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Local News / Entertainment

Tuesday, 30 March, 2010 11:55 PM

48th Ann Arbor Film Festival brings in crowds, especially with a spell of Anger

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A question-and-answer session with filmmakers Shambhari Kaul, Jesse McLean and Laura Kraning at the 2010 Ann Arbor Film Festival.

by Pete Bublitz
petblitz@yahoo.com

 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In a span of six days, audiences packed into theaters across Ann Arbor were treated to a lineup of works whose subject matter ranged from landscape as abstract imagery to music videos concerning workplace injury and the female anatomy.

From March 23-28, the 48th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) presented a mixed lineup of recently created entries competing for prizes and selections from pioneering and contemporary filmmakers who have helped shape and continually contributed to independent film today.

The lineup for films not in competition included programs comprised of films from members of the jury that would eventually select the award winners, such as Tomonari Nishikawa and Ben Russell.

A more common form of program revolved around career retrospectives on major figures in independent cinema. Among them was Nicky Hamlyn, who was in attendance on Thursday night at the Michigan Theater to show 12 of his shorts made from 1990 to 2008.

Also the focus of a decade retrospect was Russian documentarian Pavel Medvedev, which featured four of his documentary shorts in the theater’s screening room area on Saturday afternoon.

A more significant program spanned two days as a tribute to Chick Strand, the noted experimental artist who passed away last year. The first part of the program, held early Friday afternoon, included films spanning from her mid-1960s incursion into film to 1979, while the second half on Sunday afternoon featured later works from the 1980s.

The highlight of the entire festival, however, was Kenneth Anger, the noted avant-garde director whose work served as an influence on present-day figures in cinema, including Martin Scorsese.

The retrospective, also split between two days, kicked off Saturday night with a scheduled appearance by Anger that was preceded by screenings of four films. Among these was his renowned half-hour opus on early 1960s biker culture, Scorpio Rising, which was also screened at the 2nd AAFF in 1964 according to the festival guidebook.

The second segment, on Sunday afternoon, featured an additional four selections, including the 1953 release and 1993 National Film Registry entry Eaux d’Artifice. This segment served as the final program prior to the awarded screenings that evening.

In a way, it seemed as though several programs and films during the festival sought to explore periods past through homage, recollection, even manipulation and meshing of art. One significant example of the latter was a live experimental program called Time Machine, held Wednesday in the UMMA Helmut Stern Auditorium.

Performed by Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown, a pair of Assistant Professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the multimedia show relied on a mix of dated and recent audio/visual devices to create sonically-proposed simulation of time travel into the past, the future, and perhaps even into other dimensions.

According to Brown, the idea of the show was “Trying to get you back to a place you’d never get to,” in terms of a manner outside of memory.

In a separate screening, another current artist sought to provide a refreshed means of absorbing an old work. Los Angeles native Flying Lotus appeared in the Michigan Theater Friday night to score Harry Smith’s 1962 feature Heaven & Earth Magic.

While a number of filmmakers were scattered among the audience on given days in order to speak on their shown work, a panel and workshop also managed to work their way into the schedule. On Friday at 3:30 p.m., four representatives of the production industry gathered to discuss the evolution of film presentation and publication on active and new mediums in the upcoming decade.

The panel included LUX, London Director Benjamin Cook, Video Data Bank’s Assistant Director Brigid Reagan, Wholpin Magazine’s Associate Editor Emily Doe, and Jonathan Marlow, Executive Director of the San Francisco Cinemateque.

Beyond the retrospectives and special presentations, the main form of program at the festival consisted of the competition screenings.

According to Executive Director Donald Harrison, in a foreword included in the guidebook, it’s alluded that such competitive work is meant to signify ongoing changes to film style. “A festival committed to pioneering cinema, however, is not focused solely on its legacy,” he wrote.

Over 100 films were entered to compete for up to 23 awards by Sunday evening, some of which shared the names and donation prizes of filmmakers and other figures who made contributions to the festival. These included the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film, and the Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film.

The manner of presenting the films in competition during the week was based on a sharing of theme, subject matter, genre, or style, just as the awards were. On Friday at 9:30 p.m., for example, a program called “This Animated Life” featured competing shorts whose connection is evident from the title. Earlier that evening, a lineup of music videos was given a free screening in the Helmut Stern Auditorium further down campus.

The winners of such awards were printed by the time viewers arrived for the first award show screening Sunday. Despite the announcement of 23 formal awards (in addition to two Sight and Sound awards), a total of 27 films were selected as winners.

Among these winners was Chema Garcia Ibarra’s El ataque de los robotos de Nebulosa-5, the very first competitive film shown during the festival. With a narrated storyline centered around hilarious claims of robot apocalypse, the seven-minute short was one of two winners of the Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film (the other being Friedl vom Groller [Kubelka]’s Passage Briare).

Other notable winners included Jim Trainor’s The Presentation Theme (of the Stan Brakhage Film at Wit’s End award), Gyula Nemes’ Lost World for Best International Film, and Jack Cronin’s Sleeping Bear for Best Michigan Filmmaker.

For a completing listing of award winners and presented films, please visit the festival’s website at http://48.aafilmfest.org/.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Many of the screenings took place inside the Michigan Theatre.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Ann Arbor Film Festival banners attached to lampposts.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A man plays the Barton Opus 245 theatre pipe organ in between screenings.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Ann Arbor Film Fest banner hangs high above Main Street

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A discussion with a filmmaker during the festival.

 

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