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Zombies invade Providence at the Cable Car Cinema

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Zombies are invading Providence this weekend.

The Providence Zombie Film Festival, running at Cable Car Cinema tonight through Halloween, will feature 12 free screenings of zombie movies over the next six days and – perhaps in preparation for a mass attack – a lecture from the author of “The Zombie Survival Guide,” Max Brooks, tonight at 6 p.m in MacMillan 117.

Screenings will include a zombie musical, the first zombie movie ever made and a made-for-TV zombie movie. The festival will show some well-known zombie movies, but the selections are a deviation from traditional zombie fare. For example, George Romero’s famous films “Night of the Living Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead” will not be shown, despite their obvious relevance, in order to make room for lesser-known films that stretch the boundaries of “the zombie genre,” said David Bering-Porter GS, one of the organizers of the festival.

Bering-Porter, Matthew Tierney GS and Pooja Rangan GS, all Modern Culture and Media graduate students, and Richard Manning, the department’s film archivist, are looking to attract a wide range of viewers with their eclectic selection. “It’s the kind of thing we hope will appeal to cinephiles, punked-out zombie-heads and Providence professionals,” Tierney said.

When the organizers originally conceived of the film festival, they planned to simply show the films they liked best. Bering-Porter is treating zombie films in his dissertation, and all the organizers are fans of the genre. “It was just going to be our favorites,” Tierney said. “But then we thought, maybe we don’t know everything about zombies yet.”

As they further developed the idea for the festival, the collaborators realized that, to best explore the political and social implications of zombies, they needed to show a range of movies to address those themes. Zombies are an “amazing empty vessel” for social commentary because they are simultaneously alive and dead, Tierney said.

“They show cultural anxieties in a different way,” Bering-Porter said, adding that the archetypal vision of zombies in masses and crowds can be imbued with political meaning.

“These are films that are concerned with what you wouldn’t think zombie movies are concerned with,” Tierney said.

The team “dug and dug and dug” in Internet forums and communities to find a wide range of films that demonstrate “other ways of thinking about zombies,” Tierney said. “The Brown film archive now has quite a few more zombie movies than we ever thought it would.”

The films in the festival express different tones: Hong Kong art film “Re-Cycle,” which will close the festival on Halloween, was described by Bering-Porter as “beautiful,” while Tierney described “Z: A Zombie Musical,” as “anarchic,” “trashy” and something that “needs to be seen to be believed.”

Because the festival will screen the first ever zombie film, 1932’s “White Zombie,” viewers will be able to observe the evolution of the genre over the years.

The festival is free because of funding from the Malcolm S. Forbes Center for Research in Culture and Media Studies, the Creative Arts Council, the Watson Institute for International Studies, the Department of Modern Culture and Media and the Cable Car Cinema. Tickets for each day’s screenings will be available at 4 p.m. that day at the Cable Car, and interested students can obtain up to four at a time.

“We’re pleased to be able to put this on,” Bering-Porter said. “We’re really interested to see what it looks like.”

Tierney added that while he hopes people appreciate the relevance of zombies, the festival is also for entertainment value. “We’re interested and invested in the geopolitics of race and sexuality that binds together film – but it’s also a lot of fun,” he said.

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