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Cinema Chat: 58th Ann Arbor Film Fest Preview, 'Wendy,' 'The Times Of Bill Cunningham,' And More

Ann Arbor Film Fest
Ann Arbor Film Festival

In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair sits down with Michigan and State Theater executive director to discuss the latest movie news and all of the new flicks landing at your local movie house this weekend.  Plus, Leslie Raymond stops by to talk about this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival, including precautions being taken amidst the current public health crisis.


With the 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival set to launch and the COVID-19 virus on the horizon, we want to assure you that we are staying updated about the issues, especially readiness concerns for gathering in public places. 


We are working in concert with the Michigan Theater and following the CDC, state, and local government recommended precautionary measures for minimizing the spread of the virus to ensure a healthy and safe festival week. For now, all systems are go and the 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival will proceed as planned.


Given the circumstances, AAFF is taking the following measures based on the CDC guidelines to ensure a healthy and safe festival week: 


  1. We’re coordinating with the Michigan Theater for best practices to maintain a healthy environment. The front-of-house staff is taking necessary precautions such as wiping down cash registers, door handles, surfaces, etc. with bleach and water in between each movie set.
  2. Employees and volunteers who are experiencing any symptoms associated with Coronavirus will remain at home.
  3. Monitoring public health recommendations from appropriate governmental agencies daily. 

As attendees of AAFF, you can help us keep our community healthy by following these simple preventative measures:


  1. If you are sick, please stay home.  Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.  Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 
  3. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  4. Continue to monitor public health messaging from reliable resources such as the CDC and the Department of Health & Human Services.


For additional resources, consider the following: CDC website for weekly updates and the WHO Q&A.


We will keep you updated if anything changes and we're excited for a healthy and safe festival week. 



The classic story of Peter Pan is wildly reimagined in this ragtag epic from Benh Zeitlin, director of "Beasts of The Southern Wild."  Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up.

"The Times of Bill Cunningham"

Narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker, this film features incredible photographs chosen from over 3 million previously unpublicized images and documents from iconic street photographer and fashion historian Bill Cunningham.  Told in Cunningham’s own words from a recently unearthed 1994 interview, the photographer chronicles, in his customarily cheerful and plainspoken manner, moonlighting as a milliner in France during the Korean War, his unique relationship with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, his four decades at The New York Times and his democratic view of fashion and society.  


"Friday the 13th"

This film plays Friday, March 13 at 9:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of theLate-Night Film Series, sponsored by Owl Creek Apartments.  Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the film!  Crystal Lake’s history of murder doesn’t deter counselors from setting up a summer camp in the woodsy area.  Superstitious locals warn against it, but the fresh-faced young people — Jack (played by Kevin Bacon), Alice (played by Adrienne King), Bill (played by Harry Crosby), Marcie (played by Jeannine Taylor) and Ned (played by Mark Nelson) — pay little heed to the old-timers.  Then they find themselves stalked by a brutal killer.  As they’re slashed, shot and stabbed, the counselors struggle to stay alive against a merciless opponent.

"Der Fliegende Holländer"

This event will be broadcast live in HD on Saturday, March 14 at 12:55 PM at the Michigan.  François Girard, whose revelatory 2013 take on Parsifal set the recent Met standard for Wagner stagings, now unveils a spellbinding new vision of the composer's tale of a cursed sea captain doomed to sail the open ocean for eternity—live in cinemas March 14.  With sweeping sets by John Macfarlane, Girard’s new production turns the Met stage into a rich, layered tableau reminiscent of a vast oil painting. Valery Gergiev conducts a brilliant cast led by bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin as the Dutchman, with German soprano Anja Kampe making her anticipated Met debut as the devoted Senta, whose selfless love is what the Dutchman seeks.  Bass Franz-Josef Selig is her father, Daland, and tenor Sergey Skorokhodov is her deserted former lover, Erik.

