The reason a film festival such as the internationally renowned one which takes place each March in Ann Arbor exists is to provide a forum and encouragement to new filmmakers working in 16 mm (the relatively inexpensive format which lies between the old Super 8 used for home movies and the 35 mm of theatrical releases). What the Ann Arbor Film Festival offers viewers is the chance to fall in love again with pure cinema.
With the press preview selections as an indicator, this year’s model (the 39th incarnation of this ever-expanding event) offers more than enough reasons to check out a night of short films. There are documentaries, such as the fascinating half-hour examination of “The Internationale,” a song born with the fall of the Paris Commune which became a worldwide battle cry of leftist resistance and the national anthem of the Soviet Union. Filmmaker Peter Miller mixes triumph with tragedy as the song’s utopian ideals (to “unite the human race”) come up against the compromise and tyranny of everyday politics.
Festival favorite Jay Rosenblatt weighs in with two brief but potent experimental works: the charming Nine Lives (The Eternal Moment of Now), which dives into a cat’s state of mind, and the eerie Worm, about a bizarre childhood event. On the more traditional side is Dean Kapsalis’ Jigsaw Venus, which encapsulates a lifetime of doubt for a Rubenesque beauty who unexpectedly emerges from her cocoon as a butterfly. While Kapsalis uses no dialogue, Paul Karlin expertly mixes narration with people-free images to explain Why I Don’t Go to the Movies in a fractured fairy tale about a goddess who proves to be all too human.
Most of these shorts are under 10 minutes and illustrate the spark of inspiration, a good idea given form: The woman in Lyn Elliot’s whip-smart Once believes she possesses a few precious opportunities to act out her suppressed rages, while the lonely man in Suzie Templeton’s haunting Stanley finds more solace in the beautiful leaves of a cabbage than the cleaver-wielding arms of his wife.
With so many Hollywood features commissioned on much less imaginative premises, these shorts provide a steady stream of hope for a medium which often seems stagnated by its own profitability.
At the Michigan Theater through Sunday, March 18. Daily screenings are augmented by workshops, seminars, panel discussions, live performances and sidebar showings of thematically linked films. Visit www.aafilmfest.org or call 734-995-5356.
E-mail Serena Donadoni at [email protected].