The 61st AAFF's LGBTQ+ programming includes the 22nd annual Out Night program featuring new experimental films from Finland, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States with two World Premieres, two North American Premieres, and a United States Premiere! The in-person screening takes place Thursday, March 23 at 9:30pm in the Michigan Theater, available online simultaneously through March 29th.
Once again organized by Sean Donovan, a doctoral candidate in Film, Television, & Media at the University of Michigan, Films in Competition 5: Out Night spotlights contemporary experimental films with LGBTQ+ themes and features bodily insides as cosmology, growing up LGBTQ+ in rural Wales, the colorful and transgressive universe of the artist Nazario Luque, the most private moments, a woman's life, research in bioarchaeology, and a simple visit to the grocery store.
AAFF also recommends two special programs: Remembrance/Vacancy: The Films of Edward Owens (THU 3/23 | 7pm | State Theatre 1), curated by Emily Martin, and Life ⇋ Ritual ⇋ Cinema: The Experimental Films of Donald Richie, curated by Markus Nornes and Hannah Glass-Chapman (SUN 3/26 | 12:30pm | Michigan Theater).
Don't forget to continue your celebration of Out Night at Thursday's After Party at LIVE, 10:30pm-1am, and the Pride Bar with DJ Medusa!
THU 3/23 | 9:30pm | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium
Sponsor: Detroit Metro Times
Community Partner: University of Michigan Spectrum Center
Additional Support: 630 Club
Images: Bigger on the Inside | Spirits | The Garden of Fauns | Where is the Friend's Home? | Gold and Mud | a story that doesn't have to do with me | Blush - An Extraordinary Voyage
Bigger on the Inside | Angelo Madsen Minax | New York, NY | 2022
From a snowy, wooded cabin a trans man stargazes. Scruff chats with guys, watches YouTube tutorials, takes drugs, and lies about taking drugs, all to feel hiz way through the human drive to be filled with something, to transcend embodiment. This is a film about architecture: interior and exterior, the micro and macro, bodily insides as cosmology, passageways and portals, loneliness and the immensity of longing. Nudes and landscapes are equally erotic. Eros as an issue of boundaries: When I desire you, a part of me is gone. Land is surreal. Memory is porous.
Spirits (Ysbrydion) | Amy Daniel | Aberystwyth, UK | 2022
North American Premiere
Ysbrydion (Spirits) is a film about the experience of growing up LGBTQ+ in rural Wales. The film was made for screening at the National Eisteddfod, an ancient poetry competition in Wales. While there have been two known LGBT poets to have won the Bardic chair over the centuries of the Eisteddfod, queer people are still not accepted or supported in much of rural Wales. This film tells some of their stories, history, and poetry.
The Garden of Fauns | Pol Merchan | Barcelona, Spain | 2022
United States Premiere
The Garden of Fauns reveals the colorful and transgressive universe of the artist Nazario Luque, a leading figure of the Spanish underground comics movement in the 1970s. A hypnotic journey into Barcelona’s transvestite counterculture, between past and present, an artist’s life and its archive, an ode to life, love, desire, and loss.
Where Is the Friend's Home? | Amina Maher | Berlin, Germany | 2022
In search of the creation of an autonomous body, Amina Maher, the trans woman director of this film, seeks to confront her unspoken desires with the help of a friend in the process of honest self-exploration, sharing the most private of moments and breaking silences while giving insight into the topic of queer struggles and friendship, shame culture, and patriarchy.
Gold and Mud | Conor Dooley | New York, NY | 2022
A sprawling story of love and loss, as reflected on a single face. Tiny pieces that, when cobbled together, hint at a much larger picture. The larger picture being a woman’s life. Observed through the decades. Centuries, even. You know. A comedy. Starring Ana Fabrega (from HBO’s Los Espookys).
a story that doesn't have to do with me | Kymberly McDaniel | Milwaukee, WI / Binghamton, NY | 2021
As I seek to connect with my partner about their research in bioarchaeology, a conversation emerges about survival and what is left behind after death.
BLUSH – An Extraordinary Voyage | Iiti Yli-Harja | Helsinki, Finland | 2022
North American Premiere
For 18-year-old Finnish-Kosovan Fatu, a simple visit to the grocery store feels as nerve-racking as a lunar expedition: for the first time in his life, he’s wearing makeup in public. Luckily his best friend Rai, a young woman on the spectrum of autism, is there to ferociously support him through the voyage.
THU 3/23 | 7pm | State Theatre
Curated by Emily Martin
Community Partner: Eastern Michigan University LGBT Resource Center
Images: Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts | Tomorrow’s Promise | Remembrance: A Portrait Study
The recent re-emergence of Edward Owens’ flash of experimental filmmaking in the New York avant-garde scene of the late ’60s has the potential to animate new discussions around a largely unknown and obscure(d) history of early Black experimental filmmaking, one that predates the films of the L.A. Rebellion. Despite the artistic merits of the work, Owens’ period as a young filmmaker was short-lived and his artistic career cut short by complicated personal issues related to addiction and mental health, which eventually led him to return to his hometown of Chicago. By the time of his death in 2009, the very year in which Owens’ work received notice outside of the time of its creation, the artist had only carried out a series of phone interviews shortly before passing away. The timing of Owens’ death renders the task of contextualizing and understanding his artistic output and life in their full richness a considerably difficult and complex one. This program considers the historical/personal space and vacancy of Owens’ work within the void of its contextualization and historical placement in relationship to its aesthetic undercurrents. Remembrance: A Portrait Study | New York, NY | 1967 Remembrance: A Portrait Study is a filmic portrait of the artist’s mother, Mildered Owens, and her friends Irene Collins and Nettie Thomas, set to a score of ’50s and ’60s hit songs. Using baroque lighting techniques, Owens captures the three women drinking and lounging one evening. Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts | New York, NY | 1966 “A montage of still and moving images, mixing and alternating Black and white people, fantasy and reality, a presidential suite and a mother’s kitchen: a sensitive, poetic evocation in the manner of the film-maker's Remembrance. Brilliantly colored and nostalgic, it comprises a magical transformation of painterly collage and still photographic sensibility into filmic time and space.” – Charles Boultenhouse Tomorrow’s Promise | New York, NY | 1967 “Tomorrow’s Promise is a film about vacantness … my film could have been edited with precise tensions and a lucid straight narrative, but it was my aim to ‘recreate’ the protagonist of my personal life.” – Edward Owens Emily Martin currently works as the Distribution Manager at the Video Data Bank. She received a Dual MA in Contemporary & Modern Art History and Arts Administration & Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her past experience includes various administrative, programming, and research activities at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Chicago History Museum, and The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University amongst others.
