Cinetopia film festival Flick Picks

Written by Jack McCoy


At 6:00 p.m. yesterday, May 6, 2017, the Buckingham fountain was turned on, Chicago’s way to acknowledge the symbolic start of the summer. One thing I’ve always looked forward to for this season is the Cinetopia Film Festival, in Ann Arbor and Detroit. The southeastern Michiganders market the festival as the one which “features the best feature-length dramas, comedies, and documentaries from the world’s best film festivals (e.g. Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, etc.).”


I have attended three of its previous five annual festivals, my first time as a senior in high school, having my college application film into its Detroit Voices selection, a short film program which features movies produced in the surrounding counties of Detroit. The Arab Film Festival is also playing films at the Arab American Museum over the course of the festival. Those programs, and the festival as a whole, have expanded long since 2014. Originally an Ann Arbor film festival, they now play films at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) in the Detroit Film Theater (DFT), in addition to Cinema Detroit and the Michigan and State Theaters in Ann Arbor.


The way they sell themselves is not a lie. They maintain a tradition of adding legitimacy to an American art lost somewhere in the underground and confines of the Internet.


Many of the movies the festival attracts are great films from great festivals from around the world, allowing voices not often heard in American cinemas to speak. Even of our nation, some of the best films which are produced are done so on a modest budget and don’t always make it to theaters outside short runs at obscure art-houses scattered within the metropolis. Seeing these movies on the big screen, especially beautiful and established venues like the DFT, adds legitimacy to a dying art and to artists struggling to have their vision heard.


This year’s lineup appears to showcase some of the emerging American auteurs, foreign artistry, social realism, political struggles, and much more. Here are some of the ones that popped out immediately to me:


Golden Exits: Alex Ross Perry’s latest has divided critics since its premiere at Sundance. To me, that screams interest, along with the idea of a decentralized plot, a supposed beautiful score and 16mm photography. Expect this at the Music Box like his last few films this fall.


12th and Clairmount: Looking back at the 1967 riot/rebellion in Detroit, the cause, duration, and aftermath, through a collage of home videos, this seems like the type of relevant and personal video montage that is so rare in the film world and keeps the festival feeling local.


Columbus: A film taking place in a small, Midwestern town, it sells itself as “a moving tale of the connection we feel to the structures that surround us and to the people we meet during times of change.” In a time of change and structural issues, the description sounds topically relevant.


The Dark Wind: As part of the Arab Film Festival, it’s an international co-production between Germany/Qatar/Iraq that follows a young Yazidi couple preparing for marriage in an Iraqi village attacked by ISIS. Probably not the happiest fare, depicting citizens slaved, tortured and raped, this is the winner of the Dubai Film Festival Muhr Award for Best Fiction Feature.


Dina: Framed through a cinema vérité lens, this follows a modern woman, Dina, living on the autism spectrum with her fiancé Scott, a Walmart greeter with Asperger syndrome. They navigate their relationship as best as they can before their marriage in a seemingly routine manner. This won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance this year.


I Dream in Another Language: In the Vera Cruz province of Mexico, a university philologist searches for the dying indigenous language Zikril. He finds surviving speaks along with a bitter feud, and down the dark path of language and history he finds an ancestral tale of unrequited and pure long. This won the Sundance Audience Award for World Cinema-Dramatic, and seems to be a must see for any language lover.


Cinetopia Film Festival will be held in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, from Thursday, June 1 through Sunday, June 11. Festival passes and individual film tickets are available here. 

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All film stills courtesy of Cinetopia.