Ann Arbor Film Festival 2006

From: Bryan Konefsky (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Mar 27 2006 - 18:03:50 PST

Ann Arbor Film Festival report, March 27, 2006:

Let me begin with a brief observation about B.I.K.E., one
of the featured movies at the AAFF this year. In many
ways the naivete and lack of understanding in this work
epitomizes the state of the festival, now in its 44th
year. The subject of this documentary is the Black Label
Bike (bicycle) club in NYC, their anti-consumer,
anti-capitalist, and anti-authoritarian ideology - which
parallels, in many ways, what Agnes Varda explored in her
brilliant film "The Gleaners and I."

Unfortunately, the anti-capitalist trajectory of the
narrative was bookended by opening credits that read
"produced by Fountainhead Productions," and at the tail of
the movie one of the leaders of the Black Label bike club
rode off into the "sunset" on an oil/jet propelled bicycle
(throughout the movie the members of Black Label
proclaimed their hatred of "fossil fuel culture"). When I
asked the filmmaker about these incongruous "bookends" he
knew nothing of Ayn Rand's writing, and found the jet
propelled bike simply "cool."

This lack of knowledge and inability to thoughtfully
reflect upon what one has produced speaks to a greater
sense of naivete in terms of the curatorial choices
screened at the festival this year. Except for a few
exceptions including presentations by Richard Pell,
Courtney Egan, movies by George Kuchar, Sam Green ,Jay
Rosenblatt, Katherine McInnis, oh, and a brilliant
presentation by Gerry-Pixelvision-Fialka, the festival was
rather uninspired and unchallenging.

However, I would argue that the lack of challenging
 sound/images was made up for in dynamic and robust
dialogue throughout the week.I suppose every year the
festival struggles with definitions of "experimentation,"
new technologies, expanded notions of storytelling etc.

This year the festival lost most of its staff which was,
unfortunately, replaced at the last moment. So, to be
fair, this "changing of the guard" might have been a good
thing (fresh blood and all), had the new staff been put in
place in a timely fashion. Additionally, I should note
that although she doesn't have the experience that some
of us might like to see, the new executive director,
Christen Mcardle,does have her "experimental" heart in the
right place. She pulled the festival out of the ashes of,
what seemed to be, a rather disfunctional board of
directors and for this I give her tremendous credit.

Additionally, Christen recognizes the legacy of the
festival and has committed herself to supporting its
history. Most importantly, she will be testifying before
Michigan legislators in the coming weeks regarding funding
for the AAFF. Apparently there is a move to pull funding
for the festival. The funding issue revolves around
screening certain movies that some have found offensive
aqnd, perhaps, too challenging.

So, inspite of the problematic nature of this years
festival, I would argue that those of you who have found
value in the Ann Arbor Film Festival in previous years,
now might be the time to pen a letter of support or simply
email Christen with your thoughts.

You can reach Christen Mcardle at the Ann Arbor Film
Festival at email suppressed or write letters
to :

Ann Arbor Film Festival PO Box 8232 Ann Arbor, MI 48107

Bryan Konefsky
Basement Films
Albuquerque, New Mexico

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.