"King Kong"

This film plays Sunday, March 15 at 1:00 PM at the Michigan, presented by Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events.  Actress Ann Darrow (played by Fay Wray) and director Carl Denham (played by Robert Armstrong) travel to the Indian Ocean to do location shoots for Denham’s new jungle picture.  Along the way, the actress meets and falls for rugged First Mate John Driscoll (played by Bruce Cabot).  Upon arriving at a mysterious island, Ann is taken hostage by natives who prepare her as a sacrifice to the enormous ape Kong who rules over their jungle.  But when Ann is rescued and Kong is captured, the real trouble begins.  There will also be an exclusive introduction from TCM hosts who will provide insight, background and more, making this an event that you won’t want to miss!

"Maasai Remix"

This film plays Sunday, March 15 at 7:00 PM at the Michigan, presented by the UM Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.  The film follows three Maasai individuals who – in the United Nations, a Tanzanian village, and American University – confront challenges to their community by drawing strength from local traditions, modifying them when necessary, and melding them with new resources.  Adam Mwarabu advocates for Maasai pastoralist rights to land in international political spheres.  Evalyne Leng’arwa pursues a college education in the USA, having convinced her father to return twelve cows to a man contracted to marry her.  Frank Kaipai, the village chairman, faces opposition as he promotes secondary school education and tries to save the village forest.  Sharing a goal of Maasai self-determination in an ever-changing world, Adam, Evalyne, and Frank innovate while maintaining an abiding respect and love for their culture.

"Certified Copy"

This film plays Monday, March 16 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective Film Series.  Juliette Binoche won the Best Actress prize in Cannes for her performance in this playful and provocative romantic drama from legendary auteur Abbas Kiarostami, his first feature made outside of Iran.  Binoche plays a gallery owner living in a Tuscan village who attends a lecture by a British author (played by opera star William Shimell) on authenticity and fakery in art.  Afterward, she invites him on a tour of the countryside, during which he is mistaken for her husband.  They keep up the pretense and continue on their afternoon out, discussing love, life and art, and increasingly behaving like a long-married couple.  But are they play-acting on a whim, or is there more to their seemingly new relationship than meets the eye?

Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective – Celebrating the Great Iranian Master’s Career Mondays at 7:30 PM

"Alex Honnold: 3 Classic Films"

This event plays Tuesday, March 17 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan.  The three films include "Alone on the Wall," "Honnold 3.0," and "A Line Across the Sky."  In "Alone on The Wall," twenty-three-year-old Alex Honnold is taking the high-stakes sport of free solo climbing to new heights and attempts the 2,000-foot wall of Half Dome.  In "Honnold 3.0," Honnold climbs Mt. Watkins, El Cap, and Half Dome all by himself in under 19 hours.  Finally, in "A Line Across the Sky," Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold take on The Fitz Roy Traverse.

"Human Nature"

This film plays Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of Science on Screen, an initiative of The Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, sponsored by The University of Michigan Precision Health.  From executive producer Dan Rather and director Adam Bolt, the co-writer and editor of the Oscar-winning film "Inside Job," comes the story of the biggest tech revolution of the 21st Century.  And it isn’t digital, it’s biological.  A breakthrough called CRISPR has given us unprecedented control over the basic building blocks of life.  It opens the door to curing diseases, reshaping the biosphere, and designing our own children.  The film is a provocative exploration of CRISPR’s far-reaching implications, through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it, the families it’s affecting, and the bioengineers who are testing its limits.  How will this new power change our relationship with nature?  What will it mean for human evolution?  To begin to answer these questions we must look back billions of years and peer into an uncertain future.  The film will be followed by a Q&A with UM Medical School Departments of Internal Medicine, Human Genetics, and Pediatrics and James V. Neel Distinguished University Professor David Ginsburg, MD and UM Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Professor Shobita Parthasarathy, PhD.

"Nobody Knows"

This film plays Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 PM at the Michigan as a part of the Art of the Camera Film Series sponsored by The University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies.  Inspired by a real-life incident of child abandonment, this piercing family drama is a testament to the everyday resilience of four young siblings left to survive on their own in a Tokyo apartment.  When young single mother Keiko leaves home to pursue a mysterious job and a new romance, 12-year-old Akira must look after his younger sisters and brother, keeping the household together as money dwindles and months pass without word.  With wrenching clarity and unvarnished lyricism, Hirokazu Kore-eda("Shoplifters") captures the precarious balancing act of hope and vigilance that sustains children forced to grow up much too quickly.  This screening will include a 10-minute introduction from a University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies lecturer about the featured cinematographer Yutaka Yamazaki.

