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March 12, 1997 - Image 8

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-03-12

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Join author Brad Leithauser for a free reading. Leithauser will
read from his latest comic novel "The Friends of Freeland" at
Borders Books and Music at 612 E. Liberty St. tonight at
7:30 p.m. For more information, call 668-7652.

_. ..

Film festival keeps indie spirit alive

By John Ghose
For the Daily
Question: What do George Lucas,
Brian DePalma, Andy Warhol, Yoko
Ono and the guy who created the
California Raisins have in common?
Answer: They all submitted work to the
Ann Arbor Film
Festival as budding
artists before
becoming the
colossal stars they
are now. .
Celebrating its
35th year as the
oldest voice of independent and experi-
mental films, the Ann Arbor Film
Festival, governed by director Vicki
Honeyman, has invaded the Michigan
Theater yet again. Although George
Lucas is a Film Fest alumnus, you will
not see any epic sci-fi thrillers at the old
-iberty Street moviehouse over the next
week - the Film Festival aims to
*&part from the typical Hollywood glitz
and schmaltz that bigwigs like Lucas
tend to promote.
Instead of the usual natural disasters,
aliens and pneumatic babes with guns,
the Fest offers heartbreaking documen-
taries, intriguing personal narratives,
challenging experimental pieces, inven-
Awve animation, and more than likely, a
fair share of stinkers. Coupled with
Mariachi dancers, folk musicians, short
skits, a silent auction, and free discus-
sions with the judges, the Film Festival
promises to be a goldmine for wannabe
bohemians acting hip to impress their

FI
TO

dates. (Of course, plenty of real
bohemians are sure to surface as well.)
The Ann Arbor Film Festival was
founded in 1963 by filmmaker/artist
George Manupelli at the University's
School of Art. Now independent of the
University, the highly respected festival,
played only in
16mm film, con-
E V I E W tinues to attract top
Ann Arbor independent and
ilm Festival experimental film-
night through Sunday makers, drawing
Michigan Theater i n t e r n a t i o n a l
entries from
France, Austria, Australia, England, and
Germany, along with various domestic
entries from locations across the U.S.
and Canada, and even some home-
grown talent here in Ann Arbor, includ-
ing the University's Dan Tice.
Unlike mainstream film festivals
like Sundance, the Ann Arbor Film
Fest does not aim to lure in big com-
mercial studio execs. Instead, it pro-
vides an outlet for all the deserving
avant-garde expression that receives
little attention.
"In our festival, there are no rules,
said ringleader Honeyman. "The artists
are not working within the constraints
of Hollywood. For them, a story can be
told with just images - their canvas is
the film."
Jane Wagner and Tina
DiFeliciantonio of New York City are a
pair of such castle-building visionaries
that embody the Film Fest's boundary
crossing art. Their documentary, "Girls

Like Us" was shown on the festival's
opening night yesterday, and will most
likely be chosen among the festival's
winners and re-screened Sunday.
Already a surprise winner of the
Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, sans the
commercial pigeonholing typical of
that festival, this hourlong documentary
trails two high school girls growing up
in low-income New Jersey. The girls'
heart-breaking stories are traced amidst
footage and dialogue covering topics
such as sex, pregnancy, and boyfriends.
With a poignancy reminiscent of "Hoop
Dreams," audiences watch as the worlds
of these stargazing teenagers joyously
and tragically ride the crescendos of
life.
Other noteworthy festival films
include Jennifer Reeves' experimental
narrative "Chronic" (Thursday, 7 p.m.),
James Duesing's digital animation
"Law of Averages" (Friday, 9:30 p.m.),
Charlotte Lagarde's documentary
"Swell" (Saturday, 7 p.m.), and home-
town boy Dan Tice's narrative "Thank
You For Not Smoking" (Saturday, 9:30
p.m.).
Reeves' "Chronic" examines how a
female victim of abuse wrestles with
her tragedy, and is a film Honeyman
described as "incredible." Duesing's
brief but brilliant "Law of Averages"
stands its ground against other comput-
er-generated animations such as Pixar's
"Toy Story." Duesing, a pioneer of CG
animation and a Hollywood heretic,
refuses to compromise his vision by
working under Lucas' ILM or Pixar,

and insists on his independent status.
Lagarde's "Swell" is a unique docu-
mentary straight out of Los Angeles
about women surfers since the '50s, and
Tice's piece closes out the Film Fest on
the final evening.
The Fest is a non-profit organization
comprised of an amiable group of ded-
icated film lovers led by Honeyman.
After receiving nearly 350 entries,
ranging from one minute to two hours
each, a selection committee screens all
the entered films in their entirety (a
rarity among modern film festivals)
over the span of six breakneck weeks,
eventually whittling down the pool to
about 100 films to be shown. Needless
to say, the committee must be driven
by genuine artistic love to accomplish
this trying feat. The 24 total hours of
selected film is then played to audi-
ences at the Michigan Theater, where
an awards jury of filmmakers, critics,
and educators (Columbia professor
Jeffrey Scher and filmmakers Barbara
Klutinis and Louise Bourque reside
this year) decides where to allocate the
$11,000 of prize money. Endowments
include the Lawrence Kasdan (creator
of the "Big Chill" and University alu-
mus) Award for Best Narrative Film
and the Roger Moore (creator of
"Roger and Me" and Michigan native)
Award for Best Documentary Film.
The winning films are then re-
screened on Sunday, March 16th (a
best bet for interested patrons short of
time) and compiled to represent the
Ann Arbor Film Festival in a national
tour of schools, museums, and other
film venues.
Sadly, Congress' cuts to the National
Endowment for the Arts three years ago
have subsequently trickled down to the
artists. Honeyman said these cuts have
produced noticeable burdens on the fes-
tival's entries and participants.
Honeyman also said that technological,
postal, and rental costs have soared, and
in order to keep the festival afloat, much
of her time is now devoted to private
grant raising. Without support from the
community, festivals like this .one will
no longer save budding artists from our
nation's humdrum economic slavery.
Without this festival, films like "The
Thin Blue Line" and "Stranger Than
Paradise" may never have been created,
and Ann Arbor Film Fest devotee Gus
Van Sant may never have envisioned his
"Drugstore Cowboy."

Charlotte Lagarde's "Swell" shows Saturday at 7 p.m.

,.; >

Notorious B.I.G. murder investigation continues.

Los Angeles Times "Things are moving along," said Los
LOS ANGELES - Despite con- Angeles Police Department spokesman
cerns witnesses would be too fearful to Mike Partain."They haven't had a prob-
come forward, police investigators said lem talking to the people they're getting
Monday that a number of people have a hold of. The witnesses have been very
provided valuable information about cooperative."
the gunman who killed rap star The 24-year-old rapper, whose real
Notorious B.I.G. name was Christopher Wallace, was

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