Images of broken
Film festival brings rare opportunity to town
In the Aquarium
By ALEXANDRA TWIN
ou do realize, of course, that this film
f virtually defines the mercurial essence
of the experimental movement," the
pretentious, beanie-wearing man to my
right informs me. I look at him slowly and nod. We
are watching a lobster. We are watching lots of sharp, harried
images interspersed with a giant pink lobster. Who is this lobster?
Why is he here? Why is a strange angular man in a jumpsuit doing
gym moves? Why are there a bunch of cows doing them with him?
Is this symbolic? Phallic? Political? "Keep going America, we're
doing great!" a voice booms; the quintessential aerobics instructor
from Hell. I am not doing great. I am squinting. Where did the
Although you, too, may find films like the seven-minute
"Images of Broken Face" a bit beyond your comprehension, that
is by no means a good enough reason to dismiss the wholly unique
and wholly inspiring 32nd Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Founded in 1963 at the Art school and independent of the
university since 1980, the festival boasts entries from all over the
world. Committed to representing all genres of experimental and
independent film in this format, it is both the oldest 16mm film
festival in the country and one of the few remaining festivals that
is exclusively forthe promotion offilm, asopposed to both film and
the sometimes less-expensive video.
Add to that the fact that it is one of the few places that a film like
"Images of Broken Face" or the even more obscure, yet thoroughly
enjoyable "Wormholes" will ever get shown. Add to that the fact
that unless you live in New York or Los Angeles, this is one of the
few chances that you will ever get to view such films; you've got
one hell of an opportunity before you. Come on, people, it's only
here for six days at a measly five bucks a shot. Or as festival director
Vicki Honeyman puts it: "This is a viable art form that, contrary to
popular belief, is not dying. It's just a matter of us reaching out to
filmmakers and giving them the opportunity to show their films. It
gives these films their own lives and it gives the people of this
community a unique opportunity to see all this great work that
they'd otherwise never get a chance to see."
University screenwriting professor and independent filmmaker
Katherine Hurbis-Cherrier observes that "other than festivals,
there's really no place that most people can see experimental film.
There's just not a huge audience for it in this country." Robert
Beebe, whose festival entry "In the Aquarium" is a unique blend
of surrealism and spirituality agrees with Hurbis-Cherrier: "People
are more receptive in other countries. This film has gotten into
nearly every foreign film festival it was entered in to. Not so in
So is the problem a lack of distribution or a lack of interest?
"Distribution is the key," says Hurbis-Cherrier.
"Our film was really geared towards a younger audience,"
asserts "Bui Doi, Life Like Dust" co-filmmaker Nick Rothenberg,
"That's why we were so excited to have it play in Ann Arbor; it
gives us the unusual opportunity to both receive support and to
potentially gain the attention and interest of the kind of people who
are maybe nothing like the stereotype of festival viewers, which
tends to be very liberal, aware and already supportive of the arts.
Hopefully, we're cultivating long-term independent viewing hab-
This seems to be a recurring issue. Rothenberg questions
whether the momentum that surrounds the occasional independent
hit like "The Crying Game" is enough to spur a general and
consistent interest in independent film. He doubts it. As a result,
many filmmakers are essentially forced, often for economic rea-
sons, to either turn to commercial filmmaking or to watch as their
personal, independent vision is snatched up by the power of the
Such is the case with Matt Winch, whose highly experimental
foray into urban degradation, "Fogarty's Easel" is one of the most
interesting and at times overwhelming entries. A room, still and
white as an over-exposed photograph, a man, naked before the
mirror, later, driving in the city, watching the world through a
keyhole, day turns to night and back again, images blur by, then
dart at you, the strange, insistent music, animation to reality, two
men yell silent in a car. Weird and dizzying, it is extraordinary in
its obscurity, unique in its collage-like, visual quality. "Think of
them as movie paintings," Honeyman urges.
However you take it, be sure to draw in as much as you can -
it's not something that you're likely to see again for quite a while,
at least not from Winch. It is the last experiment of such a nature
that he intends to do for a while. "Yeah, I was much more in to that
kind-of thing at the time that I made it. I mean, I still want to do it,
'cause tome, in terms of films, experimental just seems natural, but
I also want to make money making films and have people see my
films and there's just no way I can make enough money as a waiter
to make either of those things possible." Going commercial is just
a "matter of necessity, that's all." Winch is hoping to get into the
more profitable, yet still potentially creative area of music videos.
"I don't know," he muses, "I'm not too worried about losing my
'artistic vision' or anything. I mean, I think that there's a lot that you
can do with videos and besides, anything that I make that'll be
commercial will still be pretty weird."
Yet others see this as more of a choice than a necessity, or even
possibly just a matter of priorities. While his "Bui Doi" co-director
Ahrin Mishan is interested inworkingonfeature films, Rothenberg
feels that, at least for the time being, he wants to "stick out the
independent documentary thing." Although really, he wonders,
how many non-independent documentarians can you think of? "I
live in L.A.," he quips, "and there don't seem to be too many big
documentary studios here."
"Bui Doi, Life Like Dust" which looks at the lives of Vietnam-
ese-American gang members through the eyes of one of its
tempestuous leaders, Ricky Phan, was made on a scant budget and
filmed in patches over the course of nearly five years. Mishan and
Rothenberg spent the first two years just living with and slowly
earning the wary teenagers' trust before even broaching the notion
of cameras. It took another three years to complete the 29-minute
documentary--whenever the money would come in. Towards the
end, it ended up sitting untouched for almost eight months due to
lack of funds.
"We had a hard time of it for a while. It was frustrating to see
major productions take on similar issues and get larger results
when all we wanted was to make an honest and
See FILM FEST, Page 5
2nd Ann Arbor Film Festiv
Reception 7:00, Film Showing 8:00.
Film Showings 7:00, 9:30.
Film Showings 7:00, 9:30.
Film Showings 7:00, 9:30.
Film Showings 1:00, 7:00,9:30.
Awards Shows 5:00, 7:00, 9:00.
The films that willl
shown have not yet
will include one file
each type: animatic
rices: A pass for the entire film festival is
vailable for $35. Single shows are $5 a piece.
iednesday through Saturday, attend two shows
i one night for $8. The 1:00 matinee on
aturday is free. Each show on Sunday is $5.