s archetypal Detour is the distillation of the film noir form into sixty-seven gut-wrenching minutes! w Ann Savage, Tom Neal


The Very Best of Rural Route Films (curated by Alan Webber, TRT 82 min.)

VMFA, Leslie Cheek Theater, 6:30 pm, admission $8/ VMFA members $5

In the tradition of traveling festivals like Black Maria, we welcome the return to RVA of Rural Route Films. This international showcase of shorts ‘takes the road less traveled’ and features works from seven continents—this edition from UK, Hungary, Ethiopia, Austria, and the US includes an entry from Richmonder Sasha Waters Freyer (VCU).

These programs were festival favorites in 2016 and 2017!



Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans (Murnau, ’27, 97 min.)

Richmond Main Public Library, 2 pm, admission free

Director F. W. Murnau’s one-turn in Hollywood produced a silent hybrid—a German expressionist film made in America. A noir-fable of betrayal and forgiveness, lyrically filmed by Karl Struss & Charles Rosher. Janet Gaynor won an Oscar as the wife, George O’Brien plays the husband. Introduction by Ted Salins, film professor, and historian.


Public Reception

The Circuit Arcade Bar in Scott’s Addition, 5:30 pm-7 pm, open invite

3121 W Leigh St, Richmond, VA 23230

Enjoy hors-d’oeuvres, socialize, meet our guests, win a T-shirt, play pinball & other retro games–cash bar available provided by the Circuit featuring over 50 craft brews!




The Films of Betzy Bromberg: Exhibition I: Early Works  (in 16 mm!)

VCU’s Grace Street Theater, 8 pm, admission $5

with filmmaker Betzy Bromberg!

One of the most important voices in avant-garde cinema today is that of Betzy Bromberg, whose films have screened from MoMA to Ann Arbor to Sundance. A product of Cal Arts and former director of their Film and Video program, Ms. Bromberg brings a unique vision to experimental film perhaps because of her years working in optical effects on movies like The Terminator and Tron. An ability to weld ideas and images, through sumptuous photography and attention to sound mark her works. Recipient of a complete retrospective at NY’s Anthology Film Archives, Ms. Bromberg will screen a sampling of 16mm prints included in that program:  Ciao Bella, or F— Me Dead (1978, 13 min.), Marasmus (1981, 24 min., co-directed by Laura Ewig), & Divinity Gratis (1996, 59 min.), “explores time and space, starting at the beginning of the world and suggests… the infinite sweep of time”–LA WEEKLY TRT 96 min.


Gummo (Korine, ’97, 89 min.) w/ Chloe Sevigny, Linda Manz, Max Pehrlich

Byrd Theatre, midnight, admission $5

Korine’s debut film was hailed by none other than Werner Herzog, but Gummo elicited an array of critical responses, from revulsion to puzzlement.  Based in the fictional dystopian, vaguely Appalachian town of Xenia, Ohio, Korine exploits a number of fictional/nonfictional modes—professional, non-professional actors, talk television, verite—in order to create the kinds of images he says he’d like to see in cinema. Welcome to Korine’s world—surreal, disturbing and strangely beautiful.




BOOM for Real (Driver, 2018, 79 min.)

VMFA, Leslie Cheek Theater, 10:30 am, admission $8/VMFA members $5

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s formative years of the late ’70s-early ’80s were heady times—pre-Reagan, pre-AIDS and NY the hub of a burgeoning art and punk music scene. Director Sara Driver lived much of it herself, and her Basquiat bio-doc is a tribute not just to the artist, but the times that formed him and his art; with Jim Jarmusch, Kenny Scharf, Vivienne Dick, Fab Freddy 5 and more.



Fraggle Rock with puppet creator Tim Clarke

Byrd Theatre, 1:00 pm, admission $5

All you fans of Fraggle Rock are going to love this—puppet designer/builder Tim Clarke (Muppets, Dark Crystal) will be on hand to screen episodes and discuss the challenges he encountered working on the popular series, and specifically, the characters he created—Uncle Traveling Matt and the remote-controlled singing Fraggles!  Mr. Clarke will be selling Boglins and other puppets after the screening.  TRT approx. 105 min.


