BRATTLEBORO -- Would you like to see Jesse Kreitzer's ancestral roots?

Well, a loosely inspired glimpse of them will be screened at The Latchis Theatre in August.

Kreitzer is a Marlboro native in a three-year graduate program at the University of Iowa, where he plans to make a 25-minute film titled "Black Canaries" for his master's of fine arts thesis. He is in the process of casting right now and screenings in illustrated form have been scheduled for Newton and Cambridge, Mass., Brattleboro and Montpelier, and Iowa City and Des Moines, Iowa. The screening at the Latchis is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. on Aug. 3.

"I'm from Marlboro, but I have maternal ancestral ties to Iowa. My great-grandmother and grandmother were from Iowa," Kreitzer told the Reformer.

Jesse Kreitzer
Jesse Kreitzer
"(This film) was sort of an opportunity to explore these ancestral ties. It is very loosely inspired by my maternal ancestors. I describe it as a folk tale."

He said the story centers around a 1907 family that operates a coal mine simply to extract enough material to heat the home during cold nights. One day the young boy of the family is blinded and the family mule is killed when the mine collapses. Despite the tragedy, the family must continue going down into the mine for the necessary coal.

The patriarch of the family then finds a mineral he learns is coveted by a secret society of the town's miners and the gem keeps him going.

The handful of screenings -- which will consist of about the first 13 minutes in illustrated form -- are free and open to the public, though tax-deductible donations are appreciated.


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The sneak peek will be accompanied by 45 minutes of short films directed by Kreitzer. One of the short films is "Lomax," which is about a folklorist sent to the Mississippi Delta to record an oral history of blues music in 1941. Kreitzer said "Lomax" has toured film festivals across the country.

Kreitzer, who won an New England Emmy Award for his work on television show pilot, said he has committed to shooting "Black Canaries" on 35-millimeter print. as opposed to digital film.

"It's a period film," he said. "If it is shot digitally, it may come off as a hokey re-enactment."

The 29-year-old would like to cast non-actors to bring his characters to life, and he recently chose a young Iowa theater actor to play the boy who gets blinded in the mine collapse. He said he wants to work with non-actors because "Black Canaries" is not a dialogue-heavy film and he wants it to feel as real and raw as possible. He told the Reformer production will begin in November and he anticipates a final cut and release in February 2015.

Kreitzer is a graduate of Emerson College in Massachusetts, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He told the Reformer he is especially indebted to Marlboro Elementary School and the Center for The Center for Digital Art in Brattleboro for allowing him to cut his teeth in the artform.

"Black Canaries" is sponsored by Central Productions, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization driven to support films and filmmakers who operate "outside of the mainstream."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.