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Cinema Chat: 'Mama Africa,' 'Picture A Scientist,' 'Ay Mariposa,' And More

Michigan Theater
Wikipedia Media Commons

Many theaters still have their doors closed, but we can still have a summer movie season!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins about all of the new films and special screenings that can view right from your home theater this weekend.


Order online and get your favorite Michigan Theater concessions safely via curbside pick-up under the marquee!  Orders must be submitted before 3:00 PM the day of pick-up.  Go to “michtheater.org

The Michigan and State Theaters are preparing to open – in a socially distanced, very limited capacity manner – for the July 4 weekend.  HOWEVER – The Governor must allow it and we need to be triple sure we are ready and the theater’s operations are as safe as possible.  Stay tuned . . .


"Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba" -- OPENS FRIDAY

Miriam Makeba was one of the first African musicians who won international stardom and whose music was always anchored in her traditional South African roots.  Miriam Makeba was forced into exile in 1959.  She sang for John F. Kennedy, performed with Harry Belafonte and Nina Simone, was married to Hugh Masekela and also Stokely Carmichael.  Her life was tumultuous.  She always stood for truth and justice.  She fought for the oppressed most importantly for black Africans, as a campaigner against apartheid.  She died November 2008 after a concert in Italy.

Mika Kaurismäki’s documentary, traces fifty years of her music and her performing life.  Through rare archive footage of her performances and through interviews with her contemporaries we discover the remarkable journey of Miriam Makeba.

https://vimeo.com/413760178">"Picture a Scientist" -- AN OFFICIAL SELECTION OF THE 2020 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

This documentary chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists.  Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights.  Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries – including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists – who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.  With two opportunities to join a Virtual Q&A:

"Ay Mariposa"

This film tells a story of three characters in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas whose lives are upended by plans to build a US-Mexico border wall.  As the director of the National Butterfly Center, Marianna Trevino Wright has become a leader of wall resistance in the Valley, a position that has resulted in violent threats from pro-wall factions and an emotional odyssey as she tries to navigate the ever-shifting sands of border policy.  Zulema Hernandez, a life-long migrant worker, immigrant and great grandmother, has been a dedicated advocate for all migrants, both wild and human-kind.  Meanwhile, the butterfly, La Mariposa, fights its own daily battle for survival in a landscape where more than 95 percent of its habitat is long gone and much of what remains lies directly in the path of the wall.

  • Join a Q&A and discussion by faculty and staff from U-M SEAS (School of Environment And Sustainability) on Friday, June 19 at at 7:00 PM - Register to join.

"Marona’s Fantastic Tale"

The sixth feature length animated film from acclaimed director Anca Damian, this touching film chronicles the journey of a stray dog through a succession of wildly different owners.  The film’s animation technique is colorful, spirited and pushes the medium into new directions, while its intimate story will strike a chord with anyone who has shared a special bond with a canine companion.

"Corpus Christi"

Oscar-nominee for Best International Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards!

The story of a 20-year-old Daniel who experiences a spiritual transformation while living in a Youth Detention Center.  He wants to become a priest but this is impossible because of his criminal record.  When he is sent to work at a carpenter’s workshop in a small town, on arrival he dresses up as a priest and accidentally takes over the local parish.


Cocktail Cinema -- TUESDAY, JUNE 16 ON ZOOM

Like cocktails?  Like to talk about classic movies?  Hosted by Russ Collins, Deb Polich, and Alan Collins

This Premium Tuesday cocktail party will celebrate classic films from the 1970s!  Russ and Deb will join you, with cocktails mixed by Alan Collins, Bar Artist and Sommelier for Paesano Restaurant, broadcasting via Zoom from the wonderful Art Deco lobby of the State Theatre.

Admission is FREE for all members and non-members, but you must sign up in advance.  May your spirits be lifted as you watch the films and, then on Tuesday, lift the spirits in your cocktail glass and join in on the lively discussion!  Participating in Cocktail Cinema is easy and fun!

  • Step 1 – Watch "What’s Up Doc?" (1972) and "High Anxiety" (1977) on your own time, convenient to your schedule, before the Tuesday’s start of Cocktail Cinema.  Both films are available to rent online.
  • Step 2 – RSVP online via Zoom.
  • Step 3 – On Tuesday, June 16 at 7:00 PM, mix up classic cocktails in your own home and be open to discussing these film classics with Russ and Deb.  Dressing up is like the era is encouraged but not required!  Want to just join the discussion?  Pop into the Zoom call between 7:30-8:30 PM.

