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Film Festival Coverage

Thursday, 3 April, 2014 12:27 PM

Awards Night at 52nd AAFF: the Programs and Additional Winners


AAFF Filmmakers Joshua Gen Solonz, Rebecca Meyers, Ben Russell, Karen Yasinsky, and Helena Wittmann


by Pete Bublitz



ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- By 6:00 p.m. Sunday, six days of competition entries was edited down among +20 different awards. Now, it was time for such films to be put on retrospect and close the 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival with two separate screening programs. The award winning films again shown in their screened order are reviewed and rated below, followed by the remaining award winners. Affiliate financial rewards are in parentheses, with jury awards totaling $1,500 distributed according to the jurors’ discretion. Please note: several different awards have been given to more than one recipient. For films unable to be completely watched, ratings were not given.

The Stan Brakhage Film at Wit’s End Award ($1000): “A Study in Natural Magic” (Charlotte Pryce, Los Angeles, CA 2013; 16mm, 3 minutes)
The manner in which the light is bent at least stirs an implication of film magic, be it avant-garde or further back. 2.5/5

The Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker ($1,000): “Will o’ the Wisp” (Andrew Kim, Los Angeles, CA 2013; 16mm, 23.5 minutes)
Yes, I got excited believing it was the St. Ignace Mystery Spot. But the capture of light and sound expands the thematic question of absolutes.

The Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film ($1,000): “The Great Rabbit” (Atsushi Wada, Kobe, Japan 2012; Video, 7.5 minutes)
This installment in Wada’s series seems more restrained than those prior, but the fun in figuring out all the pieces makes the conclusion just as worthwhile. 4.5/5

The Gil Omenn Art & Science Award ($1,000): “Adeline for Leaves” (Jessica Sarah Rinland, Surrey, UK 2014; Video, 13.5 minutes)
As if a “What have YOU done with your life?” self-realization was needed, but the attention given to the nature-minded achievement more than its achiever makes for one spirit-lifting tour.

The Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film ($1,000): “Velocity” (Karolina Glusiec, London, UK 2012; Video, 6 minutes)
Dictated narration strikes again. Here however, at least the animation isn’t heavy handed in implying it’s trapped in a vortex of repeated synopsis. 3.5/5

The Award for Best Cinematography ($1350 in processing, $500 in B/W film stock): “Rivergarden” (Jack Cronin, Ann Arbor, MI 2013; Super 8mm on Video, 10 minutes)
Whither, made in Michigan award? The black and white here benefits from little haziness, as well as focus subjects who make the topic of interacting with nature even less hazy. 3.5/5

Jury Award: “Fe26” (Kevin Jerome Everson, Charlotesville, VA 2014; 16mm on Video, 7.5 minutes)
Of Everson’s two consecutive entries (the other listed below), the characters here just don’t achieve a similar feeling of “I side with you on that” from me compared to the men facing more difficulty in trying to fix their environment in “sound that.” 2/5

The Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival ($3,000): “Lagos Island” (Karimah Ashadu, Nigeria/UK 2012; Video, 4 minutes)
Applaud goes to Ashadu’s resourcefulness in camera usage, but the pair of “Lagos” films’ trick was making me wonder more about the people walking by, yearning to better see their composure and expression concerning all that’s happening, and making me imagine how the filmed activities are being undertaken beyond our range. 3.5/5 and (for “Lagos Sand Merchants”) 4/5

The Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for Emerging Experimental Video Artist ($1,000): “Division” (Johan Rijpma, Netherlands 2012; Video, 1 minute)
As mentioned in the opening night piece, it was eye-catching in its creation of an expanding, organic form. 3.5/5

The Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film ($500): “Main Hall” (Philipp Fleischmann, Vienna, Austria 2013; 35mm, 5 minutes)
It was drag to get through only because my ears were so close to a speaker. Otherwise, the drained colors upped the eerie walkthrough of an interior layout to gripping effect. 3.5/5

Jury Award: “Cold Open” (Seamus Harahan, Belfast, N. Ireland 2013; Video, 12 minutes)
Love the combination of “A crap? None given” attitude shared humorously by all unsuspecting subjects while a more subdued sense of foreboding risk lingers as they go about their business. 5/5

The Award for Best Cinematography: “murmurations” (Rebecca Meyers, Lewisburg, PA 2013; 16mm, 6 minutes)
A nice series of detail comparison, especially among flora and fauna. 3/5

The Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival: “Lagos Sand Merchants” (Karimah Ashadu, Nigeria/UK 2013; Video, 9.5 minutes)
See the “Lagos Island” entry.