The Films of Betzy Bromberg: Exhibition II: Later Works

Byrd Theatre, 3:30 pm, Admission $5

with filmmaker Betzy Bromberg

Our festival mission has been to advocate for all indie film, with a special affection for a branch of that tree known as “experimental”.  Special guest Betzy Bromberg’s works have been described as “experimental”, “avant-garde” and “dazzling”. She’s been making films for forty years, screening from LA to Montreal to the Pompidou. Films beyond the bounds of fiction and documentary, films, as the late Jonas Mekas described them, as being a “cinema of light”.  This second program contains A Darkness Swallowed (2005, 78 min.), “Bromberg’s most abstract and intimate work, and maybe her most beautiful, in a list of films that have already shattered and expanded the viewer’s conception of beauty.” REDCAT, and Temptation (’87, 4 min., Tom Waits video)



The Green Fog (Maddin, Johnson, Johnson, 2018, 63 min.)

VCU’s Grace Street Theater, 8 pm, admission $5


Director Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg, Forbidden Room ) (2017 JRFF guest) teams with Evan and Galen Johnson (Tales of Gimli Hospital) in a de/reconstruction of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo. Using clips from Hollywood’s B & W noir era and ’60s and ’70s television, they reproduce San Francisco and the essence of Hitchcock’s film, a “parallel-universe version” according to the directors. “Witty, eerie, and unexpectedly moving”, Boston Globe, and on many critics’ best lists for 2018.



A Tribute to Jonas Mekas: Lost, Lost, Lost (’77) and Walden (’69) (excerpts)

If Maya Deren was the mother of the American avant-garde movement, then Mekas was the father—advocate, critic, organizer, filmmaker.  As a founder of the New American Cinema Group and publisher of Film Culture, Mekas manifestoed a new kind of cinema, more closely related to poetry, music, and life. In 2002 he attended the JRFF for a day-long screening of his films at the VMFA.  Mekas was noted for his compilation-diary films, shot over a duration of months/years, often running for hours—films that capture the essential zeitgeist of his life and times. Double feature TRT approx. 3 hrs.


Santa, Sangre (Jodorowsky, co-scr: Claudio Argento, 1990, 121 min.)

Byrd Theatre, midnight, admission $5

One of the strangest cult films is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa, Sangre, but what would you expect from the Mexican director of El Topo and The Holy Mountain?  An ode to Mexican and Italian horror films (think Dario Argento, the co-writers brother, or even Bava), the bizarre plot has the hero, a famous circus performer, escaping from a mental hospital to become his mother’s arms. The Mom, arm-less herself, is now the head of a religious sect and she wills him to commit a series of murders, his arms acting as hers.

Stylish and surreal, back on the Byrd’s giant screen where it originally played in 1990!



The Dark Crystal (Henson & Oz, 1982, 93 min.)

with puppet-maker/designer Tim Clarke (Fraggle Rock, Boglins)

Byrd Theatre, 1:30 pm, admission $5

Revered by successive generations, a fantastic trippy film from directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz.  The Dark Crystal was years in production at a cost of $15 million—a whopping budget for that time—but it was worth it!  Now a cult item for all ages!

JRFF guest Tim Clarke worked on the film as a puppet-maker and designer (Mystics, Crystal Bats, Landstriders, and some environmental puppets); he will intro the film and participate in a Q & A after, and sell his Boglin creations in the lobby.



Amateur on Plastic  (Robinson, 2019, 83 min.)

with director/musician/label founder Mark Robinson (Teen-Beat Records)

Byrd Theatre, 4 pm, admission $5

DC legend Butch Willis and his band, The Rocks, is the subject of director/musician Mark Robinson’s brand-new rock-doc!  Willis, rooming with icon Root Boy

Slim, was inspired to form his own band in 1985—the music has been compared to other “outsider” music like Daniel Johnston and Roxy Erikson.  Robinson heard the band in ’85 and began working with Willis in ’89. The film mixes archival footage with interviews and performances of Willis’ hits: Drugs, The Garden’s Outside, TV’s from Outer Space.  A labor of love, begun in 2007 and just released! Mr. Robinson, founder of Teen Beat Records, will participate in a Q & A after the screening.


Puppet-Making Workshop with guest Tim Clarke!

