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Prof. Matthew Lawrence Curates 4th Annual Black Maria Film Festival

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ- Specialist Professor Matthew Lawrence of the Department of Communication curated Monmouth’s fourth annual Black Maria Film Festival on Thursday, April 2 in Pollak Theater. The festival, deriving its name from what is widely considered America’s First Movie Studio pioneered by Thomas Edison, showcases a number of independently produced short and feature films. Filmmakers came from around the country and around the world to screen their documentaries, animation and narrative subjects.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

“You want to pick films that kind of toe that line between challenging this audience and opening their eyes to perhaps a different perspective or unique perspective that they’ve never experienced before; they’ve never seen a world that we’re showing them on screen,” Professor Lawrence said on curating the event. “But at the same time, you want them to enjoy the experience…especially for students who are just getting into the art of film.”
For newcomers to the festival, reasons for attendance ranged from pure curiosity of exploring the film medium to a desire to understand form and technique in the short subject format. Some, such as Priscilla Wright, a senior Communication major, fell in the former category.”I expect some amazing movies…well thought-out and greatly produced…” she said, given the buzz of the festival’s prestige in the filmmaking world.
Some, such as Nicholas Carlascio, a freshman Communication major, fell in the latter category, who expected, “Entertaining, professional looking, very unique, eye-opening movies.” On his attendance, he expressed his wish to, “…widen my horizon on short films…seeing if I can pick up on people’s influences, and if I can connect them to a filmmaker I know.”
Regular attendees who are familiar with the Black Maria Film Festival, such as Dr. Chad Dell, Chair of the Department of Communication, come with high expectations. “If you encounter one that you really, really don’t like, wait a few minutes because the next one may be more to your liking,” Dr. Dell said on the structure of the festival. In terms of the films themselves, he said, “Overall, enjoyed it. Another good year.”
The festival, being free and open to the public, also drew local filmmaker Brian Tice. “For me, as a filmmaker, I just want to take away what’s out there,” he said of his reason for attending the festival. “[S]eeing what’s out there, especially in the experimental world, because we’re working on an experimental film right now…hopefully we’ll be here next year.”
The films ranged in all of the listed formats and reflected a wide range of technique, taste and storytelling style. The program included:

  • Umbrella House
  • Fausto and Emilio
  • Self Portrait Portrait
  • The Stick Maker


  • Ideas That Are Grand
  • A Pirate Named Ned


  • Killing My Girl
  • Jaya
  • Lightning in the Hand

“The attendance was really great…” Professor Lawrence said at the end of the event. “It’s great having students…who are proactive and enthusiastic…and we just need that to spread; that attitude, that enthusiasm, that love for film.”
For Lawrence, he hopes that the events at Monmouth such as the Black Maria Film Festival serve as a beacon for all movie lovers, newcomers and experienced film buffs alike. “I hope that many students have that experience to know that, if they’re interested in film, whether it’s just writing about it, or discussing it, or studying it, or if they want to actually produce their own films, that they can do it. And a lot of people that we watched on screen probably did it for their graduate thesis film, or maybe did it just a few years out of school…it can be a reality, which I think is something you kind of need to push your students to the realization that it’s within their grasp.”