Reel fun

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Friday night’s showing of a quirky comedy from Australia that explores middle-age angst and the life of drag queens will kick off the Shepherdstown Film Society’s fall series.

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” begins at 7 p.m. in Reynolds Hall on the campus of Shepherd University. As with the other five movies in the film series that continues through November, there’s no charge to get in. A discussion period is slated to follow each of the movies.

The free Shepherdstown Film Society’s fall series kicks off Friday. Before the movie at 7 p.m., there’s an opening
night reception at the War Memorial Building.

“Priscilla,” recently transformed into a Tony-winning musical produced by Bette Midler, was a mammoth hit in Australia in 1994. It stars Terence Stamp (remembered as the villain in 1980’s “Superman II”), Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in the “Matrix” trilogy and Elrond in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) and Guy Pearce (“The King’s Speech,” “Memento” and “L.A. Confidential”).

The “Priscilla” in the film’s title is not one of the lip-synching drag queens who dominate the film, but the name given the colorfully decorated bus that takes the three Sydney men to their new cabaret gig in remote Alice Springs.

Directed by Stephan Elliot, the movie won praise from film critic Roger Ebert, who noted that “eventually we realize that the real subject of the movie is not homosexuality, not drag queens, not showbiz, but simply the life of a middle-aged person trapped in a job that has become tiresome.”

Before the movie, the film society will hold an opening night reception at Shepherdstown’s War Memorial Building. Happening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., the reception also is free and open to the public.

Three of the other fall film selections also are comedies: “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (the 1985 Woody Allen gem), “Shower” (a 1999 film set in Beijing ) and “Micmacs” (a French film from 2009).

The two other titles in the fall series focus on Appalachian life. “Winter’s Bone” from 2010 and 1980’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” will be shown as part of the university’s Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Program.

Amy DeWitt will lead the post-film discussion for “Winter’s Bone.” She is an assistant professor of sociology and geography at Shepherd. Adam Booth, an adjunct music professor at the school, will lead the discussion following “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

Besides “Priscilla” on Friday, other films in the series schedule:

Sept. 14

“Shower” debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, winning its International Critics’ Award in 1999. It tells the story of an aging businessman who runs a traditional bathhouse with his mentally impaired adult son. Rachel Ritterbusch, who chairs the university’s Department of English and Modern Languages, will lead the post-film discussion.

Sept. 24

“Winter’s Bone,” a film set in rural Missouri, won four Oscar nominations. Directed by Debra Granik, it spotlights a young woman’s battle to keep her family together and safe.

Oct. 5

“Micmacs,” from writer-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, features down-on-their-luck characters, including a homeless man who may die at any moment thanks to a bullet lodged in his brain, a contortionist, an artist, an ex-convict and a human cannonball.

Nov. 16

“The Purple Rose of Cairo,” set in Depression-era Manhattan, stars Mia Farrow as “Cecilia,” a lonely movie lover whose only escape from her harsh husband and dreary home life comes by going to the movie house – until a handsome actor in her favorite film (Jeff Daniels) notices her, exits the screen and transforms her existence.

Nov. 30

The oldest film in the fall series is “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” It stars Sissy Spacek as country music icon Loretta Lynn, who was born poor near Paintsville, Ky., in 1932. Tommy Lee Jones plays, “Mooney,” the man she wed while still a young teenager. She won an Oscar for Best Actress and the film received six other Academy Award nominations, including one for “Best Picture.”

Society members note the film series is made possible through a partnership with the Scarborough Society of Shepherd University. They say that because of the Scarborough Society’s financial support, the film series continues to be offered for Shepherd students and faculty as well as the larger community.

Except for “Winter’s Bone” – to be shown on Sept. 24, a Monday evening – all the films in the series will be shown on Fridays.

More information on each film may be found on the Shepherdstown Film Society’s website at


Want to go?

What: “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” the first film in the Shepherdstown Film Society’s fall series

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Reynolds Hall, on the campus of Shepherd University

How much: Free admission

What else: There’s also a free opening night reception from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. downtown at the War Memorial Building. A discussion period will follows this film and the five others in the series, which concludes Nov. 30.

To learn more: For details on the film series, contact Lisa Welch (304-876-1837 or or go online to

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