SUN 3/26 | 12:30pm | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium
Curated by Markus Nornes and Hannah Glass-Chapman
Sponsor: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies
Donald Richie (1924–2013) is credited with introducing the world to Japanese cinema. Born in Ohio, Richie arrived in Tokyo in 1947 to work in the American occupation force. Aside from brief return trips to the US for graduate school and a stint as the film curator at MoMA (1969–1972), he remained in Japan. Richie was a dilettante of sorts who wrote novels, painted, and composed music, but is best known as a prolific author of nonfiction essays and books on Japan. His studies on Japanese film history, Ozu, and Kurosawa are considered classics. Richie also wrote on topics such as Japanese fiction, ikebana, architecture, street culture, famous personages, and more.
Richie’s public image, however, sometimes bordered on cliché, perhaps because he occasionally traded on stereotypes of a long-gone “traditional” Japan. In fact, Richie was paradoxically perverse. A queer man who found a safe haven in Japan, he delighted in the surreal. This particularly comes out in his experimental cinema, which he began making in the 1940s. By the 1960s, Richie was known as an organizer on the Japanese experimental film scene who introduced Japanese artists to developments abroad and programmed their work around the world. This program introduces the other Richie, who was always sexy, strange, dirty, and quite amusing.
Boy with Cat (Neko to shonen) | Tokyo, Japan | 1967
Lovingly shot on Kodachrome and processed as monochrome, a young man lounges on tatami on a hot summer day viewing photos, with the sound of cicadas and the neighbor practicing piano in the background. The mood is spoiled by an awkward Moonlight Sonata and an obnoxious black cat.
The Dead Boy (Shinda shonen) | Tokyo, Japan | 1967
“I’m a boy who, not knowing love, suddenly has fallen from the summit of frightening infancy into the darkness of a well.” Based on a powerful poem by the gay poet Takahashi Mutsuo and shifting between multiple realities and times, it is the most complex and touching of Richie’s works.
Stillness—Suspension—Motion (Sei—chu—do) | Tokyo, Japan | 1959
Richie captures the strange rhythm of sumo, where the wrestlers quietly and repeatedly face off—eye to eye—before smashing into each other. He focuses on the rippling muscles of the bodies, suspended, then in furious motion.
Atami Blues | Tokyo, Japan | 1962, 1967 abridged version
Co-written with then-wife Mary, this winking story about flirting takes place against the backdrop of a famous hot spring, ubiquitous movie posters, and sumptuous jazz by Richie’s friend Takemitsu Toru. It may look conventional, but a sly and slightly dirty ending betrays a sensibility excluded from the mainstream films on all the posters.
Life Life Life | Tokyo, Japan | 1953 Fifteen years before Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Richie anticipated the animation of Terry Gilliam in this early 8mm film. He cut up Life magazine and animated the clippings through clever use of strings and editing. These “Four American Fables” offer up a slicing critique of gender and 1950s consumerism.
Life (Jinsei) | Tokyo, Japan | 1965
In 1964, Richie and friends wrote a manifesto that kicked off a small film movement called Film Independent. They called for 2.5-minute shorts on the theme, “An Advertisement for Myself.” Richie’s humorous contribution, which he “scored” himself, tells the story of a life from birth to death. This is Richie’s “long” version. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art
War Games (Senso gokko) | Tokyo, Japan | 1962
Richie’s most famous film was shot during a typhoon with butoh dancer Hijikata, whose antics behind the camera provoked the delight of the film’s child subjects. It is a parable of raw power and very human antagonism—and our ability to step back and out of the fray.
Human Sacrifice (Gisei) | Tokyo, Japan | 1959
Richie met Hijikata, the great founder of butoh dance, through mutual friend Mishima Yukio. They decided to collaborate on a film about segregation. Richie memorialized the film in his diary: “It is more than ever about the death of an individual, a distinct kind of human sacrifice.”
Cybele: A Pastoral Ritual in Five Scenes | Tokyo, Japan | 1968
Programmers in Paris and New York refused to show this film, arguing it was a tasteless recreation of the Holocaust. Richie thought he was making the blackest of comedies about mystery-goddess Cybele—mediator of the civilized and the wild, the living and the dead—and her following of ecstatic, self-emasculating devotees. Shot with the performance art group Zero Jigen. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art
Markus Nornes is Professor of Asian Cinema at UM and a longtime programmer for the Yamagata International Film Festival. He co-directed The Big House (2018), which played at the 56th AAFF. Hannah Glass-Chapman is a 4th year undergrad at U-M dual majoring in Asian Studies and Film, Television, & Media. She enjoys studying Asian cinema, directing, and screenwriting.