Nine Short Films including a Powerful Documentary on the Vietnam War are featured at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Special guest Vietnam veteran John Marcoulier will accompany the screening of “Return to Dak To.”

EUGENE, Ore. – (May 8, 2015) – The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art’s monthly Schnitzer Cinema brings back The Black Maria Film and Video Festival on Wednesday, May 13, at 7:00 p.m. Nine short films in a range of styles including experimental, animation, and documentary are featured in this year’s selection. Cosponsored with the Cinema Pacific film festival, Schnitzer Cinema is the JSMA's monthly showcase for adventurous cinema and media art. Schnitzer Cinema screenings are free and include popcorn and soda.

“The final and longest film in the program, “Return to Dak To,” is a powerful documentary following five Army veterans on their journey back to contemporary Vietnam,” says Richard Herskowitz, artistic director of Cinema Pacific and Schnitzer Cinema curator. “One of those veterans, John Marcoulier, will accompany the screening and answer questions at the end of the program.”

Disturbed by the new American wars, writer and Vietnam veteran Christopher Upham reconnects with his old battalion, the 299th Engineers for the 49-minute documentary “Return to Dak To,” Upham's long lost comrades tell him an unsettling truth - they thought that he was dead - killed in the 1969 Dak To siege in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Upham and four Engineer comrades confront ghosts, former enemies and the legacies of the Vietnam War.

Using rare archival film footage and still photographs, the film recreates a Vietnam which has loomed so large in their minds and lives for so long. The film examines soldiers' expectations of war and service, contrasted with the realities of living in the war's aftermath.

The films that become the centerpiece of the Black Maria Film Festival honor the vision of Thomas Edison, New Jersey inventor and creator of the motion picture.  It was his New Jersey studio, the world’s first, which he called the “black maria” from which they take their name. The Festival reaches out to diverse audiences in diverse settings including universities, museums, libraries, community organizations, and arts venues. The cutting edge, cross-genre work that makes up the Festival’s touring program, has been traveling across the country every year for thirty-four years. 



“The Ballad of Holland Island House”

4 min. by Lynn Tomlinson, Owings Mills, MD.
Jury’s Citation Award – Animation

“The Ballad of Holland Island House” tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay, brought to life through fluidly transforming animated clay-on-glass paintings. The house sings of its life and the creatures it has sheltered, and contemplates time and environmental change. Told from the house's point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.



4 min. by Luke Jaeger, Northampton, MA.

Jury’s Choice Award – Animation

An enigmatic dancing man and a dog-headed woman celebrate the birth of a fish-child, then watch as it takes flight. This bittersweet animated short evokes parenthood’s complex emotional landscape. Artwork for “Fishwife” was hand drawn on paper, then digitally captured and composited to maintain a handmade quality.



8 min. by Monteith McCollum, Vestal, NY.

Director’s Choice Award - Experimental

“SoundPrint” explores the marks left by sonic frequencies on various materials and landscapes, natural and artificial. Imagery from optical soundtracks and microphotography of record grooves play against similar signals received by sand, water, and people. The sounds of the ocean, booming sand dunes and the Midshipman toadfish are the backdrop for a rich exploration of the subtleties of written and transcribed sound.


“Swallowed Whole”

4 min. by Heidi Kumao, Ann Harbor, MI.

Jury’s Choice Award - Experimental

 “Swallowed Whole” is a somber, animated, experimental film about surviving extreme isolation and physical limitations as a result of traumatic injury.  After an acute sledding accident, the filmmaker was forced to lie supine for an extended period of time during which she descended into a desolate, disorienting netherworld.  She imagined she was trapped under a frozen lake: life continued on above her while she looked up from below. The film weaves together photos, animations, videos and sound recordings and takes the viewer on an abbreviated jarring journey through physical and psychological landscapes of hospitalization and recovery.



8 min. by Livia Ungur and Sherng-Lee Huang, New Haven, CT.

Director’s Choice Award – Experimental

Livia Ungur was born in Romania during Communism, grew up there after the revolution, and as an adult emigrated to New York City. She and husband Sherng-Lee Huang shot “Prodigal” during a month-long visit to Bucharest, in the dead of winter. Shot with a hidden camera on the streets of Bucharest, this subjective documentary tracks the complicated relationship between an emigrant artist and the place she used to call home.


“Return to Dak To”

49 min. by Christopher Upham, San Francisco, CA.

Jury’s Citation Award - Documentary

Director and combat medic Christopher Upham journeys to vibrant contemporary Vietnam with four veteran comrades. They reveal how their Army unit, the 299th Engineers were left at Dak To firebase in 1969, as bait for a North Vietnamese Army force. The veterans confront their feelings of abandonment by leaders and society alike as they reveal their sacrifices, shortcomings and pride of service, amidst shifting bouts of PTSD. Returning to Dak To provides an unexpected closure for these men as they give voice to personal traumas that connect to the universal sufferings of war.


“Self Portrait Portrait”

6 min. by James Hollenbaugh, Lancaster, PA

Jury’s Stellar Award - Documentary 

Bryan Lewis Saunders has been creating a self-portrait every day for nearly twenty years. This short documentary is itself a portrait, which examines his process and determination to create without pretension or boundaries. This short was shot on Super 8mm film in Washington D.C. outside our nation’s capital.


“Theoretical Architectures”

5 min. by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC.

Director’s Choice Award - Experimental

In this black and white meditation on the menace of the everyday, liquid shadow landscapes on hard plaster walls secure the days and re-animate the ordinary.


“Where We Stand”

5 min. by Lindsay McIntyre, Alberta, Canada.

Director’s Choice Award - Experimental

 “Where We Stand” is a documentary about the “death of film.” Film labs close their doors, major film manufacturers cease production, and movie theaters convert to Digital Cinema Package (DCP) - a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema audio, image, and data streams. In “Where We Stand,” McIntyre explores what is left of the once-glorious and dominant medium of the motion picture arts. She made the silver gelatin emulsion she used to shoot the film, by hand - a time consuming and labor-intensive process. “I made each of these stocks in an attempt to achieve different things – sometimes greater sensitivity, better contrast, better detail, adherence (or to deliberately not adhere) to the acetate base, greater tonality.” “Where We Stand” is a haunting portrait of the fragile future of films made on film, in this digital age.



About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of six museums in Oregon accredited by the American Association of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


About Cinema Pacific

Cinema Pacific is an annual film festival based at the University of Oregon that is devoted to discovering and fostering the creativity of international films and new media from Pacific-bordering countries, including the United States.


About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Link: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,

Cinema Pacific,