50th Annual Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Mar. 27-Apr. 1. Schedule is tentative; updated schedule available at aafilmfest.org. The oldest and one of the most prestigious film festivals in North America features 6 days of film screenings, panel discussions, and parties that culminate in screenings of the award-winning films on Apr. 1.
Mar. 27: Opening Night. The festival kicks off tonight with screenings of independent short films from around the world. Preceded by a gala reception (6-8 p.m.; $50; members, $30; screening only, $10) with an open bar, appetizers, chocolate, and cupcakes. Also, a “Backstage Fundraiser Dinner” (6-8 p.m.; $125; couples, $250). 8-10 p.m.
Mar. 28: Short films by festival judge Peter Rose. FREE, 12:30 p.m. “Music Videos in Competition.” $5, 3 p.m. Films by the recently deceased experimental filmmaker Robert Nelson, whose films, according to the New York Times, were known for bringing “spontaneity, teasing and wit to the often deadly serious arena of avant-garde moviemaking.” FREE, 4:30 p.m. “Student Film Showcase.” Short films by students from regional universities. FREE, 5 p.m. “Films in Competition.” The competition showcases new experimental and independent 16-mm, 35-mm, and digital films and videos in a wide range of genres and of generally high quality. Past contributors have included Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Brian De Palma. Tonight is also “Out Night” with screenings of LGBT short films, including some by California experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, in competition (9:30 p.m.). 7 & 7:15 p.m. “Voluptuous Sleep.” Betzy Bromberg’s 2-part, feature-length meditation on light, sound, and feeling that employs many close-ups of the natural world. With an appearance by the director. 9:15 p.m. Films are followed by an after party at the autBar (11 p.m.-2 a.m.).
Mar. 29: Short films by festival judge Michael Robinson. FREE, 12:30 p.m. Panel discussion on archiving. FREE, 3 p.m. Lecture by experimental filmmaker Craig Baldwin (see “Penny Stamps Lecture Series” listing). FREE, 5:10 p.m. Contemporary Middle Eastern films. With an appearance by curator Irina Leimbacher. 7 p.m. Films by Bruce Baillie, an acclaimed experimental filmmaker whose work is in the Library of Congress. 7:15 p.m. “Films in Competition” See above. 9:15 & 9:30 p.m. Films are followed by an after party at a location TBA (11 p.m.-2 a.m.) and a performance by sound/film artist Paul Clipson (11:30 p.m., 327 Braun Ct., for pass holders only).
Mar. 30: Short films by festival judge Kathy Geritz. FREE, 12:30 p.m. Talk by NYC-based multimedia artist Leighton Pierce (U-M Slusser Gallery, 2000 Bonisteel). FREE, 3 p.m. Panel discussion on oral history (UMMA Auditorium, 525 S. State) with L.A.-based media ecologist Gerry Fialka, Ann Arbor Film Festival founder George Manupelli, and New York–based performance artist Pat Oleszko. FREE, 3 p.m. Japanese avant-garde films of the 1970s & 1980s. With an appearance by curator Tomonari Nishikawa. 5 p.m. “Films in Competition.” See above. Tonight: a feature film TBA (7 p.m.), short films (7:15 p.m.), and animated shorts (9:30 p.m.). Films and videos by experimental Colorado-based filmmaker Phil Solomon. With an appearance by Solomon. 9:15 p.m. Followed by an after party at the B-Side (310 E. Washington, enter from the alley). 11 p.m.-2 a.m. “THX-1138” (George Lucas, 1971). In a chilling futuristic dystopia, where citizens are medicated into worker drones, 2 people decide to skip their drugs, discovering their humanity as a result. State Theater, midnight.
Mar. 31: “Family-Friendly Films in Competition.” Shorts appropriate for kids age 6 & over. $5, 11:15 a.m. Films by Bruce Baillie. See above. Also, Baillie discusses his work with preeminent film historian Scott McDonald, who wrote a book about Canyon Cinema, a small backyard film organization that Baillie founded in the 1960s which became influential in the development of independent film. 1 p.m. Films by the late Syrian documentary filmmaker and political activist Omar Amiralay. With an appearance by curator Irina Leimbacher. 3 p.m. “Films in Competition.” See above. Today: shorts (12:30, 3:30, 7, 7:15, 9:15, & 9:30 p.m.) and a feature-length film (5 p.m.). Followed by an after party in the Necto’s Red Room (516 E. Liberty). 11 p.m.-2 a.m. “THX-1138.” See above. State Theater, midnight.
Apr. 1: “What the Hell Was That?” Screening and discussion of several challenging experimental short films from this year’s festival. FREE, 11 a.m. “Films in Competition.” See above. 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. “This Is Not a Film” (Jafar Panahi, 2010). Day-in-the-life documentary about the Iranian director’s experience of being under house arrest in Tehran. The film was smuggled from Iran to Cannes in a flash drive hidden inside a birthday cake. Persian, subtitles. FREE. UMMA (525 S. State), 2 p.m. Feature length film in competition TBA. 1 p.m. “In Praise of Shadows: Japanese Avant-Garde Films of the 1990s & 2000s.” Presented by curator Tomonari Nishikawa. 1:30 p.m. “Two Years at Sea” (Ben Rivers, 2011). A nearly wordless portrait of a man who lives alone in a vast forest in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Part of the AAFF competition. 3 p.m. “Quick Billy” (Bruce Baillie, 1970). Semi-autobiographical experimental film that features Baillie as an Old West gunslinger. 3:30 p.m. “Awarded Films Program.” Screening of some of the festival competition winners. 6 & 8 p.m.
Tickets: $95 for the entire festival & $55 for weekend passes in advance at aafilmfest.org/store/passes, and $10 (students, seniors, & members, $7; midnight movies, $6) per evening show at the door. 995-5356. Michigan Theater (unless otherwise noted), various times. [map]