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September 14, 2014, 4:00 P.M.

Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall, 3507 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Outside the Box [Office] and Night Fire Films invite you and a guest to
the Los Angeles Premiere of David Lebrun's

Dance of the Maize God


Followed by a Q&A with Director David Lebrun
Moderated by SCA Professor Dr. David E. James

4:00 P.M. on Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall
3507 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90007

About Dance of the Maize God

Over the past 50 years, thousands of exquisitely painted Maya vases, almost all looted from tombs, have flooded into public and private collections. These amazing works of art, filled with humor and mystery, have opened an extraordinary window on the Maya past. But the race to unearth these treasures has destroyed temples, culminating in the takeover of entire ancient cities by looter armies.

The documentary feature film Dance of the Maize God enters the world of the vases to explore the royal life and rich mythology of the Maya, as well as the tangled issues involved in the collection and study of looted art. The story is told by villagers, looters, archaeologists, dealers and curators. For each, these vases have a radically different value and meaning.

Lighting designer and cinematographer Amy Halpern (former SCA Writing Division faculty), producer Rosey Guthrie and other members of the creative team will be in attendance at the screening.

Provided courtesy of Night Fire Films. Not rated. Running time: 96 minutes.

Visit the Official Website:


About the Guests

DAVID LEBRUN (Writer, Director, Editor, Narrator)

David Lebrun was born in Los Angeles in 1944. He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon and the UCLA Film School. He came to film from a background in philosophy and anthropology, and many of his films have been attempts to get inside the way of seeing and thinking of specific cultures. He has served as producer, director, writer, cinematographer, animator and/or editor of more than sixty films, among them films on the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexican folk artists, a 1960s traveling commune, Tibetan mythology and a year in the life of a Maya village. He edited the Academy-award winning feature documentary Broken Rainbow, about the Hopi and Navajo of the American Southwest. Lebrun combines the structures and techniques of the documentary, experimental and animated genres to create a style appropriate to the culture and era of each film.

Lebrun’s experimental and animated works include the radical editing styles of Sanctus (1966) and The Hog Farm Movie (1970), his work with the multimedia group Single Wing Turquoise Bird, the animated film Tanka (1966), works for multiple and variable-speed projectors such as Sidereal Time (1981) and Wind Over Water (1983), and a current multi-screen performance piece, Maya Variations.

Lebrun’s feature documentary Proteus premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 and has won numerous international awards. Animated from period paintings and graphics, Proteus tells the story of 19th century biologist Ernst Haeckel, who found in the depths of the sea an ecstatic and visionary fusion of science and art. Proteus explores the sea through poetry, oceanography, technology and myth.

Lebrun’s documentary Breaking the Maya Code, on the history of the decipherment of the ancient Maya hieroglyphic writing system, was produced under major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation. The feature length version premiered at the 2008 International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal; shorter adaptations were produced for the PBS program NOVA and Europe’s ARTE France.

In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Lebrun has taught film production and editing at the California Institute of the Arts. He has been the curator of numerous art exhibitions, and is co-editor of In the Meridian of the Heart, a 2001 book on his father, painter Rico Lebrun. He was for ten years (1987-1996) president of First Light Video Publishing, a production company and distributor of 250 video titles in the field of media arts education, distributed to over half of US colleges and to educational institutions worldwide. Since 1996 he has been president of Night Fire Films, a documentary film production company. He was a founding Board Member and Treasurer of the non-profit Center for Visual Music (CVM) and was on the Advisory Board of the Chabot Space & Science Center’s Maya Skies project.

DR. DAVID E. JAMES (Moderator, SCA Professor of Critical Studies)

David E. James is on the faculty of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from Cambridge University and an M.A. and Ph.D., also in English, from the University of Pennsylvania. He has held academic positions at the University of California, Occidental College, New York University, Korea University, Shanghai University of Science and Technology, the Beijing Film Academy, National Taiwan University, and Viet Nam National University, Hanoi. His awards include an NEH Fellowship for College Teachers, Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities at the Whitney Museum of American Art, an Academy Film Scholarship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Associates Award for Creativity in Research at USC; he has also been a scholar at the Getty Research Institute and a fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of Visual Arts and the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

James is the author of Written Within and Without: A Study of Blake's Milton (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1977), Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton University Press, 1989), Power Misses: Essays Across (Un)Popular Culture (London: Verso Books, 1996), and The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (University of California Press, 2006), and articles and reviews in PMLA, October, Social Text, Representations, Film Quarterly, the minnesota review, Grey Room, Art Forum, and other journals and periodicals. He also edited To Free the Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground (Princeton University Press, 1992), The Hidden Foundation: Cinema and the Question of Class (Minnesota University Press, 1996), Im Kwon-Taek: The Making Of a Korean National Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2002), The Sons and Daughters of Los: Culture and Community in LA (Temple University Press, 2003), Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker (Temple University Press, 2006), and Optic Antics: The Cinema of Ken Jacobs (Oxford University Press, 2011), and has served on the editorial boards of Cinema Journal, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Now Time, and Art Week. He has also published two books of poetry, and his films have screened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles Filmforum and Canyon Cinema in San Francisco. His teaching and research interests currently focus on avant-garde cinema, culture in Los Angeles, East-Asian cinema, film and music, and working-class culture.

About Outside the Box [Office]

Outside the Box [Office] is a weekly showcase for upcoming releases highlighting world cinema, documentary and independent film titles. Recognizing a need for greater diversity on campus, the series will draw from around the globe to present movies that may challenge, inspire or simply entertain.

To view the calendar of screenings, click here.

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 3:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $10.00 at USC Entrance Gate #4, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & Royal Street. We recommend Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago