top of page


January 25th, 2012 7:30pm

Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI

Tickets: $5 - $10

"Portraits," the fourth Retrospective Screening, curated by Toronto filmmaker, critic and author Mike Hoolboom, features three past AAFF award winners. Films programmed include: Asparagus; Suzan Pitt's celebrated cult animation, a moving meditation on art and the cost of reproduction, Meditations on Revolution Part One: Lonely Planet; Robert Fenz's stunning silent poetic vision of Cuba and Al Neil: A Portrait; David Rimmer's exquisite depiction of jazz iconoclast Al Neil- poet, recluse and shaman.

Asparagus by Suzan Pitt

19 minutes | 35mm | 1979

screened and awarded at the 17th Ann Arbor Film Festival

This candy colored nightmare rocked audiences upon its release and catapulted maker Suzan Pitt to the front ranks of indie animation after showing with David Lynch’s Eraserhead for two years on the midnight movies circuit. Stunning cel animation propels its blank-faced protagonist into the world of the phallus, rendered here as a field of asparagus, which she deep throats, excretes and flushes away. The film’s stunning set piece occurs before a claymation audience who gape as the artist opens her Medusa’s box to release rare wonders. A moving meditation on art and the cost of reproduction, Asparagus remains, 25 years after its release, a benchmark of single frame intensity.

"The animation constitutes one of the most important works of imagination seen in some time, filled with every possible animation technique, all exquisitely rendered, all calculated to produce incredible wonder in the heart of the viewer. It is a children's fairy tale for adults." - B. Ruby Rich

Meditations on Revolution Part One: Lonely Planet by Robert Fenz

12 minutes | 16mm, silent | 1997

screened and awarded at the 37th Ann Arbor Film Festival

A ravishing cine poem of rare intimacy, Fenz delivers a Havana which has never seemed so close. Alternately playful and rhapsodic, Meditations evinces a quietly powerful sense of observation. The filmer concentrates throughout on the ritual gestures of the public sphere – there are no parades in evidence here, no speeches or polemics (the film is notably silent). Instead, forty years after Che turned the impossible into the inevitable, Fenz returns to find the revolution steeped in the faces of those who gather round his camera, playing with him, and us, as they insist that live is lived forward, but understood backward. This is the first of his five part Meditations cycle (1997-2003).

Al Neil: A Portrait by David Rimmer

40 minutes | 16mm | 1979

screened and awarded at the 18th Ann Arbor Film Festival

David Rimmer had already proven himself to be a master of materials, he could look into the smallest corner of the room and find a universe in it. But imagine our surprise when he laid down this bombshell of a movie, featuring jazz iconoclast Al Neil, poet, recluse, shaman. How to get all of those wordless tonalities onto emulsion, how to oversee the conversion of music into film? Unlike today’s digital docs, that often see dozens of recording hours stuffed into hard drives, David shot barely more material than he used in the final film. And like his jazz mentor/subject, the recording is also part of the present moment that is forever slipping by, and this duet of camera and piano legend slips right along with it. “You sure making me work hard, man.” Shot as if inside the body, from the inside/out, passages of Neil’s piano soliloquies are punctuated by the artist’s totemic assemblages and smoke-infused recollections. While Neil is presented as a singular and solitary figure, living in a remote house in the woods, he riffs on influences and movements, all of them digested and thrown away or else spun into something new and unforeseen, lived through the fingers as they reach for the next chord, the music of the next moment. The graveyard cough, the pauses, and then at the end, a final stunning surprise, too fine to be released here. How did the philosophers from Boston put it? More than a feeling.

-program notes by Mike Hoolboom

Advance tickets are recommended. All screenings take place at the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor. All screenings begin at 7:30pm and tickets are $10 general; $7 students/seniors/Michigan Theater members; $5 Ann Arbor Film Festival members. The series is supported by the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan and presented in partnership with the Michigan Theater.

About the Curator:

Mike Hoolboom is a Canadian artist working in film and video. He has made over fifty films and videos. His work has appeared in over four hundred festivals, garnering thirty awards. His work has enjoyed retrospectives at numerous international festivals including Visions du Reel (Switzerland), Vila do Conde Festival (Portugal), the Buenos Aires International Festival (Argentina), among many others. He is a founding member of the Pleasure Dome screening collective and has worked as the artistic director of the Images Festival and as the experimental film co-ordinator at Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.

Mike Hoolboom’s films have been included in thirteen editions of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, beginning in 1988. He was a juror for the 37th Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Mike Hoolboom has published a pair of interview books with Canadian media artists, Practical Dreamers: Conversations with Media Artists (Coach House Press, 2008) and Inside the Pleasure Dome: Fringe Film in Canada (Coach House Press, 2001). In 1998 he authored Plague Years (YYZ Books) a tongue-in-chic autobiography. His first novel The Steve Machine was published by Coach House Press in the fall of 2008. He has published more than one hundred articles on fringe media which have appeared in magazines and catalogues around the world.

Since 2004 he has been working on Fringe Online ( ), a web project which makes available the archives of 40 Canadian media artists. This ongoing project currently consists of hundreds of pages of transcripts, reviews, interviews and scripts, and remains the largest publishing project in the Canadian fringe media sector.

bottom of page