Gallery 5, 5 pm, admission $20 (limited to 15 participants)/ $10 observer

Learn how the pros do it!  Basic puppet-making head-to-head with master puppet-maker Tim Clarke, who worked with Jim Henson and created the Boglins. Materials included.


Silent/Music Revival: THE WIMPS live with Jean Vigo’s Zero de Conduite (’33)

Gallery 5, 8 pm, donations accepted, approx. 43 min

Vigo gave us the first teen-school-rebellion film with Zero for Conduct—perhaps not so unusual for the son of an anarchist.  One of the last silent classics, softly surreal and warmly human.  With live accompaniment by The Wimps who perform back-screen!


Strange Projections: The Leprechaun (Jones,’93, 93 min.)

So you think clowns are scary?  From the vaults of less-than-classic videos, The Leprechaun will make you think twice about feeling lucky. On VHS baby!




Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary St.

The Circuit Arcade Bar, 3121 W. Leigh St.

Gallery 5, 200 W. Marshall St.

Grace Street Theater, VCU, 934 W. Grace St.

Richmond Public Library Main Branch, 101 E. Franklin St.

Visual Arts Center, 1812 W. Main St.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard


FESTIVAL COMMITTEE: Dakotah Coates, Coleman Jennings, Michael Jones,

Teddy Leinbach, Taylor Noffsinger, Jameson Price, Sam Taylor, Steven Warrick &

the festival volunteers


SPECIAL THANKS: Richmond Public Library Main Branch,VCU Dept. of Photo & Film, VCU Dept. of Kinetic Imaging, Visual Arts Center, The Circuit, Plan 9, Chop Suey Books, Byrd Theatre, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VCU Dept. of Art History, Gallery 5, VCU’s Grace Street Theater, Style Weekly, WRIR, Sifter, Richmond Magazine, Ted Salins, John Venable, Jeff Roll, Uptown Color, Zooom Printing, Linden Row Inn, Le Lew, Alan Webber & Rural Route Films, Adventures in T-Shirt Land, Magnolia Pictures, Balcony Booking, VA Film Office, VA Tourism Corp., our advertisers and donors!



Betzy Bromberg is the former director of Film and Video Program at Cal Arts and has been making experimental film since ’76.  Her recent film, Glide of Transparency, the third in her abstract trilogy, premiered at the Redcat in LA, and she was included in critic Scott MacDonald’s new book, Avant-Doc: Intersections in Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema. Bromberg’s Voluptuous Sleep was named one of the Best Films of 2011 by NY Times and IndieWire.  She’s screened at festivals and museums worldwide: Athens, Montreal, London, Czech Republic, Centre Pompidou, Sundance, MoMA and a retrospective at NY’s Anthology Film Archives in 2018. Previously she supervised optical effects on movies like The Terminator, Wolfen, and Tron. She resides in CA.


Tim Clarke is a master puppet-builder who worked for Jim Henson in the ’80s and was the designer-fabricator for The Mystics and Crystal Bats in cult classic The Dark Crystal, as well as the character of Uncle Traveling Matt and other environmental puppets of the Fraggle Rock series. Clarke has been inventing, building and sculpting some of the most unusual toys and puppets for over thirty years, including the popular Boglins and Sectaurs, Warriors of Symbion.  Mr. Clarke resides in CT.


Mark Robinson is a filmmaker, musician, and founder of Teen-Beat Records, which he started in high school. His new film, Amateur on Plastic, captures   DC-legend Butch Willis and his band, The Rocks, whom he first saw perform in ’85.  He has been singer/guitarist for bands Unrest, Air Miami, Flin Flon and currently performs with Evelyn Hurley in Cotton Candy. Robinson is currently shooting a series of shorts, STO, on well-worn retail spaces. He lives in MA.







Announcing the 26th Annual James River Film Festival! March 13-17, 2019

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The 26th James River Film Festival will be screening its signature blend of eclectic film programming at the VMFA, Byrd Theatre, VCU’s Grace St. Theater, Visual Arts Center, Gallery 5, and Richmond’s Main Public Library March 13-17, 2019.

