Crazy independence

Some might say that obsessive behavior is a character flaw. Others see an admirable quirkiness. Whatever it is, independent filmmaker Dennis Przywara wanted to document it — even if it took a degree of obsession on his part. His documentary about fans of the Star Wars series (also known as “Starwoids”) and their six-week quest to be the first to see Star Wars — Episode I: The Phantom Menace at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood took more than 2 1/2 years to make. He and his filmmaking cohorts stayed in line for 42 long days to catch the madness.

It was just part of the dues-paying process, says Przywara, a Wayne State University grad who now resides in Burbank, Calif., about his documentary. “People want to see art films and documentaries … and that is why people always make them,” he adds.

Fellow film wonk and event organizer Jim Jerome couldn’t agree more. This 25-year-old Ohio University film school grad says he just put up $5,000 to fund the first Michigan Independent Film Festival.

“Thirty-eight celebrities turned us down,” he says of his attempts to bring the stars to D-town. His slightly sarcastic tone makes it obvious that celebs are not his concern anyway — it’s the movies that matter. He adds excitedly, “We have 76 excellent movies to show.”

Talk of a Detroit-based independent film festival has been on the lips of local movie-philes for years now. Though Ann Arbor has an annual 16mm film festival and East Lansing offers a yearly independent film festival, Jerome saw a need for something similar in the Detroit area. While the introduction of cable channels like Sundance and IFC has exposed Gen X- and Y-ers to a whole new celluloid (and video) world — and movie-making technology has become available at almost any electronics store — the insurgence of young filmmakers who bring “honest” films to the masses has begun to pop up in areas outside of the movie-making confines of LA.

Chicago-based cult filmmaker Rusty Nails is a testament to this.

Nails will be showing three of his pieces at the festival. His feature Acne is modeled after a 1950s sci-fi thriller — it is the story of a teenager who accidentally drinks contaminated water that turns his head into a giant pimple. Campy and John Waters-esque, Nails is known in art circles as an innovator. One of his biggest fans (and sometimes collaborator) is ’80s New Wave icon and artist Mark Mothersbaugh (ex-Devo).

Nails will also be screening his five-minute documentary, The Ramones and I (which includes never-before-seen footage of the band) and a 12-minute, 16mm short called Gretel and Hansel. All three of his films have received accolades at other festivals.

For a first attempt, the film schedule that Jerome has managed to put together is full of what promises to be impressive and thoughtful movies. Among the other offerings are Penelope Spheeris’ famed rock ’n’ roll documentaries Decline of Western Civilization Parts I and III (Part II is owned by Miramax and could not be shown at Jerome’s small-budget festival), and locally based movie star Jeff Daniels’ Escanaba in Da Moonlight and Supersucker.

“Independent films are one of the only ways filmmakers can get a different point across. I expect more honesty and intelligence from independent films,” says Nails.

For Jerome, who has seen how most other major cities have enjoyed the thrill of independent film festivals, he thinks it is about time Detroiters joined the ranks of the officially “obsessed.”


The Michigan Independent Film Festival runs Friday, Oct. 3-Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Emagine Theater (44425 W. 12 Mile Road, Novi). See or call 248-319-3456 for more information.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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