Award-winning filmmaker or college dean?

Artist Paul Chojnowski demonstrates his technique of drawing with fire for FDU students at the College at Florham on February 16, 2011. Chojnowski and his art were featured in the documentary film “Aglow-Under the Radar: Chojnowski” by FDU’s own Howard Libov.

Story and photo by Dan Landau

Award-winning filmmaker or college dean?

The answer is both.

Howard Libov, an assistant dean and film professor in FDU’s Becton College has made several award-winning films including his latest, a documentary called “Aglow-Under the Radar: Chojnowski.”

“Aglow” takes a look at the art of Paul Chojnowski, the nation’s most renowned practitioner of the art of drawing with fire. Chojnowski’s drawing techniques include scorching paper with a blowtorch to craft unique cityscapes and intricately detailed drawings.

As part of this project, Libov said he wanted “humanize” artists—to show “how hard they work, how they have families of their own, and in some cases, ex-families.” Although “Aglow” showcases some fascinating pyro-art, the film moves beyond the artist and his art, allowing Chojnowski’s turbulent personal life to creep into the film. Libov shows how this influences Chojnowski’s art.

For the soundtrack of “Aglow,” Libov rejected symphonic music and instead chose to use songs by musician Moby. The film is “about a contemporary artist and using contemporary music places the artist in a modern context,” said Libov.

“‘Aglow’ is the second in my documentary series, ‘Under the Radar,’ on contemporary working artists in the US,” said Libov. “To be profiled, the artists have to do something unique and be recognized in their field, but not be celebrities.” 

The first film in the “Under the Radar” series was “Fourteen Stations,” and profiled artist and former FDU art professor, Arie Galles, and his Holocaust-themed art project of the same name.

Each of these films take about three to four years to film. Before the cameras start rolling, Libov will “spend time at the artist’s studio, getting to know the artist. I’ll go a few times over a few months.” Then when shooting starts, “I’ll visit the artist every month and also go to a show or two with them.”

All of Libov’s hard work on these films is paying off. “Aglow” has been touring the film festival circuit this year and won the Best Short Film award at DocuFest Atlanta 2011. “Aglow” will be screened at the prestigious Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana later this month.

Libov has been making films for more than 25 years. Some of his cinematic highlights include directing the music video for R.E.M.’s “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry), ” as well as his romantic comedy “Men Will Be Boys,” which was broadcast nationally on PBS affiliates, and his 2010 feature-film “Favorite Son.” “Favorite Son” has won several awards at film festivals, including the Remi Gold Award in Drama at the Houston WorldFest International Film Festival and the Best Director Award at the Hoboken International Film Festival. “Favorite Son” was featured in an article in the winter/spring 2011 issue of “FDU Magazine.”

Libov has taught at FDU since 2000 and has served as an assistant dean of FDU’s Becton College of Arts and Sciences for six years. He holds two master’s degrees and has studied film at New York University and The American Film Institute.

At the moment, Libov is in the process of casting a new project: a feature-length romantic comedy.

For Immediate Release

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