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In its sixth incarnation, James River Festival of the Moving Image retains a fun, hip, insider's focus.

Image Is Everything

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James River Festival of the Moving Image
April 5-April 12

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Festival Schedule
A complete schedule of films and events.

Attention pop culture film fans — the hippest show in Richmond is just around the corner. Yes, I'm talking about the James River Festival of the Moving Image, a weeklong celebration of all things framed and famed.

As in years past, festival director Mike Jones and his talented crew have assembled yet another exciting roster of screenings, seminars and meet-and-greets for this sixth edition,which runs April 5-12 at various venues in and out of the city.

Independent. Experimental. Live Action. Animated. High Brow. Low Brow. The Festival continues to offer a variety of informative, provocative and creative blips on the ever-changing screen of modern motion pictures.

Vying for hippest ticket designation this year are three very different events. First, on Saturday, April 10 at 2 p.m. at the Virginia Museum, there's noted film historian Paul Arthur's look at Warhol, including rarely seen audition tapes required for admission to Andy's Factory. (Check out a very young Dennis Hopper among the hopefuls.)

Second, is an even rarer chance to listen and learn from filmmaker Charles Burnett. "To Sleep With Anger," "Killer of Sheep," and "The Glass Shield," are but a few of the subtly powerful films Burnett has crafted. Although each is steeped in his ethnic heritage, the films speak to universal human emotions, fears and dreams. He will screen three of his films during the festival.

Then there's animator Bill Plympton, whose tongue-in-cheek perverse streak runs throughout every cel, sketch, frame and doodle he's ever created. Inspired by Daffy Duck, Plympton began his cartooning career early. At the ripe, old age of 12, he offered his talents to Disney. "They turned me down," Plympton says, "and rightly so. Now, I'm proud to be an independent."

Getting to the popular artist takes only a few sorties in the game of phone tag. When we do connect, it turns out Plympton was in Richmond all along, working on another GEICO spot for The Martin Agency.

"Oh, yes, that's what pays the bills," he says. If you've seen any of those spots — hapless chubby guy pushes a button and cannonball smushes into his face — they are just a tame taste of the outrageous self-imploding, self-deflating morphing that goes on in his cartoons and animated films. "I like having that edge that's somewhat offensive," he says.

Offensive, when applied to Plympton's work, however, is a compliment. Describing the unique Plympton style as a mix of "the violence and sex of Japanese animation and humor," the 52-year-old says what keeps him psyched is "the opportunity to be really sexy and surreal. Like taking Dali or Magritte and putting some sexy humor into it. When you add humor to them, the sex and violence become wacky." We decide to label his sexy, offensive, shape-changing style as "post-surreal."

That wacky post-surreal style will be shown to festivalgoers in the form of his animated feature "I Married A Strange Person" on Tuesday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the VCU Business Auditorium. The hero of this twisted tale is newlywed Grant Boyer. Accidentally zapped by radiation from a TV satellite dish, he grows an extra brain lobe capable of making his fantasies real. First and foremost, Grant — though newlywed — turns his wife into numerous different women during sex. Then icky bugs spew forth from his mother-in-law's mouth. Things get really scary though when a spot on a TV talk show lands him in the cross hairs of a crazed media maven, a power-hungry colonel and a has-been comedian.

Finding the possibility for the bizarre amidst the most mundane is a Plympton trademark. So is an appreciation of irony. Several years after he began to make a name for himself, guess who came calling? Yep, Disney. Waving a million-dollar contract in front of him, they wanted to buy his quick-draw shape-changing for none other than the Robin Williams-voiced genie in "Aladdin."

Plympton turned them down.

"I couldn't work in their style," he says. "You know, cuddly little creatures that sing happy little songs isn't

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