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In Memoriam
Student Association
Graduate Students
Recent Graduates
Fear Film Festival
Insect Expo
Linnaean Games
Alumni Necrology


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Insect Fear Film Festival Update...
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 celebration—the 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; here’s an update of activities.

The most obvious difference in 1997 was the venue—Foellinger Auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1700; we’ve 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, there’s nothing like the Insect Fear Film Festival in Europe—I guess it’s 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 all—the 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 cockroaches—and 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 can’t get enough of cockroaches, so as always, we’re 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 Champaign County).

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 Horsfall—so 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 Corporation’s 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 McCay’s 1912 line-drawing animated short How a Mosquito Works to Betty Boop’s There’s Something About a Soldier, Walt Disney’s 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 work."

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 flyswatter).

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 type—A+!" Michael Medvet
"See these movies! You won’t go in vein!" Gene Sis-kill
"The kind of movie that can get under your skin!" Rx Reed
"You’ll 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.

Attention—ApROACHing rapidly! Fifteenth Annual Insect Fear Film Festival! ROACHES REDUX

The best in cockroach cinema—including 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.

Joe’s 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 O’Connell, 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 moments.

Attention—importANT news. Coming soon! The long ANT-icipated Fourteenth AN(T)nual Insect Fear Film Festival!

This year—all 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 myrmecologist’s 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 Porky’s Ant.

"F-ANT-astic," rave critics.
"TriumphANT," say fan(t)s.
"A cAN’T-miss event," say entomologists everywhere.


Integrative Biology University of Illinois

Updated 12/09/99