Music and art festival to help filmmaker's effort

September 22, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - On May 14, 2004, Mary Francis Pitnode learned she was dying of cancer. She worked in her garden and agreed to let her grandson, an artist, film her remaining days.

A day after Pitnode died Jan. 11, her family learned that her ex-husband - Henry Ramirez, 80 - had been murdered in Louisiana and buried in a shallow grave in the southwestern area of Berkeley County.

Don Ramirez, the filmmaker, has enough footage stemming from both deaths for a feature-length documentary but needs funding to edit it. This Saturday, he's holding an event, Opequon Creek Charity Music and Art Festival, to raise money to finish the documentary, which he hopes will be accepted at the renowned Sundance Film Festival in Utah.


Nine local bands of various genres will play during the festival, which begins at 2 p.m. and is expected to end around midnight. Artists from the area will have paintings, photography, jewelry and other visual art on display and for sale.

Bands scheduled to perform include The Nurbs, Red Oranges, Too Many Chiefs and Malachi.

A $10 donation is requested for admission to the festival at the VFW picnic grounds on W.Va. 9 east of Martinsburg, across from the Nahkeeta Campsite.

Ramirez said he hopes to raise $3,000 to buy film editing equipment.

Although his documentary's subject matter is grim, Ramirez said the festival will be a fun community celebration.

"We're trying to bring together this area's arts community," said Ramirez, of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

Initially, Ramirez imagined the film would be a short, personal journal-like piece chronicling his grandmother's battle with cancer.

Although she was not "a huge supporter" of Ramirez's lifestyle as an artist, she agreed to allow him to film the remainder of her life and her death - an agreement that Ramirez called "very powerful."

What happened to Ramirez's grandfather - he was choked and wrapped in blankets and garbage bags before being buried in the shallow grave - shocked an already grieving family in January.

The emphasis of the documentary then shifted to Henry Ramirez's murder.

One of the two people charged with second-degree murder in the death was Henry Ramirez's granddaughter, Mary Amor Crawford, 34.

Crawford's boyfriend also was charged, with police saying the killing happened after an argument over money.

Both are awaiting trial in Louisiana.

"The film itself is just a very intimate documentary about what my family goes through in this experience," Don Ramirez said. "Intense would be the only word I could use (to describe it)."

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