The 48th Ann Arbor Film Festival opened Tuesday night with a reception complete with catered food and beverages by local establishments like Zingerman’s, Sevá and Arbor Brewing Company.
The lobby of the Michigan Theater was decorated with glittering stars and an elaborate paper lantern, courtesy of The Bang! An employee from Wazoo Records manned the turntables, providing the soundtrack as film lovers and Ann Arbor residents mixed and mingled.
After spending a few minutes walking the floor one got a pretty clear sense of the odd mix of people and ideas attracted to the festival.
On one hand you have film experts, filmmakers, critics and professors, some of whom have been attending the festival for decades. They are the ones you will see in deep conversation over a beer at the after-party, discussing the merits of Super-8 and how digital filmmaking is killing the industry.
And then there are the Ann Arbor socialites and community members attending the festival just to make an appearance and show their support for the city.
You will often also see these people fleeing in the middle of the screening, unaware that when they say “experimental film,” they really mean experimental.
And finally, there are the film hipsters, who can be heard name-dropping influential French New Wave directors or trying to hold the aforementioned deep conversations with film experts, only to run out of things to say once they’ve finished quoting Wikipedia.
But all joking aside, this interaction is really what makes the festival great — it’s a confluence of culture, perspective and generations you can’t really find anywhere else. With an open mind, you’re sure to have some great conversation and learn something about life, the world or film.
This melding of ideas and culture doesn’t stop just with attendees, however. The films themselves represent a diverse range of styles, genres, mediums and ideas. The eclectic opening selection of films contained submissions from artists all across the United States as well as from Spain, England, France, Japan and Canada.
Among the night’s standouts were a hilarious animated film about spelling errors entitled “Missed Aches” (a play on the word “mistakes”), a beautiful abstract film on the Sleeping Bear Dunes by UM professor Jack Cronin and a quirky Spanish comedy entitled “El Ataque del Los Robots de Nebulosa-5” about a Spanish man who is the only one on Earth aware of impending robot invasion.
Another standout was a haunting French film entitled “Nous (Us),” which juxtaposed audio of a police investigation into a man’s death with images of a happy family vacationing on the beach — when the connection between the audio and the video is made, the result was one of the evening’s most somber and heartfelt moments.
Afterwards, remaining audience members participated in a Q&A with filmmakers Jack Cronin, Kent Lambert and Laida Lertxundi, which offered an enlightening glimpse into the methods and processes used in the production of each of their films.
For example, Lambert’s film “Fantasy Suite” was an eccentric mish-mash of video from “The Bachelor,” images of bizarre products found in the Sky Mall magazine and clips from a movie he discovered while working for a commercial distributor.
Though Lambert’s work was labeled as being in the public domain, many of the videos he used — including the film he appropriated from his job once they deemed it too bad for commercial distribution — were not. But as Lambert put it, his film took “ugly” video and turned them into something a bit more artistic. Wait, “The Bachelor” isn’t artistic?
The 48th Ann Arbor Film Festival continues today with a presentation of work by festival juror Tomonari Niskikawa at 1 p.m., Out Night co-presented by the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project at 7 p.m. and a selection of films co-presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit at 9:30 p.m.
On Friday night, the festival shows its musical side with a free Music Video Showcase at 5:30 p.m. and a performance of electronic musician Flying Lotus’ original score to Harry Smith’s 1962 animated film “Heaven & Earth Magic.” Friday night also features the collection of animated films in competition entitled This Animated Life, co-presented by the Shadow Art Fair.