This time around I couldn't pretend to be the person I try to be in each one of these SUN movie columns -- The Unbiased Movie Critic. With year-long thought and a few weeks of pure physical labor, I work forwith the Ann Arbor Film Festival, bearing the mysterious title Associate Director. I must admit from the begin ning that I find those strange experimental movies far better than the usual fare at the State Theatre. Independent film makers have, thank god, not let themselves fall into patterned styles of narrative. They do not confine themselves to the arbitrary time of two hour features. They do not care if an audience of millions likes it or not, and they are not trying to make a lot of money. Independent film makers make movies to please themselves, their friends, other film makers and a growing national audience who are weary of the lowest common denominator approach of commercial films. Appreciation runs high for these films that explore and do not exploit human diversity of thought and action. Strange as they may be to some, I am convinced that independent films have far more to say about people than contemporary commercial films. The week of the Film Festival was fantastic. For film makers and associated personnel it is the utopian version of the high school reunión. Once a year this enormous and expanding band of distributors, film makers, artists, friends and critics fly in from all over the country. They talk, do biz, watch movies for six hours or more a night, kiss each other goodbye at the end of the week and go back to do their work and whatever possible to spread the Flim Festival to their homes. The films here get widely distributed or as widely as non-commercial films can be. They go to the Film Forum Theatre and the Whitney Museum in New York. The nine hour Festival Tour selected by the judges goes on a 12-stop four month tour throughout the country. Distributor MikeGetzpicks up Festival films for his 17 theatre circuit., The director of the Festival is George Manupelli, artist, film maker, teacher and verbal philosopher who now lives in Toronto, where he teaches at York University. George started off the Festival twelve years ago, with the aid of a number of interested Ann Arbor poeple, because they all wanted a central place for the independent film maker to show hisher films. Then there were fifty films. This year there were three hundred and thirty. TIME magazine would say "Everyone is getting into movies." With Everyone doing it, the films are very different than they were a dozen years ago. It is no longer the personalized and subjective beatnick avant garde, centered in San Francisco, New York and Ann Arbor. It is virtually everyone - young, old. rich and some poor, black and white, and finally male and female. The change is obvious - less Art. Some Festival regulars described the difference as "the audio-visual element is creping in too much." That means many of the films were slick, polished but not technically or narratively inventive, and the tales and visions they teil are more objective than personally bizarre and subjective. For the first time the strong films of the Festival were documentarles and narratives, rather than the oníe dominant personal "art" films that I couldn't understand at all when I first saw the Festival at the age of 1 6. Each year the overall style of the Festival films changes, and it is difficult to say why. Generalizations are difficult for 320 films, but by and large the Winners and Tour were weakened by this lack of an experimental dynamic. These films were selected by a panel of six judges - two women, four men. Three film makers, one artist, one film distributorbuyer, one Art Director of ESQUIRE. They decide by a democratie method, amidst tremendous pressure, and I, along' with many others, including several of the judges themselves feel uncertain that they made entirely the right choices. On the other hand, the Festival is the films as a whole, and not the question of who wins or loses. There were a few great films and I regret that some of my own favorites did not win or go on Tour. The big standout is ANTONIA, which received a special commendation award from the judges. It was made by Judy Collins (a common name, but it is THE Judy Collins) and Jill Godmillow. The reasoning of the judges was that Judy Collins probably spends more money on airplane fare a week than the Film Festival could ever giver her as an award. The 58-minute colorsound film is a portrait of Antonia Brico, a woman conductor of late middle age who could never be the major success she apparently had talent for. The reason why is because she is a woman, and her explanations of this discrimination and her deep personal frustration make up the film. It is a feminist film par excellence - bringing great swells of emotion, sadness and understanding. I regretted that several good documentaries and pölitical films were not selected by the judges. A real loss was overlooking THREE THOUSAND YEARS AND UFE, a film on the unionization and administrative take-over and riot in a Massachusetts prison. The technical flaws of the film were created by the cinema-verite difficulties and limitations of shooting in a prison, but the statements of the inmates displayed fantastic economie and political sensibility. It had a rare quality for a political fílm of leaving one with a sense of hope, rather than despair. Several tips of the hat must go to the Festival special events. The Friends Road Show performed great circus and vaudeville routines, including a wrestling match in the Festival lobby. Steven Cole made and sold delightful Pat Oleszko Souvenir Plates. And the real star of the Festival was Pat Oleszko herself. Pat does costume art, you probably saw her giant birthday cake piece in the last SUN. She is expanding her work with lighting, shadows, music and film, and no film in the Festival matched her PATTURNCOAT piece. Wearirtg a great reversible quilted pattern-coat, she performed on stage with a life-size film of her - the film wearing the reverse side of the coat. The movie was Pat, and Pat was the movie and when it was over the audience went crazy with applause and bravos.