Re: Ann Arbor Film Festival 2006

From: jennifer fieber (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Apr 02 2006 - 07:51:05 PDT

Good to see someone pro-actively fired up about the abuses to the notion of
experimental film today. I would hope these letters or new ones would make
it to the hands of the festival organizers, not just stay here on
frameworks. Perhaps a petition?

While we`re at it I`d love to see someone take on the Jerome Foundation--the
foundation set up by Anthology Co- Founder Jerome Hill for the purpose of
supporting EXPERIMENTAL filmmakers. Their mission was supposed to be rigid
and specialized because the work was non-commercial and Hill was a huge
supporter. After he died, and the usual suits that love to mold non-profits
into mini-corporations took over, they mutated into funding boring personal
documentaries, sexy narrative shorts and other sub-standard PBS fare. Oh
wait they proudly supported Aronofsky`s Pi--That`s experimental isn`t it?
Of course, experimental filmmakers still get their share, but you can almost
hear the begrudgement in their voices on the review panel--sometimes they
don`t even bother to get a token experimental panel member who can translate
those pesky abstract films for the rest of them. But who`s going to
complain since you want the grant too? Well if you`re outside of NY or
Minneapolis you could help us all out...And spineless me? I`m with
Anthology so I can`t say anything. Perhaps when I move...

>>I can't help but question why someone would want to
>>defend the lack of original, challenging work at the
>>festival this year. Or make excuses for the staff,
>>which yes, i'm sure it is difficult to sign on at the
>>last minute, but I know the process. My students and
>>I are able to put together a strong program in less
>>than one semester, starting from zero support and no
>>Wasn't it only two years ago that the festival opened
>>up to all formats, and should we accept that 16mm film
>>be lost all together? In the seven years that I have
>>attended Ann Arbor, there has always been some element
>>of uneven programming, but at least one could walk
>>away each day knowing that they saw a few worthwhile
>>pieces. This year was an utter dissapointment. With
>>the exception of the new George Kuchar, Fred Worden,
>>and a handful of animations, the festival supported an
>>abundance of uninspired commercial work. High gloss,
>>high budget narratives mixed in with poltical videos
>>that really add nothing to that mode of working.
>>Nothing re-inventing itself, nothing offering new
>>questions. Where's the integrity of experimental
>>In one of the panel discussions, the new Director
>>Christen was challenged and questioned as to why there
>>was such a lack of experimental or challenging work
>>this year, and her answer was less than adequate and
>>on the verge of insulting to filmmakers. (I can't
>>even bring myself to describe what she said out of
>>respect) It seems to me that she has no idea what
>>'experimental film' is, and failed to provide a solid
>>answer when challenged with this question. Instead,
>>she said, "Dumb Angel" is a example of a "great"
>>experimental film. No, this video was not a
>>narrative, more a documented performance,and perhaps
>>it could be categorized as 'experimental' (the term is
>>so problematic and slippery these days after all) but
>>to use this video as an example of 'great work' was
>>I also noticed that there were far less filmmakers
>>attending the festival, does this have to do with the
>>rapid two year decline? As filmmakers, should we
>>simply throw our hands up in defeat and move on, or
>>take action to restore some of the integrity once
>>present at Ann Arbor? Why is there such a quick
>>turnaround of directors and staff? We don't need
>>another commercial film festival to add to the list.
>>And out of the 2000 entries the festival received
>>this year, how many great films and videos were
>>In a climate that creates more and more obstacles in
>>finding a place for sincerely challenging work
>>(especially that made my "unknown" filmmakers), it was
>>frustrating and sad to see this festival, with such a
>>rich and innovative history, take a severe turn for
>>the worse.
>>Perhaps the staff of Ann Arbor should make a trip to
>>Images Festival this month and learn a few things.
>>in solidarity,
>>--- gyoungblood <email suppressed> wrote:
>>> Thanks Bryan, very interesting comments. I have a
>>> tape of me lecturing at
>>> the AAFF in 1974. It's good to see that Kuchar had a
>>> piece in it. I'm
>>> currently finishing my article on him for the Data
>>> Bank's 5-DVD set.
>>> Hope to see you soon. gene
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Bryan Konefsky" <email suppressed>
>>> To: <email suppressed>
>>> Sent: Monday, March 27, 2006 7:03 PM
>>> Subject: Ann Arbor Film Festival 2006
>>> > 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>.
>>> >
>>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
>>> <email suppressed>.
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