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Friday, 25 March, 2011 3:26 AM
'The Florestine Collection' open the 49th Ann Arbor Film Festival
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The opening night of the 2011 Ann Arbor Film Festival featured a lineup of shorts that highlighted the type of films the festival has long endorsed during its existence: new, independent, and/or experimental.
The first seven films certainly signified the former trait, with none of the shorts being listed as released before 2010. Screened at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, the first of these shorts, Ray’s Birds by Deborah Stratman, presented the portraiture of countless birds of prey and otherwise over narration from the titular sanctuary owner (whose last name is Lowden). Detailing their variety, activities, and diet, the short is presented in damp colorization and tones plus at times muffled voiceovers that echo numerous wildlife documentaries of the 1970s. Later on in the evening, Stratman revealed her project to be “one of the shortest I ever shot in terms of being there,” adding that it was completed within two to three hours.
Next was 2010’s Il Capo, by Yuri Ancarani, a narrative-less look at the cutting of Carrera marble. Through body gestures against white tones and the clamor of clamps pulling down the stones, the central figure suggests a chilling reinterpretation of either the mythology or classical music that’s rooted within the Italian peninsula.
Such atmospheric beauty transitioned into sarcastic creepiness and doom with the United States premiere of Sleep, made in Switzerland by Claudius Gentinetta and Frank Braun. The first animated film shown at the festival, its chalkboard-like visuals treat the dread of what could happen while asleep with a slowly built up sight gag of nautically macabre proportions.
The animated images took a lighter air with Gina Kamentsky’s House Bunny, an anarchic collage of scratches and pastiche that actually includes stills from the recent Anna Faris feature of a similar name.
The most hilariously intimate 15-20 minutes of the night, however, came during Chihiro Amemiya’s Grandpa’s Wet Dream, centered on the covert (at least from the family) pornography exploits of 75-year-old Shigeo Tokuda. The aura of the main character is exhibited with enough abandon and shameless desire to probably revisit the joys of youth that he gleefully quips, when asked about his wife’s knowledge of his other profession, “No but she might have expected it.”
Following the two-minute Sharp Edge Blunt by Leighton Pierce of Iowa City, Iowa, the evening capped off with the world premiere of The Florestine Collection, a finalized edit by Paul Gailiunas of a film begun by his wife Helen Hill, who was murdered in New Orleans within after Hurricane Katrina.
Combining personal narration, stop-motion cardboard imagery, and an ongoing mesh of Helen’s surviving footage and other photographic memories, Gailiunas (even mentioning that Helen never wrote a script for such footage) manages to give her the ultimate tribute by centering it more often on the New Orleans she loved and the neighboring culture she refused to leave behind, especially following disaster.
These initial films, with their greater presentation of color than of black and white, suggest an interest in brightness shared with the festival’s green manual in contrast to the 2010 manual’s black and white. Another change with the ’11 schedule is its greater concentration within the Michigan Theater, with only one event occurring at the UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium compared to the several held there last year.
The disadvantage to this might be the inability to appreciate the campus scenery much more while making the walk between the venues, yet by concentrating within the Michigan the festival now runs less of a risk in missing out on a single minute of what has yet to be seen. What can been seen, thanks to afternoon spacing, now depends on the individual’s viewing interests once the evenings begin.
PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com49th AAFF on the Michigan Theatre marquee
PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com
Attendees are mingling during a break in the programs.
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