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Cinema Chat: Cinetopia Lineup, 'Marguerite,' 'City Of Gold,' 'Captain America: Civil War' And More

May 5, 2016

The Michigan Theater
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The lineup for the Cinetopia Film Festival has been set!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's Patrick Campion talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins and Cinetopia chief programmer Brian Hunter about the films coming to Cinetopia.  Plus, you'll hear about all the movies heading to theaters this weekend.


Cinetopia International Film Festival Announces 2016 Films and Events

Cinetopia Film Festivalonce again named as the best Detroit area film festival by the Metro Times, today announced the 2016 schedule of films and events taking place at this year’s festival, June 3-12.  Spanning ten days, Cinetopia brings more than 50 films to the Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor area – representing the best feature-length dramas, comedies, and documentaries from the world’s best festivals, including Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, and Tribeca.  See the attached list of films and visit cinetopiafestival.org for full film descriptions, trailers and dates/times/locations of all screenings and events.

In addition to the impressive array of new independent films, curated specifically for Cinetopia by a dedicated team of programmers led by Michigan Theater CEO and Cinetopia founder Russ Collins and Elliot Wilhelm, Director of the Detroit Film Theatre series at the DIA, a majority of the screenings will include special post-film events, including discussion panels and Q&A sessions with directors, writers, and stars of the films being presented.

The festival will feature more than 120 screenings of 50+ films, in an expanded array of venues throughout Detroit and Ann Arbor.  Besides the Detroit Film Theatre, additional Detroit venues include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, College for Creative Studies, Cinema Detroit, N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, The Redford Theatreand The Maple Theater.

In addition to the Arab American National Museum and their Arab Film Festival, this year the festival welcomes The Henry Ford and their new Giant Screen Experience as a Dearborn venue partner. The Ann Arbor portion of the festival will take place in the historic Michigan Theater and State Theatre, as well as an outdoor event on Maynard Street in front of the Michigan Theater.

Cinetopia will open on the evening of Friday, June 3rd with a free outdoor screening of the animated film Only Yesterday,” an event designed for the whole family on the North Lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A full list of the films is attached here and also available at cinetopiafestival.org - the final schedule of screenings will posted on May 11.

Some of the 55 films being screened at the festival include:

   *Sonita:  Winner of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary, this is the story of 18-year-old Sonita,  an undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living in the suburbs of Tehran whose dream is to be a rapper in spite of all her obstacles she confronts in Iran and her conservative family.

   *Suited A documentary from Executive Producer Lena Dunham that embraces the idea that "You have the right to be handsome."  Bindle & Keep is a bespoke tailor shop in Brooklyn, NY that looks beyond the traditional fit to what it truly takes to feel good in a suit.  Running a fluid line between the stories of several transgendered individuals as they approach different phases of their lives -- a business interview, a walk down the aisle, a fortieth birthday, a bar mitzvah and more -- the touching stories come and go as each suit is custom-crafted to make their moment count.  Rae Tutera, the brainchild behind Bindle & Keep, will be in attendance at the Detroit screening.

   *Morris From America Winner of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Jury Award for Individual Performance, as well as the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, this is a heartwarming coming-of-age comedy which centers on Morris Gentry, a 13-year-old  African American boy, who has just relocated with his single father, Curtis (Craig Robinson) to Heidelberg, Germany.  Morris, who fancies himself the next Notorious B.I.G., is a complete fish-out-of-water—a budding hip-hop star in an EDM world.  Morris sets out against all odds to take the hip-hop world by storm and win the girl of his dreams.

   *Tyrus: The Tyrus Wong Story:  A documentary that takes the viewer into the world of a 105 years-young Chinese immigrant to the USA who not only overcame prejudice but persevered to become one of the most culturally relevant artists today.  As an artist in Hollywood, Wong inspired Walt Disney and helped bring us the delicate, majestic beauty of Bambi.  Director Pamela Tom carefully weaves interviews with best-selling author Lisa See, Hollywood film historian Joe Musso, art curator Sonia Mak, studio animation notable Don Hahn (who also is executive producer), and many more, alongside interviews with Wong’s family to give a rare, candid look at this unique man.  Director Pamela Tom will take part in a Q&A following the Detroit screening.  The Ann Arbor screening of this film will be followed by a rare theatrical screening of the original 1942 “Bambi.”

