Open cinema

May 14, 2003 at 12:00 am

Downtown is rising from the ashes, slowly but surely — OK, sometimes more slowly than surely, but who’s counting? Certainly not the Detroit Filmmakers Coalition, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary (coming up in September) by moving from its off-the-beaten-track digs on Library Street to a new storefront in the Book Building.

Currently littered with scaffolding, mammoth pieces of what will soon again be a working Steenbeck editing machine, paintbrushes and Heineken empties, the DFC space is nothing if not true to the DIY roots of 16mm cinema. DFC Executive Director Anthony Morrow and a small crew have been renovating the former Girlee Collective space with equal parts sweat and beer for the past six weeks, and what they’ve managed to do in such a short time is impressive.

The main impetus for the move is to increase the DFC’s public profile — and it’s just the first of many upcoming efforts by Morrow and organization founder Bob Andersen to attract both students and paying members.

“Out of the strategic planning process the DFC started months ago came a couple of things. One was the new space and the other was the need for a full-time director,” says Morrow, who was hired in February.

Morrow hopes the new space will draw coffee-seeking Washington Boulevard denizens and cineastes alike.

“We need to get more people in here. We need to sell more memberships. A street-level space can really raise awareness, and as a member you get to network all these professionals and film geeks.”

While the DFC offers 13-week courses in filmmaking, screenwriting and editing, Morrow has made it his mission to reach out to a slightly different sector of film fandom.

“When I first looked at what we needed to do to grow, I thought about the person who doesn’t want to touch a camera. And that’s why we’re expanding programming and creating the screening room, because there are so many people out there who have an appreciation of film but don’t want to necessarily make films.”

Part of the September 10-year anniversary celebration will be a party: “We’re going to throw a big bash, and that’ll be the thank you to everyone who’s supported us in the past,” Morrow says.

But the real thank you will be to future DFC students.

“We’ll be adding digital video shooting and editing facilities in September. We’ll be able to expand programming and workshops. We’re really going to make that push into the digital realm,” Morrow says.

Featuring two-story ceilings and a classroom loft, the new space will be half-school and half-theater – or “microcinema,” as such venues are called. The main floor of the DFC gallery will also function as the organization’s screening room, which will seat an audience of about 50.

The inaugural DFC-in-the-Book function will be a weekend-long screening of films of Canadian director Mike Hoolboom. Showing as part of the “New Cinema Screening Series” — which is curated by DFC instructors Brent Coughenour and Dave Dinnell — will be two of Hoolboom’s most recent films: Tom, a documentary, and Imitations of Life, a 10-part set of shorts that deals with childhood and memory.

“Dave and Brent realized that there were things in cinema that people weren’t getting to see, and I don’t just mean independent films that come to the Main Art. They’re using the tagline ‘at the forefront of cinema,’ and it’s just some very adventurous, breathtaking types of experimental film,” Morrow says. “What’s cool about it is we’re not just screening the films. We’re bringing in the filmmaker — and that’s what’s been missing.”

Tom in particular is an affecting piece of cinema, an unconventional biography of New York underground filmmaker Tom Chomont. The film’s title is as short and simple as its subject’s life is thick with experience. Hoolboom splices together bits of found footage, split-second clips from Hollywood productions, pieces of Chomont’s own oeuvre of personal experimental film and footage Hoolboom himself took of Chomont. Though now ill with AIDS, Chomont is still sharp and ruminative as ever — his snapshot-like narratives of events in his life (from a brief, incestuous relationship with his brother to his own fetishes, hopes and dreams) overlay Hoolboom’s haunting images and sound design to create a multilevel depiction of a complicated, emotional life lived past and present.


Two films by Canadian director Mike Hoolboom inaugurate the new Detroit Filmmakers Coalition space (1227 Washington Blvd., Detroit), Friday-Saturday, May 16-17, at 7 p.m. Tickets $5 (DFC members, $4). Call 313-961-9936.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]