The Art of War

City Paper contributor Nick Smith has been covering visual arts and theatre in the paper for almost three years, but much of his professional background in his native home of England is in the cinematic arts. Obviously, we’re not working him hard enough, because somehow Smith has found time to organize a screening of short independent films called “Life, Love, & Liberty” at the Gibbes Museum of Art courtyard at 7 p.m. on Wed. Nov. 1, which includes the premiere of his own 25-minute documentary The Siege of Charleston.

The event will treat audiences to a baker’s dozen of films, some just a few minutes long. Regular museum admission ($5-$9) also gets visitors a gander at the Gibbes’ new contemporary exhibit Now!. “We’re screening 13 films altogether, some of them are real short,” Smith says. “The event has a loose theme of art and history. Some of the films will be familiar to people who’ve been to the Folly Felder Film Festival during Piccolo.”

Featured films include Curlesque, about local artist and gallery owner Lese Corrigan; Frankly Charleston, a humorous look at local history from the minds behind the Eclectic Eel; My Father’s Hope, a personal documentary by Ron Mangravite, cinematographer of Godard in America; and of course Smith’s own Siege of Charleston, which examines the largest reenactment ever seen in Charleston, with hundreds of living historians re-creating the 225th anniversary of the city’s Revolutionary War siege in spring 2005. In it, cannons, naval vessels, skirmishes, and full-scale battles all shake up the picturesque backdrop of Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation.

“At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the British army laid siege to Charleston, and they eventually took the town,” Smith says. “In May 2005, about 2,000 living historians and their families reenacted the Siege of Charleston. We wanted to capture what it was like to be there. Why people would dress up and go back in time like that? That’s what interested me: the reason why people do this and why they’re so committed to it.” –Patrick Sharbaugh

Three Minutes of Fame

Scan down a list of the blockbuster films playing at the local cineplex on any given weekend, and sometimes it seems like you could give any writer/director with a pulse a hundred million bucks or so and they could poop out something of equal, if not better, quality. Who needs film school when the result is The Dukes of Hazzard?

The South Carolina Arts Commission is fully aware of this, evidently, and they’re looking to up-and-coming Southeastern filmmakers to do something about it. The Toaster Film Festival, a program of the Arts Commission, is accepting submissions of independently produced short films for the 2006 festival through Nov. 10. And when they say short films, they mean short films: submissions can be no longer than three minutes total. The only other stipulation is that they must include, somewhere in those three minutes, a toaster.

Suggested by Greenville filmmaker Jeff Sumerel, Toaster awards auteurs in three categories: ages 8-12, ages 13-17, and ages 18 and up. The festival is open to any amateur, student, independent, or professional filmmaker in S.C. or other Southeastern state, and the top flicks will be screened during the Donen Film Festival, Feb. 22-25, at the Nickelodeon Theatre in Columbia, S.C. For more information or to receive a Toaster Film Festival application, contact Susan Leonard at (803)734-8681 or –PS

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