The Leon Speakers Award for Best Sound Design ($500): “Hacked Circuit” (Deborah Stratman, Chicago, IL 2014; Video, 15 minutes)
Seriously, there’s no better way of using tension elevation not only as lead-in to Foley work on Coppola’s The Conversation, but also as tribute by echoing the sense of intrusion into a private locale. 5/5

The Award for Best Cinematography: “Sun Song” (Joel Wanek, Oakland, CA 2013; Video, 14.5 minutes)
Having no soundtrack (especially following the good call on irony with a Sun Ra quote) was crucial in making light and facial expression the best available languages to interpret a journey passing by, driven home by the chattiness of the last approached passenger. 3/5

The Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film ($1,000)/The No Violence Award ($512): “Letter to a Refusing Pilot” (Akram Zaatari, Lebanon 2013; Video, 34 minutes)

The CGI and additional special effects were impressive, the blurred distinction between documentary, narrative and dramatization was spread out appropriately, and the conclusive recollection was a brain pause in regards to the symbolic activity occurring up to that point.

All other awards are as follows (ratings are given to those seen earlier in the festival):

  • The Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film ($1,000): “Purgatario” (Rodrigo Reyes, Mexico/USA 2013; Video, 80 minutes)
  • The Award for Best International Film ($500): “Mille Soleils” (Mati Diop, Senegal/France 2013; Video, 45 minutes)
  • The \aut\FILM Award for Best LGBT Film ($500): “Touch” (Shelly Silver, USA 2013; Video, 68 minutes)
  • The Gus Van Sant Award for Best Experimental Film ($1,000): “Gradual Speed” (Els Van Riel, Brussels, Belgium 2013; 16mm, 52 minutes)
  • The George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award ($500): “Gente Perra (Dog People)” (Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy, Berlin, Germany 2014; 16mm, 25 minutes)
  • The Gil Omenn Art & Science Award: “Gowanus Canal” (Sarah J. Christman, Brooklyn, NY 2013; Video, 7 minutes)
  • The Eileen Maitland Award ($500): “A Million Miles Away” (Jennifer Reeder, Chicago, IL 2014; Video, 27 minutes) 5/5
  • The Award for Best Music Video ($300): “Metamorfoza” (Martha Colburn, Netherlands 2013; Video, 6.5 minutes) 2.5/5
  • The Kinetta Handcrafted Film Award: “Dot Matrix” (Richard Tuohy, Victoria, Australia 2013; 16mm x 2, 16 minutes)
  • The Kinetta Archival Film Award: “Off-White Tulips” (Aykan Safogšlu, Berlin, Germany 2013; Video, 24 minutes)
  • Additional Jury Awards: “The Absent Stone” (Jesse Lerner and Sandra Rozental, Mexico/USA 2013; 35mm, 82 minutes); “Brimstone Line” (Chris Kennedy, Toronto, ON 2013; 16mm, 9 minutes) 2/5; “ELSA merdelemerdelamerde” (Abigail Child, New York, NY 2013; Video, 4 minutes); “sound that” (Kevin Jerome Everson, Charlotesville, VA 2014; 16mm on Video, 12 minutes) 3.5/5

Related Stories: 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival Preview: Features in Competition and Special Guests; 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival: My Take on the Opening Night Program; MORE PHOTOS: 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival at the Michigan Theater -- Part Two; Penny Stamps Series: Spheeris' Night in AAFF is Worthy



Richard Tuohy won the Kinetta Handcrafted Film Award for "Dot Matrix" (2013)




Malena Szlam describes her film "Lunar Alamanac" (2013)



"Prisoner's Cinema" Filmmaker Joshua Gen Solonz








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