Art of the Camera – Celebrating Japan’s great cinematographers Thursdays at 7:30 PM from January to April.


"The Traitor"

At the Michigan: This film tells the true story of Tommaso Buscetta, the man who brought down the Cosa Nostra.  In the early 1980’s, an all-out war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade.  Tommaso Buscetta, a made man, flees to hide out in Brazil.  Back home, scores are being settled and Buscetta watches from afar as his sons and brother are killed in Palermo, knowing he may be next.  Arrested and extradited to Italy by the Brazilian police, Buscetta makes a decision that will change everything for the Mafia: He decides to meet with Judge Giovanni Falcone and betray the eternal vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.


Jane Austen's beloved comedy about finding your equal and earning your happy ending, is reimagined in this delicious new film adaptation.  Handsome, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) is a restless queen bee without rivals in her sleepy little town.  In this glittering satire of social class and the pain of growing up, Emma must adventure through misguided matches and romantic missteps to find the love that has been there all along.  Also starring Bill NighyMia Goth, and Johnny Flynn


At the State: This film tells the story of self-made British billionaire Sir Richard McCreadie (played by Steve Coogan), whose retail empire is in crisis.  For 30 years, he has ruled the world of retail fashion – bringing the high street to the catwalk and the catwalk to the high street – but after a damaging public inquiry, his image is tarnished.  To save his reputation, he decides to bounce back with a highly publicized and extravagant party celebrating his 60th birthday on the Greek island of Mykonos.  A satire on the grotesque inequality of wealth in the fashion industry, the film sees McCreadie’s rise and fall through the eyes of his biographer, Nick (played by David Mitchell). 

"Portrait of a Lady on Fire"

Winner of The Queer Palm at Cannes Film Festival!  France, 1760. Marianne is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent.  Because she is a reluctant bride-to-be, Marianne arrives under the guise of companionship, observing Héloïse by day and secretly painting her by firelight at night.  As the two women orbit one another, intimacy and attraction grow as they share Héloïse's first moments of freedom.  Héloïse's portrait soon becomes a collaborative act of and testament to their love.  

"Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band" 

A confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robbie Robertson‘s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band.  The film is a moving story of Robertson’s personal journey, overcoming adversity and finding camaraderie alongside the four other men who would become brothers in music and who together made their mark on music history.  The film blends rare archival footage, photography iconic songs and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Bruce SpringsteenEric ClaptonVan MorrisonMartin ScorsesePeter GabrielTaj MahalDominique Robertson,Ronnie Hawkins, and more.  

"Jojo Rabbit"

Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress and Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay!  Writer-director Taika Waititi ("Thor: Ragnarok," "Hunt for the Wilderpeople") brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.  Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (played by Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism. 


Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best International Film and Winner of Best Director, International Film, Picture, and Original Screenplay!  Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale.  Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth.  And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else.  Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.  Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist, to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. We are also play a special black and white cut of this film! 


"A Quiet Place Part II"

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (played by Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence.  Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.



Based on the bestselling comic book, Vin Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation.  With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he's an unstoppable force -- stronger than ever and able to heal instantly.  But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too.  Now, Ray doesn't know what's real and what's not -- but he's on a mission to find out.

"The Hunt"

Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing.  They don't know where they are, or how they got there.  They don't know they've been chosen... for a very specific purpose... The Hunt.  In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, a group of globalist elites gathers for the very first time at a remote Manor House to hunt humans for sport.  But the elites' master plan is about to be derailed because one of the hunted, Crystal (played by Betty Gilpin, "GLOW"), knows The Hunters' game better than they do.  She turns the tables on the killers, picking them off, one by one, as she makes her way toward the mysterious woman (played by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank) at the center of it all.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Russ Collins is the executive director of Marquee Arts, the nonprofit that oversees the Michigan Theater and State Theater in Ann Arbor.
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