Sickies Making Films

May 2018
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Director: Joe Tropea

Presented by: Joe Tropea

Starring: John Waters, Laura Wittern-Keller, Robert Headley, Pat Moran, Senator Howard Denis


2018, USA, 84 MIN, DCP

Program Notes

Until it was disbanded in 1981, the Maryland Board of Censors was the longest standing state‑specific film censorship agency in the U.S., with a 65‑year grip on the industry. Sickies Making Films is a fascinating look at the history of that board and the resultant legacy of film censorship in Maryland. The film finds its focus in the powerful players on all sides of the debate, who forever changed the course of filmmaking. This colorful cast of characters and their sometimes baffling behavior intrigue and entertain throughout. On one end of the spectrum, we have the staunchly righteous champions of morality; chiefly Mary Avara, a formidable, if slightly deranged, bail bondswoman with a seventh grade education. Avara became one of the state’s chief film censors, serving on the board for 21 years, hammering out seemingly unreasonable demands and making embarrassing public appearances along the way. On the other, we have peddlers of “filth” like our hometown hero John Waters, who in spite of his culturally constrictive surroundings created an entirely new and delightfully trashy genre of film smack dab in the middle of Avara’s reign.

Sickies Making Films thoughtfully and thoroughly examines the reasons behind the unique tenacity, longevity and immense power censors had over creative output in Maryland. Enhanced by regional archival footage, classic film segments and interviews, the perplexing and often downright absurd story of how Maryland went from being one of the most culturally conservative states to the birthplace of the “Prince of Puke” is told with candor, humor and compassion. (Emily Slaughter-Delano)


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