Supporting Ann Arbor

From: Bernard Roddy (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Jun 11 2006 - 12:10:09 PDT


On May 3 Michael Betancourt sent a link to the list,
an article on the status of state funding for the Ann
Arbor Film Festival. It appears below after a letter
I wrote to State Rep. Taub, who initiated the
amendment to cut funding to the festival for two
years. I don't know any more than this, but would be
interested in knowing who the filmmaker is, what the
film title of the film is, and where else it is
showing. I also want to express my support for
Christian McArdle, who is apparently new to the job of
running the festival. If possible, it would be nice
to know of area businesses around Ann Arbor that
receive tax breaks or other public support but carry
print pornography, or video content providers who
access the public airwaves in Michigan and host porn
cable programs.

Bernie

State Rep. Shelley Taub, R-Bloomfield Hills
email suppressed

Rep. Chris Kolb (D-MI)
email suppressed

June 11, 2006
State Representative Shelley Taub, R-Bloomfield Hills
124 N. Capitol Ave
Lansing, MI 48933

Dear Ms. Taub:

I am writing to express my concern over your efforts
to cut state funding to the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
I am an independent filmmaker, attend and exhibit at
this festival, and strongly support the festivalís
independence from state intrusion.

I understand that Michigan representatives are
sensitive to public expectations with respect to how
tax dollars are spent. However, the arts have always
served as a forum for public expression of
controversial ideas, a forum essential to a healthy
democracy.

The Ann Arbor film festival is one of only several
outstanding artist film festivals in the country.
Achieving such a status requires ambitious, sometimes
risky programming.

The withdrawal of state money is sure to chill the
festivalís programming and to narrow the range of
ideas film artists feel free to explore there. It
will undermine creative excitement and foster tepid,
repetitive filmmaking.

There is little value to protecting the expression of
uncontroversial work. Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres
Serrano are just two of the many artists whose work
has drawn public outrage in the course of art history.
 Manet and Michelangelo faced similar hurdles.

Public funding supports alternatives to commercial
entertainment and like-minded aesthetic priorities.
It is not restricted to the support of controversial
work, but supports a healthy variety of work that
would not survive market-oriented evaluations. The
value of free expression cannot be measured using a
business model. Please consider obtaining a wider
variety of opinions on this issue from the arts
community.

Sincerely,

Bernard Roddy

cc. Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor)

Ann Arbor News
Sunday, April 30, 2006
By Marianne Rzepka
staff reporter

The Ann Arbor Film Festival could lose its state
funding under a legislative amendment that singles out
the annual event, and one lawmaker is accusing the
festival of showing pornography.

State Rep. Shelley Taub, R-Bloomfield Hills, proposed
the amendment to an annual arts grant appropriation,
saying the film festival violated a contract that lays
out the terms of the state funding. That agreement,
she said, stipulates no grant money will be used for
art that shows pornography, feces or desecration of
the American flag.

In the case of the film festival, she said, "I don't
believe taxpayers' dollars, as indicated (in the
contracts), were intended to be spent on
pornography.''

Taub's amendment, which passed at the subcommittee
level and now awaits further action in the House,
would bar the festival from receiving state arts grant
for two years.

The festival, which started in 1963, showcases a wide
variety of works, many of them offbeat and
experimental, over the course of several days in March
at the Michigan Theater. The event is well regarded in
the art-film community.

The festival received $13,650 for this year's program,
said Christen McArdle, its first-year executive
director. Losing that state money would affect the
festival's estimated $192,000 budget, she said. The
total budget includes other grants, sponsorships,
memberships, donations and ticket sales.

McArdle said the festival wasn't pleased to be singled
out in the amendment, but she declined to comment
further.

Taub, who received an undergraduate degree in art
history from the University of Michigan and once
headed the campus Cinema Guild, emphasized she was not
attacking all art that depicts nude figures.

"Let me make this extremely clear,'' Taub said. "I'm
not putting clothes on Botticelli's Venus.''

The film festival was brought to the attention of the
House subcommittee by the Mackinac Center for Public
Policy, a free-market group based in Midland. The
Mackinac Center objects to public funding of the arts,
in general, and a recent proposal to impose a tax on
entertainment tickets to raise money for arts funding,
in particular. The center's Michael D. LaFaive has
used the film festival as example in recent online
essays about that proposal.

"From brochures they (Mackinac Center representatives)
passed out, the content of at least one (film), if not
many more, was clearly pornographic,'' Taub said.

The contract for grant applicants is very clear about
the restrictions, she said, and a festival panel
screens all the films before they're shown. "Use some
common sense,'' Taub said. "Don't thumb your nose at
it.''

LaFaive, director of fiscal policy for the Mackinac
Center, appeared before the House Appropriations
subcommittee on History, Arts and Libraries on March
28.

LaFaive is out of the country, but his edited remarks
are posted on the center's Web site. In those remarks,
he noted past festival films and events with graphic
content, including "The Sex Workers Art Show'' and "No
American Dream,'' about the making of a documentary
called "Sexjunkie.''

LaFaive said his point was that taxpayers shouldn't
support any government subsidies for the arts:
"Regardless of the examples we use, our arguments have
always been the same: State arts subsidies are
unnecessary and unfair. There is no reason anyone
should be forced to subsidize what a tiny arts elite
in Lansing defines as art and defines as worthy of tax
support.''

State Rep. Chris Kolb, D-Ann Arbor, said it would be
difficult to strip the amendment from the bill in the
House, but the Senate might be able to pass the
appropriation without singling out the film festival.

In general, Kolb said, he sees the amendment as having
ramifications for all the arts.

"This is the first step,'' he said. "What are we not
going to fund next? Pretty soon we'll get to the point
when we really are into some sort of censorship.''

The film festival is internationally known and
attracts fans and filmmakers from all over, Kolb said.

"Before the Legislature decides to single out someone,
they should do their homework and not rely on the
Mackinac Center,'' he said.

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