Mei Kiengsiri is one of the Design Interns for the 60th Ann Arbor Film Festival
How does a group of semi-strangers become a family within a week?
That’s the question that was stuck in my head on my one-hour drive back to East Lansing after our last after-party on Sunday.
How? I guess if you work them enough over the week and then they go to parties together every night afterwards, it will probably just happen. I was telling either Rose or Bhavya about how I tend to find little families in all the communities I get involved with now. MSU’s art department, AAFF, my Twitch streaming community, etc. I said it’s because I left MY family. I left them to come here on my own accord, to chase after something that I thought suits me better. And I still think so, thankfully.
The thing is, I had been making so many things for AAFF as a graphic design intern that I didn’t have a chance to even imagine the actual fest. None of it was real until I printed all the posters out and saw the stickers and pins that Caleigh and I made. The best part was seeing all my preshow slides on the big screen. That’s the shit. Can I brag about something? Out of the 56 preshow slides, only three were done outside of one weekend. Here’s how that happened.
Rose put together the clean copy. Thomas told me to make the first three items from that. I did, turned them in, got feedback, Thomas said, “Okay, cool, continue on!” So I thought, “Dope, I’ll tweak a couple of things for a new version of the three.” Sent them back to him and he went,
“Oh, I must have not been clear.
I meant do THE REST OF THEM.”
I didn’t cry, I promise. I cried for the program book already. We worked until 1am for a week for that.
I guess all this was to say, I had no idea what to expect out of this entire internship or the fest week, but I’m so glad I got to do this. I got to meet all of you and talk about art and design and films and music all day and all night. And at 22, it’s pretty amazing to be able to say, I was a part of this amazing and inspiring organization.
I would do it again.
I got to Ann Arbor at 2:30pm and figured I’d drop off the posters and signs and go check-in to my hotel.
I ended up helping with passes, putting up the posters, and moving stuff up and down stairs and over to North Quad. I got lost in other parts of North Quad with Caleigh, but we eventually found it.
I checked in at the hotel, got take-out for dinner, and grabbed some drinks for the week (not that I needed more after all the parties but I didn’t know at the time, okay?). Went back to my hotel room and watched anime.
Just now writing this, I realized I forgot 5 cans of cocktails in the minifridge. Whoops.
I went to the after party with Bhavya and Kimlan that night, but Nightcap was full. The AAFF crowd that was there split into two groups that went to Babs’ Underground and Alley Bar. We followed the Babs’ group. We met Allison Radomski there! We had just seen her film How to Behave at a Party that night! Bhavya and I fangirled over her.
At this point I knew I could be a little late, so that was nice. I started helping Rich with getting filmmakers to sign posters in the cases in front of the theater. It’s a tall person’s job and I was already the one who put them in two days before that, so I took that role.
I think I only saw one full program that day and it was the music video category. I especially wanted to see that one because I knew that Money Is the One True God is in the line-up. But wow, some of the other ones blew my mind too. I don’t even remember which one I voted for in the end.
The after party for that night was at Lo-Fi. This time I went with Megan, Cameron, and Joe from Edge Hill, and also Kimlan again. It was relatively quiet for a dance club, if I’m being honest.
I. FANGIRLED. SO. HARD. OVER ERICH RETTSTADT. Okay his name has three too many T’s for my English-is-second-language, I’m-basically-dyslexic brain. But I got him to sign the posters for auction so I found out who he was and told him Tank Fairy is one of my absolute favorites in the entire festival because I saw it at the
poster release party a few weeks before that.
I was so incredibly inspired by Prosopagnosia that
I typed a handful of words into my phone that will make way for an installation idea later. The words are “face blindness”, “shoes”, “facing down”, and “neurodivergence”.
The party was at CIRC Root. Bhavya and I got to hang out with Rich and Elizabeth. We had a lovely time.
Rich, I’m going to miss you, sir.
We’re on Friday already? That’s the same exact feeling we all had on the actual Friday too. It went by so fast.
I thought 3 geNARRATIONS and Fulesee were amazing, but Agreement, The Wellspring and the Tower, and Eternal Demise definitely took the W.
Ooooo Patrick and I went to the Sign Stealing workshop at North Quad! We had some very interesting conversations with the group. He got Megan Young’s contact and then went into conversation with Jerry, who hosts a podcast series where he has been interviewing filmmakers and video artists for decades, and owns an archive of video works. WHAT?! How did we just come across someone like that??
Almost All Ages was an adorable category, and I was so happy to see Leslie’s daughter host it. Leslie, she did an incredible job!!
Joseph Keckler can fucking sing... I guess I thought his rehearsals the previous days were just recordings of opera that were being run through by the tech team, so I was blown away by his live performance. It’s so cool to see traditional and traditionally elitist artforms like opera being used for themes like getting the teenage goth look. Who would have imagined.
Necto was loud, Club Above was louder, but I’m glad I went to both, and I’m glad I didn’t have to drive back that night because I got pretty wasted and it would have actually been bad. I got to play with a light board with Bhavya and Cameron though! Jacob got some pictures of us too!
Ah... The bittersweet ending which Allison Radomski graciously referred to on her Instagram as the “adult emotional equivalent of having to go home at the end of summer camp.” I had planned to leave in the evening because Patrick had to teach Monday morning. But I told him about how Bitch, Thunder! was going to lead us out to Babs’ Underground, which I had already gone to on Tuesday. He went, “That sounds like so much fun, you should stay for it!”
Honestly I didn’t even expect to stay for the awards, so it was so nice to be able to congratulate the award winners that I had previously interacted with: Erich Rettstadt (and his mother who loves my stickers), Stefan Pavlović, and... well actually just those two.
It was 2am at Babs’ and I was listening to Lee and Emma talking about event coordinating as a job, and all I could think was that I didn’t want to leave yet. If I leave, it’ll be officially over.
Somehow even after shouting over crowds all night, I sang the whole way home, just to keep myself awake. I didn’t fall asleep until 5am, technically of Monday. I didn’t get up until well into the afternoon. When I did, I started this book.
For my friends and newfound family,
This past week is unforgettable, or at least I don’t want to forget it, so this is my way of trying not to forget.
Please do keep in contact.
With all love and respect,