A critic’s picks for this year’s Cinetopia film festival

Cassandro, the Exotico!
Cassandro, the Exotico! Courtesy of Cinetopia

Navigating the vast spread of venues and works at almost any film festival can be daunting, and Cinetopia, put on each year by the Michigan Theater Foundation, is no exception. With screenings from May 10-19 all over metro Detroit (as far west as Ann Arbor, and as far north as Bloomfield Township's Maple Theater), there's almost bound to be something playing not far away. But how to choose? And how to even attend? Though the most thorough and up-to-date information remains at the festival website (cinetopiafestival.org, which also lets you search screenings by area), we've got a smattering of promising titles from across the festival here to help narrow the field.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld: Programmed thanks to local pop-up screening standby and longtime favorite Cinema Lamont, this Sundance-premiering Danish documentary investigates the 1961 plane crash that killed a former UN secretary, delving into the possibility of foul play. A self-aware conspiracy documentary that looks to mix reporting with an actual sense of irony, this should be a nice change from the breathless tone of so many true crime stories. (128 min)

Cassandro, the Exotico!: Wrestling and lucha libre have never not not been homoerotic, despite the fact that this is a portrait of the latter's first openly gay contender. Observing Cassandro as he eyes retirement from the sport and weaving historical detail with personal interview, this one looks like it may aim for the heart. (72 min)

In Fabric: A retro-looking, giallo-style suspense film about a dress that imparts a kind of curse, the trailer for this one suggests a stylish, atmospheric, and heavily orchestrated work of horror and style. The premise implies a kind of fantasy space, and the rich colors, textures, and architecture glimpsed so far indicate director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio) makes good on that promise. (119 min)

Framing John DeLorean: Reclaiming the life, rise, and fall of John DeLorean, who's been reduced from a kind of wild historical and tabloid figure to a synonym for the Reagan era, this historical corrective scans — happily — as quite juicy. With its stew of sports cars, coke charges, corporate intrigue, and power plays, it's hard not to imagine enjoying this one. (109 min)

The Sharks/Los Tiburones: Another Cinema Lamont Special, this Uruguayan indie looks to blend a range of genres; waterfront suspense, summer romance, and class struggle all blend together through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl. To fit all that in could imply either a messy or a tightly woven work — it all depends on the teller. (80 min)

Midnight in Paris: Trailing a group of Flint-based teenagers in the leadup to their senior prom, this doc looks intimate, unusually focused, and potentially quite broad. A portrait of a slice of a community we hear the same things about so often, it'll be interesting to see how this one carries or elides its inevitable subtext. (75 min)

Wild Rose: Following a Scottish ex-con as she pursues an improbable dream of becoming a Nashville country singer, a kind of familiar feel-good premise here seems enlivened by the friction of class dynamics with a certain kind of fantasy. With a promising soundtrack, a charismatic lead, and an independent sensibility, success will come best through sincerity in this one. (101 min)

Them That Follow: Set in Appalachia and starring recent Oscar winner Olivia Colman alongside Jim Gaffigan, and Walton Goggins, Them is set in the insular world of Pentecostal snake handlers — who use venomous snakes for worship. With its offbeat, frightening premise, resonant potential, and exceptional cast, this one's got a lot on offer. (98 min)

Weekend or full passes for non-student/non-members are $150+, a 4-ticket pass goes for just $45, bringing the cost of each ticket to $11.25 — about the price of most regular movie tickets. A single ticket on its own is $15 and can be bought online in advance or on the day of the show. See cinetopiafestival.org for more information and the complete schedule.

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