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HALLWALLS and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center present THE WORK OF JAMES BLUE: A Retrospective

Posted: September 8, 2005
HALLWALLS and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center present THE WORK OF JAMES BLUE: A Retrospective from Thursday, October 13 – Sunday, October 16, 2005.

James Blue (1930-1980) was known internationally for being a groundbreaking documentarian as well as an artist, an educator, an avid film historian, and an advocate of experimentation in the non-fiction form. A professor at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Media Study during the 1970s, Blue influenced a generation of media makers and worked tirelessly to promote the craft of telling true stories with moving images. This retrospective will feature screenings of rare prints of Blue’s films and include discussions with some of his colleagues including former UB professor and founder of the Department of Media Study, Gerald O'Grady, PhD; documentary producer Lynn Corcoran; Director of the George Eastman House Anthony Bannon, and others.

THE WORK OF JAMES BLUE: A Retrospective includes screenings of rare 16mm and 35 mm film prints and video recordings with discussions by Blue’s colleagues will be held at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center, and the Center for Fine Arts, University at Buffalo. In addition, a workshop for High School students (from local McKinley High School) and a reading and viewing room about Blue at the Burchfield-Penney will be part of this project.

September 9 – November 20, 2005

The James Blue Room at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center to focus on Blue’s career with installed video and audio recordings selected from Blue’s interviews with other directors, as well as selections from THE FRONTIER program, an original series produced by Lynn Corcoran that highlighted work by artists from Western New York and Southern Ontario that was broadcast on WNED, channel 17 from 1979 through 1984.


Thursday, October 13, 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center (FREE)


6:30 – 9 p.m. Reception

7:30 p.m. Blue’s Pedagogy

8 p.m. Blue’s Interviews selections from interviews of directors conducted by Blue, including Frank Capra, Roberto Rossellini, William Van Dyke.

8:30 p.m. Blue’s Scripts focus on Watch the Razor Blade & Bicentennial scripts

Friday, October 14, the Center for the Fine Arts, UB North Campus at 7 p.m.

USIA & JAMES BLUE, a program of short films that Blue produced for the now defunct United States Information Agency, which conducted international educational exchanges and projects from 1953 through 1999.

$5 general, $4 seniors, $3 students, FREE to members of Hallwalls and the Burchfield-Penney

THE MARCH TO WASHINGTON (1963-64, 33 min., 16mm)

Documentary about the historic Civil Rights March on Washington, produced by the U.S.I.A.


Documentary about the pressures of technological development on education in Columbia, which won a Silver Lion Prize at Venice, and Best Documentary at international festivals in Bilbao and Amsterdam that year.

A FEW NOTES ON OUR FOOD PROBLEM (1968, 35min.,16mm)

Documentary about the world’s food crisis. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1968.

Saturday, October 15 at 2 p.m. at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center

VIDEO and the CITY FREE with gallery admission; $5 general, $4 seniors, $3 students

with Lynn Corcoran, documentarian and producer of THE FRONTIER series.

WHO KILLED FOURTH WARD? (1 hr. selection of 3 hr. original, 1976/77)

Made in collaboration with Ed Hugetz and Brian Huberman, WHO KILLED FOURTH WARD? is a dramatized examination of the city of Houston’s land acquisition in the Afro-American community of Fourth Ward.

THE INVISIBLE CITY: HOUSTON HOUSING CRISIS (1 hr. program from 5 hr. original, 1979)

Co-directed with Adele Santos and shot by Lynn Corcoran and Tom Sims, this one-hour special program focuses on the plight of Houston’s lower middle class and blue collar residents forced into poor housing realities that the government of Houston did not want to address. Originally broadcast in one hour segments on Houston public television, KUHT, INVISIBLE CITY was one of the first programs to invite viewer participation and comments that were incorporated into the final program

Saturday, October 15 at 7 p.m. at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre


$8 general, $6 Hallwalls and Burchfield-Penney members, $5.50 students and seniors

Introduced by Gerald O’Grady

AMAL (1960, 21 min., 16 mm)

A short film about land development and farming in Algeria.

THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE (1962, 90 min., 35mm)

Blue’s only feature film, THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE is a potent adaptation of Jean Pelegri’s novel about a man attempting to reconcile his childhood memories of Algiers with the brutal reality of the city as the French colonialists and Algerian nationalists battle for control. Blue had spent two and a half years in Algeria with a small independent French film company making documentaries during the Algerian Revolution. THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE was shot on location with nonprofessional actors during the height of the French-Algerian conflict, and it received the Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Sunday, October 16, 1 pm at Burchfield-Penney Art Center


FREE with gallery admission; $5 general, $4 seniors, $3 students

KENYA BORAN PARTS I & II (with David MacDougal, 1974, 66 min. 16mm)

The Kenya Boran series was filmed in 1972 in the Marsabit District of northern Kenya. Part I focuses on the life of Peter Boru, a sixteen-year-old former herds boy who has become a boarding school student. Peter's life is juxtaposed to a traditional herds boy, Dokata. The question, "Education for what?" is posed when both tradition and modern forces common to developing areas make the economic outlook bleak for young people, even if they are able to complete local educational requirements. Kenya Boran Part II was made to show the complex set of educational problems facing young people and governments in a typical Third World setting.

For more information, contact Joanna Raczynska, Media Arts Director at Hallwalls at (716) 854 1694, by email at or online at

THE WORK OF JAMES BLUE: A Retrospective is co-sponsored by Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center; the Burchfield-Penney Art Center; New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the New York State Council for the Arts; the Samuel P. Capen Chair in American Culture, UB; and the Department of Media Study at UB.

About the Burchfield-Penney Art Center

The Burchfield-Penney Art Center is a museum dedicated to the art and vision of Charles E. Burchfield and distinguished artists of Buffalo Niagara and Western New York State. Through its affiliation with Buffalo State College, the museum encourages learning and celebrates our richly creative and diverse community. For more information, call (716) 878-6011 or visit

The Burchfield-Penney Art Center is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is supported in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. Additional operating support is provided by the Elizabeth Elser Doolittle Trust, the James Carey Evans Endowment, the Mary A. H. Rumsey Foundation and the Burchfield-Penney's members and friends.
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