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Vermont International Film Festival › Blog

Thursday, September 27, 2007 | 10:43 AM

Steve Kurtz Interview

R.U. Sirius’ blog, 10 Zen Monkeys, has published an interview with SUNY Buffalo professor, artist and accused bioterrorist, Steve Kurtz. Kurtz was arrested in 2004 following the sudden death of his wife. Upon entering Kurtz’ home, police found some unusual chemicals — chemicals that were completely harmless and that he used in his art/science installation pieces for the Critical Arts Ensemble, which “explore and critique bio-issues like our contemporary use of biotechnology for weapons programs, reproduction, and food.”

A film has been made about Kurtz’ experience. It’s called Strange Culture and it’s playing at the film festival this year. The film is part documentary, part fictionalized re-enactments, and partly a meta-film about the making of the film itself. Thomas Jay Ryan and Tilda Swinton star as Kurtz and his late wife.

Here’s the trailer for the film…

You need a flash player to see this movie.

Read the recent R.U. Sirius interview here. Snip…

STEVE KURTZ: Three projects seemed to really bother law enforcement. Critical Art Ensemble was working on a biochemical defense kit against Monsanto’s Roundup Ready products for use by organic and traditional farmers. That was all confiscated.

We had a portable molecular biology lab that we were using to test food products labeled “organic” to see if they really were free of GMO contaminant. Or, when in Europe, to see if products not labeled as containing GMOs really had none. We’d finished the initiative in Europe and were about to launch here in the U.S. when the FBI confiscated all our equipment.

Finally, we were a preparing project on germ warfare and the theater of the absurd. We were planning to recreate some of the germ warfare experiments that were done in the ’50s (which were so insane that they could only have been paid for with tax dollars). We had two strains of completely harmless bacteria that simulated the behavior of actual infectious diseases — plague and anthrax. To accompany these performances, we were in the middle of a manuscript on the militarization of civilian health agencies in the U.S. by the Bush administration.

Everything described was confiscated. We had to start from scratch on the project and the book. Happily, we did eventually do the experiments, and published the book — Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health.

RU: Would you say that originally, they authentically suspected they had found some sort of bioterror weapon, and once they realized they hadn’t, they found other reasons to remain hostile?

SK: What I think they thought was that they had a situation, along with a vulnerable patsy, out of which they could manufacture a terrorism case. After all, the rewards that were heaped on the agents, prosecutors, and institutions that brought home the so-called “Lackawana Six sleeper cell” case — another railroad job — were witnessed by others in these agencies and noted. This made it too lucrative to pass up turning anything they could into “terrorism”.

They also had plenty of other reasons to be — and remain — hostile.

Strange Culture will play on Friday October 12th at noon and 7:15 pm at the Waterfront Theater in Burlington.

09:58 AM

New Media Panel Announced

On Friday October 12th at 3pm, VtIFF will host a panel discussion called “Filmmaking 2.0: Making and Marketing Your Film in the Age of New Media.” The panel will include…

  • Susan Buice – filmmaker, artist & video blogger (co-director of Four Eyed Monsters)
  • Art Bell – filmmaker
  • Eva Sollberger – video blogger for Seven Days
  • Bill Simmon – filmmaker & blogger (moderator)

I am excited to be moderating this panel as it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Filmmakers often seem to be oddly slow at embracing new media. It’s surprising given the fact that filmmakers engage with media technology by definition. Each of the panelists is uniquely qualified to discuss both production and distribution methods in the digital world.

The panel is open to the public, so please come down and join us.

Friday 10/12/07
3pm – Waterfront Theater (the big theater)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 | 09:29 PM

VtIFF partners with B-Side

This year, the festival has partnered with B-Side, a web 2.0 service that handles all of the online scheduling and trailers & stills from films in the festival. B-Side also facilitates a lot of festival-goer and filmmaker interaction, including festival blogs and film reviews. It’s quite a leap for us into the 21st century.

Take a quick tour through the festival information page. Sign up for a free account and you can create your own festival calendar, watch film trailers and write film reviews.

We’re sort of testing it out this year, but if it works out well, I suspect the festival will be embracing these new tools even more next year. We’d love to hear what you out there think of B-Side and our web site in general. We’re trying to make it a genuinely useful tool for festival goers and we’d appreciate any feedback you may have. Feel free to leave a comment here or write to us and speak your mind.

07:14 PM


Okay, welcome to the Vermont International Film Festival’s new blog! This is a test post. The real blog will start soon. Hopefully we can come up with some interesting content to make this a site worth visiting. In the meantime, subscribe to the feed.