The West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s movie series continues on Saturday, April 16, with two showings at 1 and 4 p.m. at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. The three films to be shown were all made by West Virginia filmmakers. The film series is free and open to the public.
Buckwheat and Ralph (28 minutes, 2004, first film to be shown), is a Real Earth Production film by husband-wife team Judy and Ray Schmitt. The documentary was filmed over the course of a year and reflects the changing seasons, the tranquility of a mountain valley farm in Hardy County, and the relationship of a young boy, Ralph Hartman, with his dog and horses.
The Texture of Life: The Tusing Sisters of Branch Mountain (28 minutes, 2003, third film to be shown), is also a Real Earth Production Film by the Schmitts. This portrait of two Hardy County, Mennonite sisters is based on a short story by their niece Kathleen Sholl. Through narration, she tells the story of her annual summer visits to the home place on Branch Mountain while growing up in the 1950s. In 1972 the Smithsonian discovered the Tusing sisters and wrote an article on their weaving techniques and life outside the mainstream.
The Schmitts formed Real Earth Productions in 1975. The company has produced more than 30 video productions since then ranging from original dramas to documentaries. They also have produced 15 CDs as part of their “Music from the Lost River Valley” series. Their films have been shown on public television, distributed to colleges and public libraries, and have won numerous awards.
The Griffin and the Minor Canon (25 minutes, 2002, second film to be shown), is a West Virginia Public Broadcasting System (WVPBS) animated film co-produced by Mary Lucille DeBerry and Brad Stalnaker. It is the system’s first animation project featuring native talent throughout. It tells the story of a griffin, a mythological creature that is half-lion and half-eagle, and his quest to see his likeness in the form of a statue that rests above a church door in a small town. His arrival there scares all of the residents except the Minor Canon, a lowly clergyman at the church. The mythological character and the human eventually forge a strong bond. Many of the actors who provided the voices for characters in the film are from West Virginia, including David Selby of Morgantown (Griffin), Chris Sarandon of Beckley (Minor Canon), John Corbett of Wheeling (Father), Kathy Mattea of Cross Lanes (Mother), Ann Magnuson of Charleston (Bird), and Don Knotts of Morgantown and Soupy Sales of Huntington (the Messengers). Linda Purl, whose parents once lived in West Virginia serves as narrator and Scott Simons, a WVU graduate and member of a band named “The Argument,” performed and wrote the music.
The film won “best narrative animation” at the West Virginia Filmmakers Film Festival in Sutton in October 2002 and “best of the best” at the national PBS competition for best local production in January 2003. It is based on an 1885 story by Frank R. Stockton, who spent his latter years living in the Eastern Panhandle. DeBerry wrote the script and Stalnaker did the animation. Both were working for WNPB-TV in Morgantown at the time. Stalnaker now works for WVU Television Productions doing graphics and animation. He currently is working on an animated TV spot called “Pete and the PRT,” which is the Personal Rapid Transit system used on campus.
For more information about the free film series or other events at the Cultural Center, call (304) 558-0162 or visit our website at www.wvculture org.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.