The films of this year's Writers Conference

A chimpanzee taken from its mother and raised as a human. A classic Hitchock thriller in which our feathered friends turn into feathered fiends. A documentary about the Japanese fascination with insects.

Food Inc.
The poster from "Food, Inc.," an unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.

A chimpanzee taken from its mother and raised as a human. A classic Hitchock thriller in which our feathered friends turn into feathered fiends. A documentary about the Japanese fascination with insects.

With a theme like "Humanimal," the film festival that will be part of the UND Writers Conference from March 27 to 31 was bound to feature movies with all kinds of animal themes. And six of the seven authors who will be guests at the writers conference obliged by choosing films that feature animal interaction with humans in traditional, scary and bizarre ways.

"I tell them 'Here's the theme,' and we invite the authors to choose a film that we think plays with the theme in some way," said Heidi Czerwiec, a poet, UND associate professor of English and co-director of the Writers Conference. "It can be a mainstream film, an art film, a documentary or whatever they want."

Czerwiec said she was particularly amused (and intrigued) by the movie chosen by Lee Ann Roripaugh, a poet of Japanese-American descent who grew up in Wyoming and teaches at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Roripaugh's movie choice? "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo," which may sound like a Godzilla movie, but is actually a look at the Japanese culture's fascination with insects.

"Her work is mostly about insects," Czerwiec said. "There are some furry animals in her work, but she has a knack for making insects almost erotic, which is a far way from the usual repugnance that I have for them."


This year's movies are an especially interesting mix. All of the Writers Conference authors except for Jane Smiley chose a film for the festival, which will be held in the UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl.

Here's information about the films (sources include IMDB and and when they will be shown. Like all other events at the Writers Conference, the movies are free and open to the public.

- 6 p.m. March 27: "The Birds" (1963), selected by Aaron Poochigan, a native of Grand Forks, who publishes translations from the Greek. In this creepy classic by director Alfred Hitchcock, a wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town where birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people with increasing viciousness. With Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright. Writers: Daphne Du Maurier (story), Evan Hunter (screenplay). (1:49) Not rated

- 2 p.m. March 28: "Project Nim" (2011), selected by Hal Herzog, who writes about the complex psychology of our interactions with other species. "Project Nim" tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in the 1970s in the upper West Side. Unflinching and unsentimental, the movie shows Nim's true nature and our own. With Bob Angelini, Nim Chimpsky, Bern Cohen. Director: James Marsh. (1:33) Rated PG-13 for some strong language, drug content, thematic elements and disturbing images

- 6 p.m. March 28: "Mazeppa" (1993), selected by Pam Houston, author of two collections of linked short stories, including "Cowboys Are My Weakness." "Mazeppa," which calls itself a speculative meditation on the life and art of the French Romantic painter Theodore Gericault, literally will make you dizzy. Conceived and directed by Bartabas, a renowned horse trainer and impresario of the Theatre Equestre Zingaro, it is an equestrian fever dream that suggests Peter Shaffer's play "Equus." The movie studies equestrian form and anatomy with a painter's and a horse breeder's eye. In one of the movie's most sensual moments, the camera compares human and equine limbs as naked humans make love in a stable. Of note: "Mazeppa" also is the name of a romantic narrative poem by Lord Byron in which a young Cossack is punished for an illicit love affair by being tied naked to a wild horse that is then set loose. The movie "Mazeppa" is French with English subtitles. With: Miguel Bose, Bartabas, Brigitte Marty, Eva Schakmundes, Fatima Aibout. Director: Bartabas. Writers: Barbabas, Claude-Henri Buffard. (1:51) Not rated

- 2 p.m. March 29: "Wendy and Lucy" (2008), chosen by Brenda Miller, author of "Season of the Body." Starring Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams (as a brunette) and Lucy the Dog, this film is about a woman whose life has derailed en route to a potentially lucrative summer job. When her car breaks down and her dog is taken to the pound, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she is led through a series of increasingly dire economic decisions. Director: Kelly Reichardt. Writers: Kelly Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond. (1:20) Rated R for language.

- 6 p.m. March 29: "La Belle et la Bête," ("Beauty and the Beast") (1947), selected by Mark Doty, a poet and author of the nonfiction best seller "Dog Years." Adélaïde, Belle, Félicie and Ludovic are young adult siblings who once lived in grandeur but their family is now near ruin. Adélaïde and Félicie nonetheless still squander money on themselves while Belle slaves around the house, doting on her father. Ludovic detests his two spoiled sisters, but is protective of Belle, especially with his friend Avenant, a handsome scoundrel who wants to marry Belle. Crossing the forest one evening, the father gets lost and takes refuge in a castle. As he leaves, he takes a rose blossom that Belle has requested. The castle's resident, an angry beast, says he must pay with his death, or the death of one of his daughters. With: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parely. Director: Jean Cocteau, Rene Clement. Writer: Jean Cocteau. French with subtitles. (1:33) Not rated

- 2 p.m. March 30: "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" (2009), selected by Lee Ann Roripaugh, a poet and fiction writer who teaches creative writing and literature. What sounds like a terrific monster movie is a quietly effective documentary that untangles the web of cultural and historical ties that underly Japan's deep fascination with insects. From beetles to dragonflies to crickets, Japanese culture embraces insects as a vital and beautiful part of the natural world. Through captivating visuals, historical vignettes, and even poetry, the film explores this phenomenon and the symbiotic relationship between all species. The film also shows how the insect world has developed into big business. Director: Jessica Oreck. (1:30) Not rated


-6 p.m. March 30: "Food, Inc." (2008). An unflattering look inside America's corporate-controlled food industry and the growth of the fast food industry that since the 1950s has changed the production of food drastically. Health and safety (of the food itself, of the animals produced, of the workers on assembly lines and of consumers) often are overlooked by companies and by the government to provide cheap food regardless of negative consequences. With Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal." Director: Robert Kenner. (1:34) Rated PG for some thematic material and disturbing images

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to .

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