On Tuesday, Feb. 24 and Wednesday, Feb. 25, films from the 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival were shown in Viking Theater.
Founded in 1963 by University of Michigan professor George Manupelli, the Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest experimental film festival in North America. Many of the film industry’s most famous directors and cinematographers have had their works featured at the festival, including Andy Warhol and George Lucas.
The event that came to St. Olaf was a stop on the festival’s annual tour that brings that year’s best films to over 35 locations, including small cinemas, museums and universities. The stop was organized by Linda Mokdad, Associate Professor of English and Film Studies. Mokdad is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and worked as a staff member of the film fest for a time.
As with all stops on the tour, the event was split into two evenings. The first night, or “Part A,” lasted 81 minutes, and “Part B” on the second night lasted 86 minutes.
Though all were short films, entries varied in length. The longest film was Jim Finn’s 21-minute 1990s-style communist self-help video, “Encounters With Your Inner Trotsky Child.” The shortest film, “Division” by Johan Rijpma, ran for only one minute.
The festival featured filmmakers of many different nationalities and covered a variety of subject matter. Some were intensely personal, such as Wojciech Bakowski’s abstract confessional “Dry Standpipe.” Others were more politically minded, such as “Broken Tongue” by Mónica Savirón, which features poet Tracie Morris reciting her poem, “Afrika.”
As experimental films, many of the entries pushed the boundries of conventional filmmaking. Rather than following a protagonist, Lois Patiño’s “Mountain In Shadow” highlights the insignificance of humans as they ski down dark, snow-covered mountains. In “Misterio,” Chema García Ibarra depicts a long line of middle-aged women attempting to hear the voice of the Virgin Mary coming from the back of a young man’s neck. However, not every film shown was as bizarre or surreal. Kevin Jerome Everson blurred the lines between experimental and documentary film while following illegal work in a poor area of Cleveland in “Fe26.”
A major highlight from the festival was the film “Cut,” by German filmmakers Matthias Müller and Christopher Giradet. A compilation of lacerations, incisions and surgeries from popular films and television programs, the film was visually enamoring but horrifying in the same instance. The film was a compilation of lacerations, incisions and surgeries from popular films and television programs. According to the event’s program, Müller and Giradet decribe their film as “a body as a wound that never heals.”
Another eye-catching film was “Lagos Island,” which won the 52nd AAFF Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival. That film used the perspective from a handmade laborer’s carts to document migrants’ homes on the island’s coast. The Lagos government is currently in the process of destroying these homes in an effort to “clean up the city.”
The 53rd Ann Arbor Film Festival will take place on March 24 through March 29 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.