Ten years have passed since the dilapidated Rome Theater in Pleasantville was reborn as the Jacob Burns Film Center in June 2001. More than 4,000 films have been screened since its opening. Its Media Arts Lab has facilitated the teaching of courses in filmmaking and visual literacy to more than 65,000 students. Cinema giants such as Robert Redford and Meryl Streep have dropped by regularly to reflect on their work and answer questions from local viewers.
Ask programming director Brian Ackerman and senior programmer Christopher Funderburg about the center's accomplishments over the past decade, however, and they mostly want to talk about the work ahead: the films left to screen, the classes left to teach.
"We don't want to sit around and talk about how great we are," Funderburg said. "We don't want to rehash. We want it to be fresh and festive."
In that spirit, the center will be putting on a 24-hour movie marathon beginning June 18. Films will range from sneak previews of forthcoming features to rarely screened treasures to beloved classics that demand to be seen on the big screen. Titles will remain a mystery until the day of. One thing is guaranteed: Not a single movie has been screened at the Burns before the marathon.
Ackerman and Funderburg think that the event's breadth of titles and anything-goes spirit will appeal to the kinds of adventurous moviegoers who have frequented the center over the years. Ackerman noted with pride that, while the center's most played director has been revival-house perennial Alfred Hitchcock, the second most popular filmmaker is Werner Herzog, the gonzo German auteur behind such cracked classics as
"Aguirre: The Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo."
Festivities will continue all year at the center, culminating with a gala tribute to Steven Spielberg in September.
While they relish the opportunity to celebrate their successes, Ackerman and Funderburg continue to think about what's next. They talk excitedly about bringing the challenging works of contemporary Romanian cinema to the center in the fall.
Permitting themselves a backward glance, however, both agreed that the center's educational initiatives remain among its crowning achievements.
"There is no one out there teaching third- and fourth-graders how to make and watch and think about movies," Ackerman said. "In a time when arts funding is being cut back dramatically, we take a lot of pride in it."