This year’s guests include master puppet-maker/designer Tim Clarke (Muppets, Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock), avant-garde filmmaker and special effects artist Betzy Bromberg, and Teenbeat Records founder/filmmaker Mark Robinson (Amateur on Plastic) with screenings of Guy Maddin’s latest The Green Fog, along with the recent collection from Rural Route Films, midnight shows of Harmony Korine’s Gummo and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa, Sangre, Sara Driver’s new documentary on Jean-Michel Basquiat, Boom for Real, a tribute to late filmmaker and avant-garde advocate, Jonas Mekas, Silent Music Revival, Strange Projections, a puppet-making workshop and more!

More details to  Advance tickets available for select programs!

Experimental to the core since 1994!

Co-sponsored annually by the VA Film Office and the James River Film Society, a 501 (c) (3) organization.



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The Virginia Film Office and the James River Film Society, in co-operation with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts present the 2018 James River Shorts competition, finalists:


Drive        Sara Gama   (VA, 11:38 min.)


XCTRY        Bill Brown  (NC, 6:18 min.)


I Know What I Saw       Gillian Waldo  (MD, 14:46 min.)


Disillusionment of 10 pt. Font       Greg Condon  (NY, 1:12 min.)


A Month        Zgjim Terziqi    (Kosovo, 25:00 min.)


Going to the Mattresses     Mary Beth Reed   (VA, 6:33 min.)




Stuck      Praheme Praphet    (CA, 17:12 min.)


Reverie      Katy Hannah    (VA, 6:33 min.)


Stray Star    Paramjeet Singh Kattu    (India, 7:40 min.)


My Neighborhood    Annette Daniels-Taylor    (NY, 9:58 min.)


May Day     Olivier Magis    (Belgium, 22:00 min.)



$2,000 in prizes, plus the Kathryn Stephens VA Filmmaker Award and the 2018 People’s Choice Award with this year’s awards judge Kate Elizabeth Fowler,  filmmaker, photographer, educator and past James River Shorts winner.


**Thanks to Rick’s Custom Frame & Gallery, Ken Hopson, VFO, and VMFA!


**Content Advisory: the 2018 James River Short Film competition may include films with

strong adult subject matter.



CARYL BURTNER is a conceptual artist and founder of “Art for My Sake”, and has exhibited internationally.  A graduate of Department of Sculpture at VCU she served for thirty years in the VMFA’s curatorial offices. In 1982 she co-starred in a Richmond underground film, In Broad Daylight, as a bereted revolutionary.


SHANE BROWN is a photography and film instructor at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, and the recent programmer/director of operations for Bijou Film Center.

A collector of film prints in all genres and gauges,  he’s happiest when projecting films in his backyard for friends and family.


TOM CAMPAGNOLI remembers watching Moby Dick and Hitchcock movies with his father as a youth, and later worked as manager/projectionist at Richmond’s repertory Biograph Theatre.  He starred as Kosmo in Steve Segal and Phil Trumbo’s animated-indie epic, Futuropolis.  He is currently employed at UR’s Media Resource Department.


ASHLEY KISTLER is a graduate of VCU’s School of the Arts, served as Associate Curator in Modern/Contemporary Art at the VMFA, Exhibitions Curator at the Visual Arts Center, and later, Director of VCU’s beloved Anderson Gallery. She recently edited a book on the gallery’s collection and continues to work with the RVA art scene.


RAASA LEELA DE MONTEBELLO is an award-winning filmmaker and actress, and divides her time between Ashland and NYC.  A graduate of NYU, she currently freelance edits and directs, as well as running retreats and classes in foraging.  Her film, Decay, won Best Picture and six additional awards in Richmond’s 2018 48-Hour Film Project.


TODD STARKWEATHER holds a PhD in English from University of Illinois-Chicago, where he studied film theory.  He has taught literature, writing and film studies at various

universities in the past twenty years, and currently teaches English language at Manchester Middle School.  He is supporting member and volunteer of the JRFS.


JENNIFER TARRAZI-SCULLY is a dance filmmaker, curator and video installation artist based in Raleigh NC. Her works have been featured at Fieldwork, EYEDRUM, EnCORE: Dance on Film, Alternate Roots and the James River Film Festival and James River Filmmaker’s Forum


AWARDS JUDGE Kate Elizabeth Fowler is a filmmaker, photographer and educator from Richmond. A graduate of VCU’s Photography and Film program, she has since directed arts education programs at Magnum Foundation’s Photography Expanded Initiative in NYC, recently directed the Appalachian Media Institute at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky.  Currently she is exploring the founding of a Richmond Documentary Center.  A past winner of the James River Shorts Competition, Ms. Fowler will designate $2,000 in prizes, courtesy of the Virginia Film Office and the James River Film Society.



