40th Ann Arbor Film Festival Tour
Fri June 14, Sat June 15
Guild Theater

As one of the longest running and most established experimental film festivals in America, the Ann Arbor Film Festival has been foisting dough and status on experimental filmmakers for the past 40 years. Independent filmmakers enter from all over the world, and win in such categories as "Best Experimental Film," "Best Sound Design," and "Best Film Addressing Gender Issues." Since it's neither as sleazy nor as traditional as the Oscars, but still sort of hoity-toity, Ann Arbor's winners tend to be experimental--yet not alienating--and of exceptionally high quality. And, after the people win, their films (documentaries, animation, narratives, experimental shorts) go on a little tour. This is what we have here--a collection of the best from the 2002 AAFF.

One of the best is Daniel Gamburg's 19-minute documentary, "Tsipa & Volf," about an elderly Latvian couple, and the horrors they faced during WWII which eventually brought them together. They are a charming duo, defining love as conscience and responsibility more than passion and romance; Gamburg paints a respectful, yet insightfully delicate portrait of the two.

The animated films in this collection are wonderful, including Helen Hill's quirky, hand-drawn how-to film, "Madame Winger Makes a Film: A Survival Guide to the 21st Century." Madame Winger is a precocious old Southern belle who teaches the audience about different types of filmmaking and animation. On the other hand, Lisa Yu's "Vessel Wrestling" is pretty much mind-blowing. Through painstaking and innovative use of stop-motion animation, Yu interprets food, sex, and hair with amazing fluidity, starting with a naked clay figure cooking dinner, and ending in a feat of sheer artistic merit.

Representing for the hometown peeps is Portland's own Matt McCormick, whose film, The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, won the "EMPA Work Life Award"--a title which makes it sound like poor Matt's compensation is to be chained to his work for eternity. Such is the fate of the independent filmmaker. Luckily, at this collection of high-quality, non-traditional motion pictures, you won't feel like you're sitting through torture of the senses. (Or somebody's graduate thesis.)