Every year, Ann Arbor hosts the oldest experimental film festival on the planet. Experimental films aren’t easy to digest – it’s more or less intrinsic to the genre – but every year our film makers venture to the Michigan Theater to take on a glut of rich and diverse independent films from around the world. Covering a variety of feature films, from surreal animated works to documentary-fiction hybrids, to pieces that push the basic elements of sound, light and motion to their limits, join us as we take part to this historic Ann Arbor tradition, which is entering its 60th year.
— Jacob Lusk, Cinematic Rhythms Editor
“Rising Sun Blues”
The film begins slowly, and at times the beginning seems too sparse and lacking in movement, almost static. The scenes where the faces of the women are surrounded only by darkness ask for something more. But once their stories and the story of the film itself are revealed and the bond between them grows, this minimal style contributes to the spell it casts on audiences. Both women are of the utmost importance, the only living beings we can cling to in the film, and their stories will be told to us by them alone, with nothing around them to hint at what their words might reveal.
Learn more about Erin Evans here.
“Looking for Horses”
This intersection of visual, audio and written media – in conjunction with Pavlovíc and Zdravko’s occasional difficulty conversing (Zdravko has difficulty hearing from his experience in the Bosnian war, and Pavlovíc has a stutter and is not fluent in Serbo -Croatian) – conveys the main theme of communication in “Looking for Horses”. At one point in the film, Zdravko and Pavlovíc state that they have their own unique language for communicating with each other. Later, there’s a light-hearted scene of them trying to teach each other difficult phrases in their respective languages and laughing loudly at the hilarity of each other’s attempts. Zdravko and Pavlovíc’s unlikely friendship transcends language barriers and generational gaps, and their warm relationship is at the heart of “Looking for Horses.”
Learn more about Pauline Kim here.
“Riser from the Bottom of Rock”
The film’s depiction of nature on the island is unlike anything else you’re likely to see. slowly swaying in the wind and crashing waves on a beach. Images often lack scale, causing large objects to suddenly appear incredibly small with just a slight change in camera zoom. The hypnotic visuals of flowing lava particularly contribute to a psychedelic viewing experience, the film’s strongest aspect.
Learn more about Zach Loveall here.
The power of “The Afterlight” lies heavily in the context of its concept. As a unique film print (the film cannot be viewed online or by any other means), it acts as a physical relic, preserving the faces and performances of a set of actors, none of whom will happen again and most of which have otherwise fallen into obscurity. His artistic sensibility is quite evident, exemplified by Shackleton’s clever manipulation of cinematic conventions – he cuts seamlessly between shots from different films as if they were the same film and chooses bits of dialogue from different films that retain playfully a hint of conversational plausibility when put together. . However, “The Afterlight” lacks any narrative thread – without knowledge of the film’s design, it is likely to come across as tedious and lacking in substance.
Learn more about Adrian Hui here.
The documentary centers on the titular small town of Shari, located on the northern coast of Japan’s second-largest island, Hokkaido. There are no main characters other than the various townspeople living in the village, save for the ubiquitous “Red Thing”, a person in a monster costume who walks around in the snow. The film alternates between conventional documentary conversations with townspeople about life and work in Shari and surreal, abstract footage of the “red thing” and its interactions with people and the natural world.
Learn more about Alvin Anand here.
An archipelago is simply defined as an area inhabited by groups of islands, specifically in Quebec, Canada, for this film. Director Félix Dufour-Laperrière (“New Town”) blurred the boundaries between imagination and reality throughout the film by taking the viewer on a journey through the islands. The expedition includes views of the real and imagined past of Quebec and explores the idea of what makes a house or a territory. The expression “you don’t exist” is frequently asserted from one narrator to another, who is the supposed guide of the viewer’s journey. The trip itself is truly mesmerizing, as Dufour-Laperrière includes an abundance of high, moving camera angles that made me feel like I was flying over the islands.
Learn more about Zara Manna here.
“10 Questions to Henry Ford”
Made with a mix of archival footage, recited documents and scripted scenes, the film shows how Ford shaped – and was shaped by – the surrounding historical context. It’s kind of a documentary, but delivered in a creative form crafted by director, writer, editor and producer Andy Kirshner (“Liberty’s Secret”). For the scripted sections, Kirshner used Ford’s known writings and beliefs to write dialogue that aligns with Ford’s politics and principles—some of which was taken verbatim from Ford’s newspaper interview. Scripted scenes show a very vivid “ghost” of Ford as he travels to important Michigan locations – Greenfield Village, Fair Lane, Willow Run, the Detroit Institute of Arts (where “Detroit Industry”, the famous mural of Diego Rivera commissioned by Edsel Ford, lives) and more – to search for his son Edsel, who died shortly before him.
Learn more about Kari Anderson here.