Silent/Music Revival: Sunday, DECEMBER 16th

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Silent/Music Revival


The Little Match Girl (1928)

w/ live score by:

Sunday, DECEMBER 16th
@ Gallery 5
7:30 (doors) 8PM (film)
Donations Appreciated

Silent / Music Revival is a unique event where classic silent films are projected while local musicians act as the live soundtrack.
As an added twist the band does not see the film prior to the event and therefore creates a new spontaneous score. Never to be repeated again.
Silent / Music Revival is celebrating its 12th year and is now a part of the
James River Film Society!

Bad Reputation: The Joan Jett Story (2018) Friday November 9th, 2018 8PM 

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Friday November 9th, 2018 8PM 

Visual Arts Center of Richmond 

Bad Reputation: The Joan Jett Story (2018)

A journey through Joan Jett’s life and career, from her early years as founder of “The Runaways” and first collaborations with Kenny Laguna to her status as rock icon.

Tickets available at the door and on Eventbrite





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Co-sponsored by Re Establish Richmond, Sacred Heart Center of Richmond,

Chop Suey Books, Plan 9 Music & James River Film Society

Each screening $5 at box office/ $10 all-day passes available from Eventbrite

Three separate film programs examining the social/political conditions that precipitated

the refugee crises in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.  

10:30 am  Breadwinner (2017,  94 min.) Another animated feature from Nora Twomey and the Cartoon Saloon in Ireland, produced by Angelina Jolie, and dubbed the best of 2018 by Indie Wire.  Set in Kabul, Afghanistan, our heroine, young Parvana, is thrust into the role of family breadwinner when her father is imprisoned. Under the Taliban, women must be escorted on the streets, so she is forced to disguise herself as a boy on her errands.  Parvana’s adventure becomes broader and more universal as war looms and grave choices are to be made. Insightful and entertaining, a family classic!

1 p.m. El Norte (1984, 140 min.)  One of the best films of the indie boom of the ’80s was this Mex./U.S. co-production directed by Gregory Nava, from a screenplay by Anna Thomas. The story of a brother and sister forced to flee their ranquil Guatemalan village because of the death squads who make their way through Mexico and into California illegally.  The opening scenes of the film shot in Mexico have a wondrous magical quality, and are countered by the harsh realism of life in “El Norte”. The late critic Roger Ebert described it as a “Grapes of Wrath for our times”. With Zaide Silvia Gutierrez as Rosa, and David Villaipando as Enrique.

4 p. m. Double feature!  Fata Morgana (2018, 48 min.) A participatory film made by VCU grad and Fulbright scholar Jen Lawhorne, and African refugees, Ebrima and Toumani, who are trying to establish themselves in Messina, Sicily after receiving official asylum.  A timely film that shifts the gaze of the traditional documentary to those directly affected by the immigration process, and the problems encountered in anew homeland. The Man We Called Juan Carlos  (2000, 52 min.) Wenceslao Amira, aka Juan Carlos, was a Mayan farmer, teacher, priest and guerilla, and the father of two murdered children.  Filmed over two decades by co-directors Heather Mac Andrew and David Springbolt, the film explores the intersections of different lives, North and South,

through coincidence and timing, across borders and history. “This sophisticated and troubling film raises important questions about human rights,” Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun.

JRFS Official Fall/Winter Calendar of Events!

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Sat., Sept. 15–Good Day RVA Fest (SMR)

Wed., Sept 19–Strange Projections–cheesy/ cult videos at Gallery 5 (every 3rd Wednesday!)

Fri., Sept 21–Last Day for Submissions to James River Short Film Competition

$2,000 in prizes! Sponsored by VA Film Office and JRFS

Sat., Oct 6–Border (less) Film Fest at the Byrd Theatre

Film screenings, food vendors and activism!

$5/screening; $10 all day!

