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Cinetopia Film Festival: 12 movies not to miss
Never underestimate the lure of a good film festival — even during summer.
The Cinetopia Film Festival, running for 11 days in Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor starting this week, has spent five previous years luring fans in from the late spring weather with as diverse and multicultural an array of films as you’ll find anywhere in the world. And if you really have to stay outside, Cinetopia offers a few free screenings under the stars, too.
After drawing 11,296 attendees last year, this year’s festival is packed with opportunity. There will be 119 screenings of 47 films (and possibly more during the run) at 11 venues in the three cities. (The Maple Theatre in Bloomfield Township is not hosting screenings after two previous years). There will be one U.S. premiere — of “A Certain Nasser,” on July 10 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn — 13 Michigan premieres, seven Midwest premieres and a rough cut special screening of the documentary “Thirst For Justice,” taking place on June 8 at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor.
The offerings include American and foreign features and documentaries, as well as programs of short films and a teaming with the Arab Film Festival. Director Alan Rudolph will be the subject of a symposium on June 4-5, which he’ll attend, and Cinetopia will host the Midwest premiere of his latest film, “Ray Meets Helen.”
So there’s a lot to see and do. Here’s our pick of a dozen Cinetopia films that should not be missed:
• “Anote’s Ark” (Michigan premiere): Canadian filmmaker Matthieu Rytz takes a moving and poignant look at the small Pacific nation of Kiribati and its struggle to survive as climate change threatens its existence. June 2 and June 6 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
• “The Big House”: The University of Michigan football stadium is big enough, literally and metaphorically, to merit its own documentary, and gets it thanks to a filmmaking team that brings social and historical context to the iconic venue. June 2 at the State Theatre in Ann Arbor and June 10 at the Michigan Theater.
• “Blindspotting” (Michigan premiere); “Hamilton” Broadway vet Daveed Diggs co-wrote and stars in this drama about a convict trying to get through probation in Oakland, Calif., despite negative influence of a childhood friend who tends to get them into trouble. Friday and Saturday, June 1-2, at the Michigan Theater and June 4, at the State Theatre.
• “Detroit Voices”: All manner of styles and approaches will be on display as the short film competition enters its fourth year. Check ’em out at 7 p.m. June 6 at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of Arts.
• “Eighth Grade” (Midwest premiere); The debut feature film by writer/director Bo Burnham follows an eighth-grade girl whose social media habit renders her paralyzed in dealing with the real world. Thursday, May 31, at the Michigan Theater with a guest appearance by Burnham.
• “The Last Race” (Michigan premiere): Motor City audiences will appreciate this documentary — a Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee — about the fading stock car racing culture and the last of those tracks still operating on Long Island. June 8 at the Henry Ford in Dearborn and June 9 at the Michigan Theater.
• “Love, Gilda” (Michigan premiere): A loving, as the title indicates, documentary about late Detroit comedian Gilda Radner, featuring personal recordings and journal entries plus commentary by “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels and others. June 10 at the Detroit Film Theatre.
• “Nico, 1988”: Director Susanna Nicchiarelli dramatizes the German singer and Andy Warhol/Velvet Underground icon’s comeback tour in spring 1988, just a few months before her death while vacationing in Ibiza. Trine Dyrholm received rave reviews for her portrayal of the enigmatic artist. June 1, 2 and 7 at the State Theatre.
• “Ray Meets Helen” (Michigan premiere): The first film in 15 years by director Alan Rudolph — the subject of a June 4-5 festival symposium — stars Keith Carradine and Sondra Locke as two newly rich people who find in each other something more valuable than money. Showing June 3 at the Michigan Theater.
• “Relaxer” (Midwest premiere): Two brothers prepare for the Y2K apocalypse by sitting on the couch as the younger one tries to beat a world record in Pac-Man in this comic thriller by Grand Rapids’ Joel Potrykus. June 2 and 7 at the Michigan Theater, June 8 at the College For Creative Studies.
• “Savage Youth” (Midwest premiere): Eastern Michigan University grad Michael Curtis Johnson returns to Cinetopia with this drama, based on true events, about six youths looking to make their mark in America amid intertwined relationships. Showing June 2, 3 and 9 at the State Theatre.
• “White Rabbit” (Michigan premiere): Performance Artist Vivian Bang, who co-wrote the script with director Daryl Wein, stars as a Korean-born performance artist in Los Angeles cast in a film whose director has trouble distinguishing between her and her character. June 1-2 at the State Theatre, June 6 at the Michigan Theater and June 9 at the College For Creative Studies, Detroit.
If You Go: Cinetopia Film Festival runs May 31-June 10 at venues in Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor. Tickets range from $12 per film to $175 full-festival passes. Visit cinetopiafestival.org for full listings, schedules and other information.
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