Film returns to Carnegie Museum of Art with new series hosted by Tony Buba | Pittsburgh City Paper

Film returns to Carnegie Museum of Art with new series hosted by Tony Buba

click to enlarge Film returns to Carnegie Museum of Art with new series hosted by Tony Buba
Photo: Peggy Ahwesh
Pittsburgh Trilogies, part of CMOA’s inaugural Film Series
From 1970 to 2003, the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Department of Film and Video was a hub for regular screenings of work from local independent filmmakers such as Tony Buba, the Braddock filmmaker behind the 1988 documentary Lightning Over Braddock: A Rustbowl Fantasy.

Now, 20 years after the dissolution of the department’s film programs, Buba is curating CMOA’s inaugural Film Series, which highlights obscure and acclaimed local and international films from the museum’s vast archive.

“What has changed so much from when I first started is the number of people making work has increased,” Buba tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “There are so many amazing filmmakers working with digital, so I wanted to blend some old school with new films.”

The Film Series will showcase 17 films from 24 filmmakers from May through December, with screenings taking place in the CMOA theater and outdoor Sculpture Court. Select screenings will include introductions from that month’s featured filmmakers.

Faced with the difficult task of choosing films from the museum’s extensive collection, Buba says he focused on works that deal with labor, inequity, and regional politics. “There’s such a large choice of films [in the archive], so how do you get started?” Buba says. “I wanted to show the shape of my interests in my films, you know, dealing with work, with place, and with politics.”

The series kicks off on Sat., May 13 with The Pittsburgh Trilogy from experimental filmmaker and video artist Peggy Ahwesh. Shot in Canonsburg, Pa. in 1983, the three films depict the summertime lives of her idiosyncratic hometown friends. Two other Allegheny County-focused movies — Brady Lewis’ 1986 experimental narrative The Suicide Squeeze and Buba’s 1980 short film Home Movie — round out the day’s screenings.

Ahwesh and Lewis worked at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the now-defunct school, cooperative, and resource center that helped foster local film production until its dissolution in 2018. Buba says starting the Film Series with The Pittsburgh Trilogy and The Suicide Squeeze gives audiences an idea of the offbeat artistic ethos in Pittsburgh at that time.

“The films are really different, but they’re representative of the spirit of what was going at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers at that time, where you had different groups of people making different kinds of films,” Buba says. “It wasn’t one set ideology of what film could be.”
click to enlarge Film returns to Carnegie Museum of Art with new series hosted by Tony Buba
Photo: Sean Eaton
Tony Buba
Other films in the series include George A. Romero's 1977 vampire film Martin, which was shot in Buba’s mother’s Braddock home, and100 Ways to Cross the Border, a 2021 release from director Amber Bemak about Mexican/Chicanx performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña. There will also be a series of Appalachia-focused movies from directors Mimi Pickering and Anne Lewis.

Buba says the regional documentaries by Pickering and Lewis reflect the theme of community-driven filmmaking across the Film Series and in his own work.

“They were big influences for me,” Buba says. “Wanting to stay in your area and make films about your community versus a New York Crew or Los Angeles crew coming in and saying what your story is about.”

Other screenings include the 1982 high school documentary Seventeen, two films by Manfred Kirchheimer, and Hale County This Morning, This Evening, a 2018 documentary by ReMell Ross depicting the Black experience in a small Alabama town.

Buba, whose blend of performance and nonfiction in his movies has been described as “exploded documentary,” says he hopes Film Series audiences walk away with a taste of the similar genre-bending possibilities in film.

“I wanted to show these different forms of documentaries — what they could be,” Buba says. “A look at the diversity of film form, how different styles of making film end up being the vision of the filmmaker themselves versus just an A, B, C, D cutout of what it should be.”

Carnegie Museum of Art Film Series. Sat., May 13-Dec. 9. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $8-10.

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