(more details to come)

Wed., Oct 17–Strange Projections at Gallery 5

Sun., Oct 28–Silent/Music Revival’s Annual Halloween Celebration at Gallery 5


Fri., Nov 9– BAD REPUTATION – A journey through Joan Jett’s life and career. Cash Bar, $7

**Sorry no Strange Projections on Nov 21–Thanksgiving Holiday**

Fri., Nov 30–Award Screening of James River Short Film Competition–$2,000 in prizes!

Leslie Cheek Theater, VMFA

Sun., Dec 16–Silent Music Revival’s Annual Christmas Show at Gallery 5


Wed., Dec 19–Strange Projections at Gallery 5

Coming in 2019–26th James River Film Festival, March 14-17

Silent Music Revival: This Weekend! (June 2nd)

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In memory of Bob Ellis (1951–2018)

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I knew of Bob long before I met him.  I’d seen his white shock of hair at countless movies at the Biograph Theatre, where it seemed to us employees that he was in constant attendance.  He was a familiar figure too on the VCU campus as a popular and long-time adjunct in the English department.  It would not be until 1994 that we would be introduced.

The occasion was a late Sunday night at Joe’s Inn, and Trent Nicholas and I were celebrating the wrap of the first James River Festival of the Moving Image (later the James River Film Festival).  A couple of booths away my friend Ron Childs was seated with the white-haired guy everyone called “Bob”.

As we ordered a second round, Ron came over and said I want you to meet Bob Ellis. So I walked over and Ron introduced, “Spike, this is Ellis”.  I said that I’d seen around and knew of him, and Bob smiled and said:” Of course!”

And as spoken in Casablanca, it was the beginning of a “beautiful friendship”.  Bob became active with the James River Short Film competition as a juror and soon established (proclaimed) himself as the James River Film group’s resident critic—he even looked like Roger Ebert!  He cajoled and worked the fellow jurors’ choices toward the more experimental and the avant-garde film submissions and in the process helped forge an identity, a brand of what kind of films we like to show and why.

One year he delivered an impromptu manifesto to a Grace Street Theater crowd gathered to screen the winners of the competition.

Bob’s introduction to Richard Myers’ Akran was lauded by the filmmaker as the best intro he’d ever heard about his own work!  Among his other films championed were Melvin van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Badasss Song and the sexplosion Swedish imports I Am Curious Yellow/ I Am Curious Blue and his admiration for Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard’s films bordered on religious.

As he lived for a long while just down the street from my own Fan residence, I’d drink beer (frozen Busch beer that we pried out of his over iced freezer compartment) and listen to records from his dusty collection, and talk music (Patti Smith, Ramones, Iggy Pop, Nina Simone), poetry (Billy Collins, the Beats, Sonia Sanchez whom he’d met), literature (Updike, Woolf, Stegner,Oates) and of course, cinema. He also became dear to my wife and daughter and cat Sassy, and would spontaneously compose songs for their birthdays, which he sang and played to us on his Martin guitar.

I never knew anyone who lived for literature and art in general like Bob, and I’ll miss those long roundabout discussions and the frosty beers. I knew of Bob long before we met, and I’ll know of him long after his passing.

-Mike Jones 

President JRFS


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JAMES RIVER SHORT FILMS – November 30th, 2018

Co-sponsored by the VIRGINIA FILM OFFICE

DEADLINE: September 21st, 2018

$2,000 IN PRIZES!



James River Shorts is a mini-festival devoted to the short. The centerpiece is a juried competition for short films (20 minutes or less) from around the globe that best embody what the James River Film Society and James River Film Festival are all about – the art of film and film as art. It’s also the James River Film Festival’s little sibling. Even a snapshot of the guests from the past 20 years of the JRFF – Michael Almereyda, Caroline Martel, Tom Davenport, David Gatten, Ross McElwee, Jodie Mack, Peggy Ahwesh, Jem Cohen, Bruce Bickford, Richard Kelly, Chuck Statler, Karen Aqua, Joanna Priestley, Richard Myers, Pere Ubu, Martha Colburn, Mel Stuart, The Brothers Quay, Jonas Mekas, Les Blank, Ray Harryhausen, Tom Verlaine, Charles Burnett, Albert Maysles, John Columbus, Stan Brakhage, Scott MacDonald, and William Wegman – shows that we have a broad concept of the art of film and film as art. Therefore, we encourage all types of short films: fiction, nonfiction, animation, experimental, and more. We define short, you define art.