   *As I Open My Eyes – part of Arab Film Festival: Winner of multiple festival awards, this drama tells the story of Farah (Baya Medhaffer) a young woman at a crossroads.  Farah’s medical-school application has just been accepted, and nothing could please her mother, Hayet (Ghalia Benali), more — but Farah's passions are focused on music, and her underground band is just beginning to get noticed, with music that blends rock with daring lyrics that have the raw poetry of spoken word.  The film gives its audiences a wonderful glimpse of the conditions for Tunisian youth before the Jasmine Revolution and the various emotions running through the veins of Tunisian’s youth: disconnection, fear, creativity, revolution, and the courage to pursue their hopes and dreams.

   *Black Mountain Poets:  Jury Award Winner at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, this British comedy stars Alice Lowe and Dolly Wells as con artist sisters on-the-lam who hilariously pose as noted poets at a poetry retreat in the scenic Black Mountains of Wales.  The presence of the dashing Richard (Tom Cullen of Downton Abbey) and his jealous girlfriend adds to the fun as the sisters lay low and find love, all while ultimately finding themselves in this idyllic, postcard-perfect hideaway.  The film’s Executive Producer, Jon Rennie, will take part in post-film discussions following all the festival screenings.

   *Operator:  Ann Arbor natives Sharon Greene and Logan Kibens wrote and directed this comedic look at a married couple, Joe and Emily (Martin Starr of Silicon Valley and Mae Whitman).  Joe is an obsessive self-quantifier programmer working on cutting-edge digital customer service software and Emily is a hotel concierge who moonlights in a local comedy troupe. After a major project at work goes awry for Joe and his best friend Gregg (Nat Faxon), he enlists Emily’s help, crossing streams to achieve the satisfaction of his client, but also putting Joe’s home life into a conundrum. With the added factors of his mother (Christine Lahti) taking a turn for the worse by just being her lovable self, and Emily beginning to see what she really wants out of life, the film examines the emotional lines that get crossed when the two involve themselves in the others’ work lives and how that changes the dynamics of their relationship.  Sharon Greene, Logan Kibens and Martin Starr will take part in post film discussion following the Ann Arbor and Dearborn screenings of the film.

   *Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World:  Filmmaker Werner Herzog’s investigation of this question – is the Internet the greatest invention in the history of mankind or is it a curse, a Pandora’s box that once opened can never be closed?  Herzog leaves no stone unturned in a quest to analyze and explain the way our connections to each other have been helped or hindered by technology.  Theoretical, insightful, funny, and devastating, this documentary humanizes the artificial and synthetic and gives heart to the wires that connect us all.

Special Highlights of the 2016 Cinetopia include:

   *The Arab American National Museum’s Arab Film Festival, offering fascinating new titles from one of the most currently prolific and creative group of filmmakers on the planet.  The Arab Film Festival is one of the longest running programs at the AANM, and it continues to bring the best of the best films from the Arab World and Arab American community to the doorstep of metro Detroit.  It’s designed for fans of Arabic-language movies and adventurous art-film lovers seeking new perspectives and outside-the-box thinking.  All acclaimed on the international festival circuit, these films by both Arab World and Arab American artists are, with few exceptions, unlikely to reach American commercial theaters.  Genres include drama, comedy, and documentary, in both short-form and feature lengths.  Every festival film is subtitled in English, making them accessible to all.

   *Detroit Voices, a short film competition which invites Michigan filmmakers to share their community’s point of view via film.  The winners of the competition will be announced during Cinetopia and their films will be screened as part of the festival.  The brainchild of local filmmaker Sultan Sharrief and launched in 2014, Detroit Voices has already helped to recognize several talented artists with both screen time and cash awards (made possible by the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office.)

   *In addition to the film screenings and discussions, the festival includes several free outdoor film screenings in addition to the opening night festivities at the DIA.  Back by popular demand, a Michael Jackson Sing-Along takes place on June 8 at Campus Martius in downtown Detroit and on June 9 on Maynard at Liberty Street in Ann Arbor.  These fun, family-friendly interactive events are free and open to the public.     

   *Ann Arbor Summer Festival Top of the Park outdoor film screenings – kicking off on the last night of Cinetopia, Sunday, June 12, with a free screening of “Minions,” all 13 family friendly free films are being presented in partnership with Cinetopia this year.

   *The Cinema Circus series of free outdoor screenings continues this year with four events taking place throughout the summer, bringing films to communities across Detroit and extending the Cinetopia experience.

