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Several screenings and presentations by noted filmmakers offered at Vassar this fall.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The Vassar College Film Department will offer a series of film screening events this fall. These will includSummer Pasture (9/23 at 5:00pm), a documentary film about the plight of Tibetan nomads; Suicide Kids (9/29 at 5:30pm), a dramatic coming-of-age story; and four films by MacArthur Award-winning independent filmmaker Charles Burnett: Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (10/6 at 6:00pm), The Glass Shield (10/7 at 6:00pm), Nightjohn (10/10 at 4:00pm), and Killer of Sheep (10/10 at 7:00pm). 

The first two screenings will be followed by presentations by filmmakers Nelson Walker (Summer Pasture) and Vassar alumnus Christopher Smith ’07 (Suicide Kids), and Charles Burnett will deliver a lecture about his films on 10/13 at 6:00pm. 

All programs are free and open to the public and will be held in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film at Vassar College. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

About the Events

Summer Pasture, a film by Lynn True, Nelson Walker, and Tsering Perlo
Thursday, September 23, at 5:00pm, followed by a discussion with Nelson Walker
Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Rosenwald Film Theater (room 109)

The first screening will be Summer Pasture, a feature-length documentary film that chronicles one young nomadic Tibetan family’s struggle as they spend the summer in eastern Tibet’s Zachukha grasslands, the coldest, poorest, and most remote county in Sichuan Province, China. The program will include a presentation by the one of the three filmmakers, Nelson Walker. This screening is made possible by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 

Summer Pasture was conceived as part of the Kham Film Project, an association of American and Tibetan filmmakers working together to improve the quality and diversity of knowledge about Tibet by engaging Tibetans in the filmmaking process. It documents one family’s response to the growing pressures, including government policies, rangeland degradation, and the allure of modern life, which have influenced Tibetan nomads to leave their traditional pastures for the towns and cities. The film was an official selection of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Marfa Film Festival, and the Nantucket Film Festival, among others.  

Producer and co-director Nelson Walker III began his career in filmmaking working on documentaries for Discovery Channel, History Channel and PBS’s NOVA. His first film, iThemba|Hope, aired on Sundance Channel in 2005. Walker has worked as visiting instructor of filmmaking at Tibet University in Lhasa and is a contributor to the Tibetan & Himalayan Library. His most recent film, LUMO, made its television debut as part of the P.O.V. series on PBS. He holds an MFA in film directing from Columbia University School of the Arts and is a project director at the Maysles Institute.

Suicide Kids, a film written, directed, and produced by Christopher Smith 
Wednesday, September 29, at 5:30pm, followed by a discussion with Christopher Smith
Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Rosenwald Film Theater (room 109) 

The second screening will be Vassar alumnus Christopher Smith’s first feature film, Suicide Kids. This is a dramatic coming-of-age story in which the young protagonist’s prophetic dreams about love, loss, and loneliness lead him to confront the “suicide kid” label he has worn since kindergarten. The cast includes Gene Gallerano as the protagonist Malcolm Holt, Freya Moran as Mara Regnault, Ian Bell as Lincoln Douglas McCarthy, Samantha Holden as Jess Caulfield, Tom Slot as Gregory Crowley (he is also the film’s composer), Jill Knell as Gwendolyn Holt, and Josh Tane as Jeff Holt.  

Filmmaker Smith noted that in this film he “wanted to explore what suicide is, why people are drawn to it, and how its effects reverberate far beyond that one person. To tell a story of suicide is easy: it ends with death. But to show what happens next, the grief and anger and guilt and denial, is the heart of this unspoken act.” 

Suicide Kids marks Smith’s feature film debut. As a freelance filmmaker and designer, he has worked as an editor, producer, colorist, and Web designer for local businesses in the New York area, including The Talk ManVanessa Smith Films, Jeff Cadge Productions, and Sustainable Bedford; and regional musicians including The Amendment, Love in Stockholm, and Echo Kings.

Screenings of Charles Burnett’s films 

  • Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (2007)
    Wednesday, October 6, at 6:00pm
    Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Rosenwald Film Theater (room 109)
    epic film on the Namibia independence conflict against South African occupation, written and directed by Burnett, Carl Lumbly as Samuel Nujoma, Namibia’s first president, and Danny Glover as Father Elias. Burnett's dramatized profile of the Namibian leader is based on Nujoma's autobiography, Where Others Wavered
  • The Glass Shield (1995)
    Thursday, October 7, at 6:00pm
    Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Rosenwald Film Theater (room 109)
    A crime drama, written and directed by Burnett, that explores racial tensions in a Sheriff’s Department with the introduction of the first black officer. Some of the actors featured include Michael Boatman, Elliott Gould, and Ice Cube.
  • Nightjohn (1996)
    Sunday, October 10, at 4:00pm
    Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, room 308
    Made for television and featuring actors Beau Bridges, Allison Jones, and Lorraine Toussaint, the film is about a 12-year-old slave girl who, once she learns to read, begins to use this new power to expose and undermine the plantation power structure. Nightjohn was considered the “best American movie of 1996” by the New Yorker’s Terrance Rafferty. 
  • Killer of Sheep (1977)
    Sunday, October 10, at 7:00pm
    Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, room 308
    An unvarnished, episodic portrait of a blue-collar worker and family man in South Central Los Angeles, Killer of Sheep has become a classic, and in 1990 was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The film was given a wide release in 2007, after soundtrack rights were at last cleared.

Lecture by Charles Burnett
Wednesday, October 13, at 6:00pm
Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, Rosenwald Film Theater (room 109)

Filmmaker Charles Burnett will discuss his career as a filmmaker. He is considered something of a cult hero among cinephiles. On the periphery of mainstream cinema, his work has received much critical recognition. Burnett studied film and received his MFA at UCLA, where he shot his first feature film for his thesis project, Killer of Sheep (to be screened on October 10).  

Burnett was awarded the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” in 1988. He has also been awarded grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the J. P. Getty Foundation. He is also the winner of the American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award, and one of the very few people ever to be honored with Howard University's Paul Robeson Award for achievement in cinema. 

The Chicago Tribune has called Burnett "one of America's very best filmmakers" and the New York Times named him “the nation's least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director.” His film To Sleep With Anger (1990), starring Danny Glover, won the 1991 Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay for Burnett and Best Actor for Glover. Burnett’s visit to Vassar is made possible by the Katherine Stone White Artist in Residence Fund.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, September 16, 2010