James River Shorts is designed to celebrate the art of film regardless of category or genre, yet films made for educational or industrial purposes are not relevant to our mission. Maximum running time is 20 min.



Our festival is designed to have no regard for traditional categories like fiction, nonfiction, animation or experimental. For the festival we will select the films that we feel best represent the art of film and film as art, regardless of type or category.



Those entrants who become finalists for the Awards screening November 30th will be notified by October 30th. A jury of area filmmakers and film educators will pre-screen and select the finalists, whose work will be featured in the Friday, November 30th, 6:30 pm James River Shorts Awards Screening at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Leslie Cheek Theatre. A special guest filmmaker/film curator (TBA) will make final all designations of cash awards.


Cash awards totaling $2,000 will be given for first, second, and third places. The Kathryn Stephens Virginia Filmmaker Award will be presented to best film by a Virginia filmmaker. The audience will also vote for the People’s Choice Award.


THESE ARE MY HOURS Sneak Preview Screening

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Richmond **Sneak Preview** Screening

About the film:
THESE ARE MY HOURS is a full sensory immersion into one woman’s physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual experience of giving birth. It is the first documentary filmed entirely during the course of one one woman’s labor, told from her perspective.

Emily Graham lives in Greenville, South Carolina, where she is about to give birth at home. She trusts herself and her body, and believes she possesses instinctual wisdom for labor.

It’s been said: When a child is born, the mother is born too.

THESE ARE MY HOURS presents the ultimate celebration of womanhood by honoring its oldest ritual.

“Whoever watches These Are My Hours becomes a companion, a godparent in this woman’s labor, a participant in a small yet enormous slice of life. The film contrasts the true glory of the female body and its muscular and existential potential: Emily is not just a pregnant woman; she is the primal life-giving woman who wishes to do, can do and does do. This is, simply and in all its complexity, experiencing a revelation – of a new person, who will grow up to view the female naked body naturally, with respect and curiosity, in its beauty and ugliness, the way it really is.”
– Leda Galanou, Flix Magazine

“These Are My Hours is the most beautiful, raw and honest birth film I’ve seen. As a midwife I’ve seen women give birth so many times. To know there’s footage that captures this experience so well makes me beyond grateful. I cannot wait to share this film with my clients.”
– Marjolein Faber, Dutch Midwife

“While other documentaries on birth have faithfully recorded and narrated a wide range of birth stories, Kirschenbaums brings the viewer close to feeling the sensations of birth… This ability to access the physiology of birth through film on the level of the sensory, as opposed to just the visual, is rare.”
– Anna Hennessey, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley

“These Are My Hours represents everything I believe as a woman, mother, midwife, and feminist. I was in tears just a few seconds in, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. We need more tools for the positive birth movement, and this film is the real deal.”
– Margo Blackstone, Co-Director of Indie Birth

Following the film there will be a Q & A with:
Scott Kirschenbaum, Director/Producer
Emily Graham, the subject of the film
Whapio Bartlett, Richmond resident, lead midwifery teacher of The Matrona and member of the Birth Advisory Council for These Are My Hours.

$5 presale or at the door

Doors 6pm
Film 7pm
Q&A 8pm

For more information, please visit:

To watch the trailer, visit:

Thanks to our Spring 2018 Donors!

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Thanks to our Spring 2018 donors for helping to make the 25th James River Film Festival possible!

Judy & Butch Balenger, Barbara & Joe Brancoli, Caryl Burtner, Tom Campagnoli & Amy Mathieux, Ronald Childs, Robert Cox, Jr., Marcia & Jim Collier, Patrick Gregory, Anne & Mike Jones, Ashley Kistler, Jere Kittle, Amie Oliver & Harry Kollatz, Jeff Roll, Ted Salins, Todd Starkweather, Peyton Whitacre, David Williams, and Anonymous.

Like to be a donor?  Send your tax-deductible check to : James River Film Society, P.O. Box 7469, Richmond, VA 23220  or, make a tax-deductible contribution conveniently via PayPal; just go to: