Re: Supporting Ann Arbor

From: Ken Bawcom (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jun 13 2006 - 01:05:32 PDT


   Thanks for supporting the AAFF, and writing a letter to Taub. As I
stated in a Viewpoint article, submitted to the local newspaper, the
Ann Arbor News, and printed by them, which I sent to this list first,
it is my considered opinion, after viewing the AAFF since 1967, being
on the screening since 1989, and being involved with programming films
in competition for several years, the AAFF doesn't show porn. Of
course, some may disagree, but I think any porn fan would be SURE to
agree. When you say you want to know the film maker's name, I assume
you mean the name of the maker of the film deemed to be porn. Well, I
don't think that anyone of the complainers have said exactly WHICH film
was pornographic, apart from a Crispin Glover film shown last year, I
think the title was "What is it?" or something like that. They have
named several other films shown in previous years, which clearly, to
most anyone, are NOT pornographic, but sounded as if they might be,
like "Booby Girl," and "Chests."
   While it is clear that an avant-garde, experimental film festival
can't abide by such a restriction, the restriction is no "display of
sex acts." Just what does that mean? Clearly, hard-core porn would
qualify. How about Hollywood style two people under the sheets, shot
from the shoulders up, pretending, sort of, to have intercourse? I
certainly don't think that qualifies, but some might. It IS a sex
"act." Where would the line be drawn? I can think of three films in
competition this year that someone might think were proscribed, even
though I wouldn't. One, "Psychic Driving," was a conventional
narrative, a bit of a Twilight Zoneish thing, about a guy screwed up by
the MKULTRA program. It included a simulated sex scene, both clad, her
on top humping vigorously, much less skin exposed than you would see at
the beach. Another, a feature length film, sort of a pseudo doc that
was not my cup of tea, called "Camjackers," had a scene at a party,
with people eating food off of a nude model. Not a sex act, but
something with actual full frontal nudity.
    Finally, "The Influence of Ocular Light," by Thomas Draschan and
Stella Friedriches, an experimental film of the sort I think quite
appropriate for the AAFF, actually had a short clip of some old Italian
porn film, which was heavily trashed, and definitely not used as porn.
But, reasonable people could think it was proscribed by the MCACA grant
language. As to local institutions that get grants, or tax breaks,
and might do things proscribed by the restriction in our grant, as I
said in my editorial piece, most any one that shows a popular Hollywood
film could be in technical violation. I'm sure there are several, but
no one with the AAFF that I know of wants any other local arts org to
suffer a loss, just because we did. I don't think we need to out these
orgs to the state Reps, but rather point them out to their supporters,
and use that leverage to get their supporters to lobby against these
stupid restrictions.
   One irony is that Rep. Shelley Taub went to school at the U of
Michigan, in Ann Arbor, and was a member of the local film cooperative,
Cinema Guild. Cinema Guild, when it was thriving, helped in the early
days of the Festival, and donated money, up until some time in the 80s!

Ken Bawcom

Quoting Bernard Roddy <email suppressed>:

> 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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