Or why you need the 49th Ann Arbor Film Festival
Published: March 23, 2011
The key is a willingness to surrender to the experience. If you engage a film on its terms, not as a reflection of your expectations, chances are you'll find something memorably worthwhile.
And you don't have to go in blind. Some festival offerings, as unfamiliar and unconventional as they may be, are pretty safe bets. Along with Nostalgia for Light, AAFF's animation program is usually a good mix of crowd-pleasers and mind-benders. Similarly, Amplitude & Scale: Music Videos, is like the ultimate episode of MTV's 120 Minutes. Watch for a brilliant mash-up of Broken Bells and Hall & Oates.
Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki's Foreign Parts is an arresting and insightful glimpse into a Third World culture subsisting in the middle of New York City. In the shadow of the new baseball stadium in Queens is a hidden, vibrant enclave of junkyards, where a community of immigrants lives off the Big Apple's refuse and recycling while fending off the schemes of voracious developers.
If you have a hankering for a little meta-fiction, Canuck filmmaker Daniel Cockburn's You Are Here is a collection of episodic shorts that make Charlie Kaufman look mainstream. Constructed like a cinematic puzzle box, this low-budget labyrinth of seemingly disconnected narratives isn't for everyone, but offers the intellectually daring an experience they just won't find on HBO or Showtime.
For industrial-glam-rock fans, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, is an uncritical love letter to Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle leader Genesis P-Orridge, whose crazed and kinky relationship with nurse-turned-dominatrix Lady Jaye led the two lovers to try to merge as one "pandrogynous being."
And finally, pushing the boundaries of what is considered cinema, the Netherlands-based trio, Telcosystems, offers up a live multimedia performance that uses lights, images and sound design to immerse the audience in their own cinematic experience.
Ultimately, AAFF is both an experience and a scene; "40 programs over six days with 188 films, videos and live performances." Whether it's the after-hours parties or crazed installations or interactive displays, the festival does a damn good job of transforming a corner of downtown Ann Arbor into a celebration of independent cinematic expression. Good or bad, at the very least, it'll be a hell of a lot more interesting than most of the stuff you'll find at the multiplex.
Go online to see video clips of films and performers from the AAFF in the Metro Times' B-Roll film blog.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival runs Wednesday, March 23, through Sunday, March 27, at various Ann Arbor locations. Go to aafilmfest.org for complete schedule and relevant info, or call 734-995-5356.
> Email Jeff Meyers