|The annual insect fear film
festival, in its 16th year in 1999, is to our knowledge the longest-running
university-sponsored public celebration of arthropods in the country (but not the longest
running public celebrationthe town of Banner Elk, NC, has been running a woolly worm
festival for 22 years this October).
The format has
been more or less the same since the inception, two or three usually bad feature films
with insects conspicuously featured interspersed with animated or live action shorts, all
thematically linked so as to emphasize certain aspects of insect biology. A history of the
festival appeared in the 1996 newsletter; heres an update of activities.
The most obvious difference in 1997 was the
venueFoellinger Auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1700; weve joined the
ranks of such campus events as Cyberfest and poetry readings by Maya Angelou. This
festival was distinctive as well in that it was the first during which were shown not one
but two Academy Award-nominated films, one of which (Angels and Insects) was
actually in contention during the same year as the festival (it lost, as did everything
else in 1997, to English Patient "best costumes").
We always have our share of out-of-town visitors, but
Nathan Schiff, a 1988 alumnus, has achieved dis-tinction in never having missed a single
festival. Although he drove from Mississippi to attend in 1997, he had to cede recognition
for having traveled the greatest distance to journalists representing Der Stern in
Germany and Facts in Switzerland. Evidently, theres nothing like the Insect
Fear Film Festival in EuropeI guess its a fair exchange, in terms of cultural
enrichment, for Goethe, Beethoven, Nietsche, and Werner Fassbinder. Chris Tucker, American
Way magazine (the in-flight magazine of American Airlines), also attended.
The 1997 festival centered on a group of insects known but
not loved by allthe cockroaches. Long-time festival devotees may recall that roaches
were the focus once in 1991, but there were compelling reasons to revisit the group. Most
compelling was the fact that, in 1997, Americans spent approximately $250 million on
poisons designed to kill cockroachesand then turned right around and spent just
about as much money to see movies about them (specifically, Men in Black and Mimic).
Hollywood and the moviegoing public apparently cant get enough of cockroaches, so as
always, were willing to give the public what it wants. Although these films won
little distinction in Hollywood, Men in Black, with its 1997 release date, earned
distinction of a local sort as the first film to be shown at a festival when it was less
than a year old. Film crews from all three local stations competed among themselves to
find department representatives to interview on-camera (it was a slow news night in
In 1999 we featured mosquitoes; several direct-to-video,
less-than-box-office-smash films released since 1990 made such a theme possible. We traced
the history of the mosquito in movies, from the 1912 (How a Mosquito Works by
Winsor McCay) to more recent examples of the genre. This theme also allowed us to take
advantage of the enormous film archive left to the department by the late William
Horsfallso public health department films on mosquito eradication made 30 years ago
may have a new audience (and a new repu-tation for inadvertent comedy). In a new thematic
twist, along with more traditional demonstrations and exhibits, we invited the Champaign
County Community Blood Services to the festival, in the hope that seeing films about
mosquitoes would inspire donations. It must have worked, because 21 pints of blood were
collected (all by phlebotomists, none by mosquitoes). Media coverage included an interview
on Canadian Broadcasting Corporations As It Happens and a visit from a film
crew from New Zealand, working on a documentary about vermin.
Catch the buzz on the 16TH ANNUAL
INSECT FEAR FILM FESTIVAL--Mosquitoes in the Movies
Animated shorts. Watch the history of mosquitoes unfold
before your eyes, from Winsor McCays 1912 line-drawing animated short How a
Mosquito Works to Betty Boops Theres Something About a Soldier,
Walt Disneys The Winged Scourge, and Warner Brothers Of Thee I Sting.
See Army training films from World War II on avoiding malaria and the U.S. Public Health
classic It Must Be The Neighbors.
Yellow Jack (1938)Dramatic story of
how Walter Reed and a team of brave physicians find out the secrets behind yellow fever
transmission. Described by one critic as "as dramatic as...well, as watching lab
Mosquito (1994) (a.k.a. Nightswarm, a.k.a. Blood
Feast). Mos-quitoes feeding on the blood of dying aliens grow huge and terrorize
citizens of a small town; featuring Gunnar Hansen (whose most notable screen appearance
was as Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre; watch him wield a chainsaw as a
Popcorn (1991)College students put on a night
of scary movies (including a mosquito fear film) to raise money and save a theater and end
up dying horrible deaths; featuring Ray Walston, of My Favorite Martian fame).
"These movies are just my
typeA+!" Michael Medvet
"See these movies! You wont go in vein!" Gene Sis-kill
"The kind of movie that can get under your skin!" Rx Reed
"Youll be itching to see more! Definitely up to scratch!" Rogerm Ebert
GET PUMPED! GO TO THE FEST! The Community Blood
Services will be on hand to greet and accommodate donors before the festival.
rapidly! Fifteenth Annual Insect Fear Film Festival! ROACHES REDUX
The best in cockroach cinemaincluding
nominees for the Golden Palm(etto bug) Award at the (Garbage) Cannes Film Festival!
War of the Coprophages (1996)an
episode of X-Files in which Agent Mulder teams up with luscious babe
entomologist Dr. Bambi Berenbaum to combat possibly alien killer cockroaches on a rampage.
Joes Apartment (1996)see how a kid from
Iowa copes with New York, with the help of his only friends, the singing, dancing
cockroaches infesting his apartment! Featuring Jerry OConnell, Megan Ward, and
Robert Vaughan (of Man from U.N.C.L.E. fame) and special effects by, among others,
UIUC alumnus Chris Trimble
Men in Black (1997)about a cockroach-like
extraterrestrial alien with a definite affinity for the terrestrial garden variety
cockroach and an aversion to humans. Watch the Men in Black, a special highly secret
agency dedicated to preventing panic among humans who might not be able to cope with the
fact that earth has been repeatedly invaded and/or visited, cope with galactic
extermination problems! Featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.
Animated shorts include animated Raid commercials from the
1960s, Bingo Crosbyana from Warner Brothers, episodes of Santa Bugito, the
trailer from Twilight of the Cockroaches, and other classic cockroach cinematic
news. Coming soon! The long ANT-icipated Fourteenth AN(T)nual Insect Fear Film Festival!
This yearall ants, all the time!
Them (1954)giant radiation-mutated ants
invade the sewers of Los Angeles. Featuring Edmund Gwenn and a cast(e) of hundreds.
Phase IV (1973)a new race of super-ants
challenges humans for supremacy on planet earth. With Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick,
and Michael Murphy.
Angels and Insects (1994)shocking,
sensual account of a Victorian myrmecologists experiences in the ant-like social
environment of Victorian England. Featuring Mark Rylance, Patsy Kensit (as the ravishing
Eugenia), and Kristin Scott Thomas (as Matty, a fellow myrmecologist).
AN(T)imated shorts include Dance of the Ants, Gay
Anties, Ant Pasted, Ants in the Plants, One Less Ant, and Porkys Ant.
"F-ANT-astic," rave critics.
"TriumphANT," say fan(t)s.
"A cANT-miss event," say entomologists everywhere.