Here’s an early heads-up to the cinematically inclined — and five stars is the least we can give an institution as dependably free-thinking when it comes to film culture as the Ann Arbor Film Festival, this year celebrating its 40th anniversary. As the carousel of movie joys comes slowly back around and we jump aboard hoping for another shot at revelation’s golden ring, we remember the times that the festival juiced us with more pure pleasure than we could ever handle.
This year, March 10-17 at Ann Arbor’s historic Michigan Theater (603 E. Liberty), will be no exception. If you’ve ever yawned, even a little, at the formulaic, interchangeable filler that Hollywood churns out week after week, then give the A2 fest a look. Six days of screenings will showcase a final selection of 125 independent 16 mm films from among roughly 450 entries submitted to the jury. Somewhere among them will be one or three or 10 flicks that’ll change movie-going for you forever.
In addition, there’ll be performances by artist Pat Oleszko; an opening keynote address by John Nelson (Oscar winner for visual effects, Gladiator); a special appearance by that endearingly persistent pain in the ass Michael Moore (with a sneak preview of clips from his new film on gun control, Stupid White Men); a closing night prerelease screening of Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, starring Jodie Foster; an “Out Documentary Night” of gay and lesbian films; and rarely seen works by old-guard masters George Manupelli and Andy Warhol, among others. Panels and seminars, free and open to the public, will run parallel to continuous screenings of video works and other special events, making it hard to know what to choose.
Individual tickets to film screenings are $7 each, but $50 gets you a weeklong pass to the whole competition (winners are screened on Sunday, March 17 at 8 and 10 p.m. — with prizes sponsored by none other than directors Ken Burns, Lawrence Kasdan and Gus Van Sant). For complete schedule and information, see aafilmfest.org.
George Tysh is Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at [email protected].