Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A square deal

The best of the Ann Arbor film fest hits the road

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2004 at 12:00 AM

This touring version of Ann Arbor’s internationally famous and now weeklong experimental film festival features selections hand-picked by the fest’s director. While the films are shorts, most of them running less than 15 minutes, it still clocks in at approximately four hours with intermission.

The pervading mood is otherworldly, and the keyword is range: Late by Diane Cheklich (of Royal Oak) is described in the program notes as “Experimental. Late night. Troubled souls. Evangelist Phillips, dispenser of hope.” It features high contrast black and white nightscapes; in the background, a radio evangelist/healer speaks in tongues and combines spiritual exhortation with practical advice about the uses of warmed olive oil. Naoke Sasaki’s Nocturnal turns a woman making bread into a geological phantasmagoria of roiling abstractions, disturbed and tender. And Micaela O’Herlihy’s Thunder Perfect Mind profiles Terese Hester, described in the program as “an aging, blind, psychic, spirit dancing sex worker.” The mutant aesthetic suggests an unholy convergence of early John Waters films and “Something Weird” video trailers.

Some of the selections are more mundane at the core but just as imaginative as the more bizarre ones. Lori Hiris’ The Invisible Hand is an animated retelling of a familiar story of corporate malfeasance, while Cheryl Park’s Pilots Are Badass is a fractured documentary about a man who thinks he’ll stay in the military because it’s like a girlfriend who’s kind of frigid but there for you.

Although I’ve only seen about 90 minutes of the tour material on an advance tape, I think it’s hardly going out on a limb to say that the fest tour is worth seeing for anyone interested in experimental film (or just film, period) and its seemingly endless possibilities.

Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Monday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Call 313-833-3237. More information about the complete tour program is available at

Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail him at


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