Bentfoots Film Night

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CCS and MSM ARTifacts Summer Film Series presents New England Premiere of THE BENTFOOTES with filmmaker Kriota Willberg

White River Junction's Center for Cartoon Studies and the Main Street Museum continue the summer film program "ARTifacts" with a special evening with the New England Premiere of the dance mockumentary THE BENTFOOTES on Tuesday, July 22. The film’s co-director, NYC artist/teacher/choreographer Kriota Willberg, will introduce the premiere and answer questions after the showing.

The 7 PM pre-premiere reception with Kriota Willberg and cartoonist/animator Robert Sikoryak will open the evening at the Main Street Museum at 58 Bridge Street in White River Junction, VT, followed at 8 PM by the premiere of THE BENTFOOTES at the Center for Cartoon Studies, 92 South Main Street in White River Junction, VT. Q&A will follow.

THE BENTFOOTES is a brand new satiric feature film by Kriota Willberg and Todd Alcott (the screenwriter of ANTZ) that chronicles the (fictional) life and times of choreographer Susan Bentfoote (played by Nina Hellman) and her less-than-illustrious family throughout American history. A mockumentary fusion of Ken Burns and THIS IS SPINAL TAP, the film follows Susan’s boyfriend filmmaker Jim Raritan (James Urbaniak) as he interviews Susan, family, friends and dancers, intercut with faux-archival footage, animation, photos and memorabilia.

“In its own tongue-in-cheek way it explores the American dancer's artistic aesthetic from post-revolutionary times to the present,” co-director Kriota explains. “In college I would watch old dance films, finding them quaint and naive in their melodrama and dated movement styles. Although I dismissed these films artistically, I loved them for their heartfelt plots, themes of artistic sacrifice and inspiration and passe choreography.” These vintage films inspired Wilberg and writer/co-director Todd Alcott, who adds, “There have been lots of movies made about successful artists. What Kriota and I wanted to do was make a movie about unsuccessful artists. Because that is, after all, the vast majority of artists.”

The ARTifacts Summer Film Series is dedicated to showcasing original, outsider, fringe and forgotten films from the silent era to the present, including New England premieres of all-new feature films and curios once relegated to drive-ins, grindhouses and the late, late show on TV. THE BENTFOOTES is showing at the Center for Cartoon Studies, but the majority of the screenings unreel at the Main Street Museum.

"ARTifacts" is programmed by writer, cartoonist and Center for Cartoon Studies instructor Stephen Bissette, a native Vermonter best known for his work on DC Comics Swamp Thing and co-author of the forthcoming book Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman (in bookstores this November from St. Martin's Press). The ARTifacts spring film series featured revivals of Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LADY VANISHES (1937), Roger Corman’s THE INTRUDER aka I YOU’RE YOUR GUTS (1963) and the cult classic THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (1959). The summer series was launched on July 8th with an evening of vintage cartoons hosted by visiting animation historian, scholar and author G. Michael Dobbs, author of a new book on 1990s animation entitled ESCAPE!

THE BENTFOOTES co-director, producer and choreographer Kriota Willberg is an artist, teacher and choreographs for film/video, theatrical, and other dance productions. Credited by Deborah Jowitt (The Village Voice) as having “terrific choreographic ideas” and “a fine wit”, Willberg founded her dance company DURA MATER in 1993 as a vehicle for her choreography. The DM cortege has performed in a variety of dance, music, and performance venues in New York and the US. In 2005 the company evolved to include Willberg's dance film projects. THE BENTFOOTES is Dura Mater's feature film debut. Kriota has also been a guest instructor at the Center for Cartoon Studies since 2005, as has her partner Bob Sikoryak, who created the animation and faux archival film sequences in THE BENTFOOTES. Sikoryak’s cartoons and illustrations have appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, in Nickelodeon, Fortune, Esquire, and other magazines; on various episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; and in The Daily Show Presents America (The Book) and Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth.

The summer series continues in August with Abel Gance's powerful anti-war classic THAT THEY MAY LIVE (1937, aka J'ACCUSE) and the WW2 British propaganda suspense film WENT THE DAY WELL? (1942). Also upcoming is an evening of new short films by regional filmmakers, and forgotten gems like the first Vermont feature A VERMONT ROMANCE (1915). Bissette promises, "this film series will be as eclectic, exciting and unusual as we can make it. It'll be a lot of fun."

THE BENTFOOTES is the first New England premiere of a new work in the ARTifacts series. More will follow. “We’re privileged to offer new work by filmmakers who will be participating in person,” Bissette says, “but ARTifacts will also screen an eclectic mix of unusual films ignored by regional film festivals and societies. Exploitation films may not be great art, but they can be great artifacts, and they've had a tremendous cultural impact that most critics and audiences prefer to ignore or deny. Many people love these films -- they're full of memorable images, dialogue and situations, and some of them are really quite exceptional movies by any standard."

Admission is $5 per person, free for Museum members and CCS students; for more information, call ___-2776. The series will continue into September.