A look at local filmmakers at the Maryland Film Festival
by Tom Warner, Best & Next Department
The 23rd annual Maryland Film Festival takes place from May 19-27 and opening night features a double-bill, “Balti-Shorts & “Strawberry Mansions,” that showcases the work of young and upcoming local filmmakers. It’s part of the festival’s mission to introduce the next generation of homegrown talent while highlighting stories made in and about the city. So who are the young artists representing the next wave of local film making?
Well, one of them is our very own Gillian Waldo, a Library Associate in Pratt’s Humanities Dept. whose film Diary gets its premier screening May 19 in the Balti-Shorts program. Gillian grew up in Baltimore City and graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in film and museum studies. She joined Pratt in 2020. She likes to make what she calls “small films on 16mm.” Diary, shot on 16mm and digitized by Colorlabs in Rockville, documents “a summer without precedent in Baltimore” – the lockdown summer of 2020.
“The pandemic forced us to renegotiate our relationship to the spaces we live in and notice how the city had changed,” says Gillian. “The pools were empty, fireworks were set off every night, people marched in the streets daily. This allowed me to reflect on my relationship to Baltimore and highlight the small beauties present in something as small as car dealership streamers or as large as collective action stopping traffic.”
Joining Gillian on the “Balti-Shorts” program is local documentarian Joe Tropea. He co-directed the short Fugazi’s Barber – about punk rock kids frequenting an old Italian barber shop in Washington D.C. His co-director, Robert A. Emmons Jr. Tropea (whose day job is Curator of Films and Photographs at the Maryland Center for History & Culture) is no stranger to the the festival, having previously screened Hit & Stay (2013) and Sickies Making Film (2018) there. Both of these films can be checked out on DVD from the Best & Next Department and Sickies Making Film is also available to stream on Kanopy.
The Festival’s opening night feature film Strawberry Mansions – the story of a dystopian future where the government records and taxes dreams. It isn’t specifically Balto-centric but its director and crew certainly are. Working again with co-director/star Kentucker Audley and featuring a soundtrack by Baltimore electronic maestro Dan Deacon, it is the fourth and most ambitious feature film yet by Gilman grad and former Johns Hopkins University lecturer Albert Birney. Strawberry Mansions finally gets its hometown premier after receiving critical acclaim earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Birney’s previous film with Audley, 2017’s Sylvio, is currently available to stream on Kanopy. The story of a mild-mannered Baltimore gorilla who becomes an overnight TV celebrity, Sylvio was named one of the ten-best films of 2017 by New Yorker film critic Richard Brody.
But wait, there’s even more homegrown talent in Best & Next’s Local Film Collection! Create your own Maryland Film Festival at home by using your library card to watch these films by and about Baltimore people and issues.