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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: Two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl—another look at "Looking for Horses"

Thu, 03/17/2022 - 2:00pm by christopherporter

A still from the film Looking for Horses of a man with a weathered face and a cigarette in his mouth with a large lake in the background

Photo courtesy of Lightdox

Stefan Pavlović's Looking for Horses is a glimpse into the real-life story of an unlikely friendship.

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: "Elephant" is a highly personal meditation on racism, violence, and trauma

Thu, 03/17/2022 - 1:00pm by christopherporter

A still from the film Elephant shows a woman sitting in a chair with her head bent low.

The opening scene of Elephant shows a young Black woman at the inner entrance of her apartment, wiping away tears. Remnants of blood are visible on her body and the door. The movie is shot almost entirely inside this small apartment, where the protagonist, played by director Maria Judice, confines herself after experiencing something intense and distressing. 

The scenes that follow unfold very slowly, without narration and with minimal sound. The pace and volume allow us viewers to linger on the details of the sparse surroundings. A second young woman—who we later learn is the protagonist’s sister—enters the apartment by the side door and begins to clean the apartment and quietly support her sibling. 

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: "Rock Bottom Riser" digs into the cultural and physical roots of modern Hawaii

Thu, 03/17/2022 - 10:00am by christopherporter

A still from the documentary Rock Bottom Riser showing an overhead shot of flowing lava

Hawaiian lava flows in the impressionistic profile of the island in Rock Bottom Riser. Image courtesy of Cinema Guild.

How fascinating to watch two movies back-to-back for the AAFF, both of them focused on different island chains. While Archipelago is about the myriad islands of the St. Lawrence River and often reflects a playful, calm mood, Rock Bottom Riser by Fern Silva is much more fractured and fraught with danger.

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: The animated "Archipelago" traces the communities along the St. Lawrence River

Thu, 03/17/2022 - 8:00am by christopherporter

A still from the animated film Archipelago featuring an abstract background with small bodies and a cow looking like they're struggling

What would you create if you wanted to convey the entire history of a place—the people with their personal struggles and giant conflicts, their loves and everyday lives, the music they listen to, and the story of the land itself?

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: Documentary gives due to avant-garde film pioneer Sally Dixon

Wed, 03/16/2022 - 9:00am by christopherporter

Experimental Curator: The Sally Dixon Story

Filmmaker, enthusiast, advocate, meticulous curator, promoter, free spirit and nurturing mother of avant garde film.

Those are the words used to describe Sally Dixon in Brigid Maher’s documentary Experimental Curator: The Sally Dixon Story.

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: "Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over" is a revealing look at a confrontational avant-garde icon

Tue, 03/15/2022 - 12:00pm by christopherporter

Lydia Lunch performs on stage with her band in a photo by Kathleen Fox

Lydia Lunch photo by Kathleen Fox

The title of director Beth B's film Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over derives from an archival performance clip in which Lunch, a confrontational New York City no-wave musician, performance artist, and icon, dissects the endless masculine predilection toward war. "You want to go on a suicide mission? Go on a suicide mission," Lunch says. "One man, one bomb, and leave the innocent women, the innocent children, and the innocent male civilians out of it. It's not my war."

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: Two lost souls meet on a small Bosnian island in "Looking for Horses"

Tue, 03/15/2022 - 9:00am by christopherporter

A still from the film Looking for Horses featuring a close-up of an older man with deep creases on his face, his chin resting on his right hand

Photo courtesy of Lightdox

Stefan Pavlovic’s Looking for Horses begins in a deep mist and heavy clouds. The image, shot with a hand-held camera, shifts wildly, moving from choppy lake waters to a menacing sky of black clouds. 

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60th Ann Arbor Film Festival: Japanese documentary "Shari" is an empathetic, dreamlike look at a changing planet

Mon, 03/14/2022 - 9:00am by christopherporter

A still image from Nao Yoshigai's film Shari featuring a person standing in a forest in winter wearing a large, strange, bulky, red, full-body suit

The subject of Japanese director Nao Yoshigai's Shari creeps up on you as unexpectedly as the hulking, crimson, woolly creature that shambles through the film in a series of dreamlike interludes. The film focuses on the Japanese town of Shari in 2020, and at first seems to be a series of well-observed vignettes chronicling the lives of its residents. But as we meet the townspeople—a baker, a fisherman, an eccentric art collector—they all return to a common topic: the tension between human life and the natural world. Shari's residents discuss feeling drawn in by their town's natural beauty, but they also describe a delicate push-pull between conservation, tourism, and industry. One resident offers the metaphor that Shari's natural resources are a principal upon which people should collect interest, rather than squandering the initial investment.

Shari's residents are also all preoccupied in different ways by the same anxiety: the town has experienced its lightest snowfall in 40 years. There are fewer fish in the ocean, plant growth is stunted, bears are skipping hibernation because they can still find food, and the townspeople have an overall sense of unease.

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The short documentaries "Boogie Woogie Express" and "Mr. B's Joybox Express" showcase Michigan piano titans

Thu, 02/03/2022 - 12:45pm by christopherporter

Mark "Mr. B" Braun and Bob Seeley, two masters of boogie-woogie piano, sit on the same piano bench while performing a tune together in front of a crowd at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Image from an Ann Arbor News video.

On the surface, Boogie Woogie Express is a short film about piano player Bob Seeley, who was born in Detroit in 1928. But at 11-minutes long, there's not a ton of room for biography in this movie by Ypsilanti filmmaker Donald Harrison of 7CylindersStudio—yet it's the perfect amount of time for a quick and fun primer on the art of boogie-woogie piano. It's especially interesting to hear and see how boogie-woogie evolved into rock 'n' roll, with Seeley demonstrating the rhythmic differences between the two styles.

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Talk, Talk, Talk: Zach Damon's "Ann Arbor Tonight" puts a local spin on the late-night TV chat format

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 12:00pm by christopherporter

Zach Damon sits behind his desk on the set of the show his hosts, Ann Arbor Tonight. He's wearing a suit and tie, has a bit smile, and his black hair is slicked back. On his desk is a microphone, a coffee mug, pen and paper, and some University of Michigan football memorabilia.

Photo courtesy of Zach Damon.

At age 6, Zach Damon discovered his love of public speaking.