It was recently announced that archivists found a 35mm negative print of a previously unseen short film in The George A. Romero Archival Collection, which was acquired by Pitt in 2018. Titled Jacaranda Joe, a film synopsis provided in an email from Pitt says that in 1994, Romero traveled to Valencia Community College in central Florida to “make a short film about a swamp-dwelling bigfoot.”
Pitt will screen the film, which was described as being “largely unknown and presumed lost,” on Tue., April 12 during a virtual webinar. The event will mark the first time ever that the film will be shown to the public.
In a Twitter thread from March 23, Pitt visiting researcher and horror scholar Adam Hart calls Jacaranda Joe “a very early example of what would be known as a ‘found footage’ film in which a sleazy talk show host debates a video that seems to have captured a glimpse of a bigfoot-like creature in the swamp.”
Hart also links to a 1994 article in the Orlando Sentinel that describes how Romero, then 54, worked with students at the Valencia Community College to make the so-called “mock documentary.” Some of the Valencia alum who worked on the film will speak during Pitt’s April 12 screening.
The film was conceived before The Blair Witch Project, the 1999 hit that launched the found-footage horror trend, but long after exploitation “documentaries” like the 1980 film Cannibal Apocalypse, which set the foundation for the now-familiar genre.
“Jacaranda Joe, which Romero wrote, is an experiment,” reads the Orlando Sentinel article. “In the faux documentary, a Geraldo Rivera-like TV talk show host investigates an encounter with the alleged monster on a hunting show. Romero wants to know if audiences can be scared by a documentary format, if they can be frightened when they don't know much about the story's characters."
Pitt also facilitated the premiere of another lost Romero gem, The Amusement Park, a commissioned project shot in a local theme park. The film was later acquired by Shudder and is now streaming on the platform.
Public Screening of George A. Romero’s Jacaranda Joe. 7-8:30 p.m. Tue., April 12. Takes place over Zoom. Free. Registration required. horrorstudies.library.pitt.edu