Blog: Ben Miller

Yesterday marked the opening of the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival. In celebration we've asked long time fan and festival goer (and Ypsilanti librarian) Ben Miller to blog about what the festival means to him, why it's an important part of our local culture, why you should go, and what he's looking forward to seeing this year.

360 Days Until the 51st Ann Arbor Film Festival

After the Rooted Not Retro panel, which was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and getting dinner at Earthen Jar, always an Ann Arbor Favorite, I stopped by the screening room at 7 to see the screening of "All Divided Selves." My father co-presented this film on behalf of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Society / Institute and had quite a bit to say, having just missed seeing R. D. Laing . :) The film itself is an experimental documentary about R. D. Laing and his influence on psychiatry as well as his experiences growing up in working class Glasgow. The film was beautiful and powerful, definitely something I'll be looking on getting for the library. One of my favorite things about my current situation is that I can, by adding films I see at the Ann Arbor Film Festival to the library collection, expand the reach of the festival beyond those who attend. After the Laing film I stayed for the animation screening, which is always super entertaining. The main auditorium was completely packed as far as I could see, which attests to its popularity. Animations ranged from the very abstract to the cutesy to the hyper intense. "The Renter" and "BIRDBOY" were two of my favorites from this screening, both at the same time adorable and terrifying narratives. One of the best aspects of having the festival pass is that you can make up your mind as you go. Sleeping late on Saturday, I made it down to the festival by 3, in time to catch the beginning of the Films of Amiralay screening but still making it to all of the Films in Competition 7 screening, getting to see a mix of short documentary work and meeting a friend of mine for the screening, the only one of which where I sat in the balcony. To get to see an early piece of Syrian documentary in praise of a new dam along with short films from Haiti, Mexico, Saskatchewan and a short personal documentary about the history of the travelogue itself was so great. Unfortunately I didn't make it back to the film fest after this because my friend was putting on a performance for her final project in Women and Gender Studies and I didn't want to miss it, but Saturday looked phenomenal, between "As Above, So Below," "Palaces of Pity" and the dance grooves spun by Amber Fellows, Shelley Salant and others. I just needed to go sleep though. :p Sunday was a day I historically have gone with my dad to the winners in high school and college, but now that I go the whole week and watch everything I want, I'm less apt to go to the winners. That said, Sunday always has some great films, especially feature length ones. In Films in Competition 11, may favorite film was "Hold Me While I'm Naked," by George Kuchar. I believe I had heard his name thrown around but had never seen anything by him. Honestly, I loved it. It was so funny and so clever and it had a feeling and an aesthetic most independent films these days don't even capture. "The Evil Eyes" and "Kudzu Vine" were great too! After that I stayed for the feature length "Two Years at Sea," a largely wordless narrative following following an older man's every day life, living in the middle of the forest with only structures it seems like he has built himself. What was interesting is he never seemed to get bored. He found ways of being happy on his own, in solitude, amid the sylvan splendor. A film on contentedness in an alternative lifestyle was definitely the best way for me to end the festival. Honestly, I already can't wait until the next one!