The George A. Romero Archival Collection was acquired by the University of Pittsburgh Libraries back in 2019, and the team has been hard at work on preserving lost gems from Romero’s career. One of those lost treasures is a short film titled Jacaranda Joe, which Romero filmed back in 1994. It’s never been seen by Romero fans, but that’s about to change!
Pitt Archives will be hosting the first-ever public screening of George A. Romero’s Jacaranda Joe on April 12, and not only is the screening virtual and open to all, it’s also FREE!
Free with registration, the screening will be followed by a Q&A with crew-members Michael Sellers, George Rizkallah, and Elizabeth Tobin Kurtz. You can sign up right now!
So, Jacaranda Joe is a very early example of what would be known as a “found footage” film in which a sleazy talk show host debates a video that seems to have captured a glimpse of a bigfoot-like creature in the swamp. pic.twitter.com/rNtgHPs3Vt
— Adam Hart (@m_hulot) March 23, 2022
As explained by the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s Horror Studies website, “In June 1994, George Romero traveled to Valencia College in Florida to make a short film called Jacaranda Joe. It was a re-imagined version of a movie he’d tried to make in the 1970s called The Footage, about a TV show in which a famous athlete learns to hunt alongside a handful of experienced outdoorsmen that stumbles onto a bigfoot community.
“But while that story was entirely focused on the film shoot, with the footage never actually being seen by anyone (one version ends with the bigfeet throwing the film reels into the air like streamers), Jacaranda Joe takes place after a clip from a similar TV show has leaked out. It was very much a proto-found footage movie, about which Romero told a local paper that he “wants to know if audiences can be scared by a documentary format.” But it was also pre-Blair Witch Project, and so that footage makes up only a few seconds of the running time.”
The 17-minute short film centers on documentary footage of an alleged Bigfoot sighting, and the website notes that Romero was potentially interested in expanding it into a feature. In an update on the project that was shared last year, Adam Charles Hart explained that nine reels of 35mm film had been recovered, making the short’s preservation a reality.
He explained, “Six of the reels were original camera negatives from the filming of Jacaranda Joe at Valencia College (then Valencia Community College), with director of photography and Valencia faculty member Dominic Palmieri, and those reels are either pristine or have sustained minimal damage. Comparing the negatives with the surviving cut of the film as well as the storyboards, this appears to be complete: as far as I can tell, every 35mm shot is accounted for.”
“Our first priority here, as it is with all of our archives, is preservation. And with the recovery of this 35mm negative, we can ensure that this unseen short from George Romero’s filmography will be preserved in its original format,” Adam Charles Hart continued.