Cinetopia passes are on cinetopiafestival.org and include Festival Passes (offering unlimited film screenings, priority admission, opening night parties and other hospitality events), Movie Passes (unlimited film screenings and priority admission) and a Student Passes for those with valid student identification (unlimited film screenings).  A Personal Sponsorship Pass is also available for individuals interested in supporting special features like guest filmmaker appearances and post-screening panel discussions.

Tickets to individual films are $12 for the general public and go on sale May 16, while members of the Arab American National Museum, Cinema Detroit, DIA, Charles H. Wright Museum, The Henry Ford, and Michigan Theater can begin to purchase tickets on May 12 at the member price of $9.  All tickets can be purchased at cinetopiafestival.org.

The Cinetopia International Film Festival would not be possible without the generous support of our title sponsors University of Michigan Health System and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and our presenting sponsors, Opportunity Detroit, Masco Foundation, and Comerica Bank. 

Media support has been made possible by Detroit Public Television, WXYZ Detroit, Detroit Free Press, WDET, Metro Times, Hour Detroit, WEMU, 107one, Crain’s Detroit, Michigan Public Radio, Pride Source, Renaissance Media and the Ann Arbor Observer.

Further important support of the Cinetopia Film Festival was provided by Yeti Coolers,  Morningstar Farms, and our charter sponsors Dickinson Wright, Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, the Washtenaw County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, State Street District, and the Ford Motor Company Fund; along with vital support from our sponsors Arbor Networks, Meijer, Domino’s, Alaskan Brewing Company, and these departments at the University of Michigan: Weiser Center for Europe & Eurasia in partnership with the Islamic Studies Program, the Center for Japanese Studies, the Center for Chinese Studies, the Confucius Institute, and the Center for World Performance.

Opening Downtown

"Marguerite"

Not far from Paris, it is party day at Marguerite Dumont’s castle.  Like every year, an array of music lovers gathers around a great cause at the owner’s place.  Nobody knows much about this woman except that she is rich and that her whole life is devoted to her passion: music. Marguerite sings.  She sings wholeheartedly, but she sings terribly out of tune.  Marguerite has been living her passion in her own bubble, and the hypocrite audience, always coming in for a good laugh, acts as if she was the diva she believes she is. When a young, provocative journalist decides to write a rave article on her latest performance, Marguerite starts to believe even further in her talent.  This gives her the courage she needs to follow her dream.  Despite her husband’s reluctance, and with the help of a has-been divo, both funny and mean, she decides to train for her first recital in front of a crowd of complete strangers.  Winner of four Cesar awards (the national film award of France), including Best Actress, “Marguerite” opens Saturday at the Michigan.

"City of Gold"

In this documentary, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold shows us a Los Angeles where ethnic cooking is a kaleidoscopic portal to the mysteries of an unwieldy city and the soul of America.  As piping-hot platters are served up, so are stories of immigrants whose secret family recipes are like sacred offerings pledged for the opportunity to build their American Dream.  With eternal curiosity, razor-sharp intellect, and existential longing, Gold is a culinary geographer taking us where no critic has gone before.  “City of Gold” opens Saturday at the Michigan.

"Francofonia"

Set against the backdrop of the Louvre Museum’s history and artworks, this film weaves together staged re-enactments and archival footage for a fascinating portrait of real-life characters Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff-Metternich and their compulsory collaboration at the Louvre Museum under the Nazi Occupation.  These two remarkable men - enemies then collaborators - share an alliance which would become the driving force behind the preservation of museum treasures.  In its exploration of the Louvre Museum as a living example of civilization, “Francofonia” is a stunning and urgently relevant meditation on the essential relationship between art, culture, and history.  “Francofonia” opens Saturday at the Michigan.

Special Screenings Downtown

"April and the Extraordinary World"

Winner of the Best Animated Film award at this year’s Cesar Awards in France, a family of scientists is on the brink of discovering a powerful longevity serum when all of a sudden a mysterious force abducts them, leaving their young daughter April behind.  Ten years later, April (Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard) lives alone with her cat, Darwin, and carries on her family’s research in secret.  But she soon finds herself at the center of a shadowy and far-  reaching conspiracy, and on the run from government agents, bicycle-powered dirigibles and cyborg rat spies.  “April and the Extraordinary World” plays Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10 and 11, at the Michigan Theater.  Presented in French with English subtitles.

Opening at the Multiplex

"Captain America:  Civil War"

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leads the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity.  But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. “Captain America: Civil War” opens Friday.

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— Patrick Campion is the WEMU Program Director.  You can contact Patrick at 734.487.3363, on twitter @WEMUPC, or email him at pcampion@emich.edu.