About Our Hosts

Russ Collins is the long-time Executive Director of the Michigan and State Theaters.  Deb Polich is the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance and Artrain.

"Plan 9 From Outer Space" -- VIRTUAL WATCH PARTY SATURDAY, JUNE 13 AT 9:05 PM

Join our staff and online community for a Virtual Watch Party of Ed Wood’s film, “one of the worst movies ever to disgrace the screen”.

Find us on Twitch where we will stream the film from Amazon Prime (you must have a Prime account to join) and chat about the film as it plays.  We will present classic trailers and an introduction before the feature which will begin at 9:05 PM.

Black Voices, Black Filmmakers

Three great documentary films:

Also, not to be missed:

Based on the powerful and thought-provoking true story of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice.  After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs.  Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson).  One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the main testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie.  In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, as well as overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them.


"Up from the Streets: New Orleans - The City of Music"

A film looking at the culture of New Orleans thru the lens of music.  Hosted by Oscar nominee and 6-time Grammy Winner Terence Blanchard.  The film tells the story of how music and culture intersected to create a distinct form of expression. 

"The Mindfulness Movement"

How mindfulness – the state of focusing on the present moment without judgment – is the key to creating a healthier and happier world.

The Mindfulness Movement Q&A – Join us for a LIVE Q&A on Zoom with filmmaker Rob Beemer on June 11 at 7:00 PM.  Go to the Michigan Theater website for the Q&A.

"The Motions of Stillness" -- AN MTF ORIGINAL

Watch this original film from Jared Van Eck, Michigan Theater Technical Director, and local musician.  Inspired by the snowfall in March and isolation due to the pandemic, this film aims to encourage the viewer to still themselves, focus on deep breaths, and reflect on the simple beauty of falling snow.

All footage was shot on April 15, 2020, in a downtown nature preserve on a cold snowy day in Ann Arbor, MI – 24 days into our COVID-19 stay-at-home order. 


Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking at Sundance Film Festival 2020!

Renowned horror writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) is on the precipice of writing her masterpiece when the arrival of newlyweds (rising stars Logan Lerman and Odessa Young) upends her meticulous routine and heightens tensions in her already tempestuous relationship with her philandering husband (Michael Stuhlbarg).  The middle-aged couple, prone to ruthless barbs and copious afternoon cocktails, begins to toy mercilessly with the naive young couple at their door.            


Abel Ferrara’s first dramatic feature since 2014’s "Pasolini" reteams the filmmaker and his frequent lead Willem Dafoe, who delivers a career-best performance as the title character, an older American expat living in Rome with his young wife and their daughter.  Disoriented by his past misgivings and subsequent, unexpected blows to his self-esteem, Tomasso wades through this late chapter of his life with an increasingly impaired grasp on reality as he prepares for his next film.  This film is easily Ferrara and Dafoe’s most personal and engrossing collaboration to date, a delicately surrealistic work of autofiction marked by the keen sensitivity of two consummate artists.


Arab Film Series Online: Arab World Shorts Program

Emerging from the Arab Film Festival, the Arab Film Series Online brings a wide range of new and classic films each week for free.

National Theatre at Home

Join us every Thursday for much-loved National Theatre Live productions, free to stream on YouTube for seven days!  Enjoy world-class theatre online while they are unfortunately closed.  For more information, visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home.  

Penny Stamps Lecture Series

The series continues online with video presentations as allowed by special arrangement with the speakers: check out the latest presentations below.  In a new partnership designed to keep the community curious, engaged, and connected, the entire Penny Stamps Speaker Series video archive is also available to stream online through Detroit Public Television.  DPTV will also livestream select Penny Stamps Speaker Series events Fridays at 8 PM.  For more information, visit stamps.umich.edu/stamps.  

Met Opera Streams

During this extraordinary and difficult time, the Met hopes to brighten the lives of our audience members even while our stage is dark.  Each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being made available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 PM until 6:30 PM the following day.  The schedule will include outstanding complete performances from the past 14 years of cinema transmissions, starring all of opera’s greatest singers.  

Theatreworks Anywhere

TheaterWorks Anywhere aims to give young people a fun and active way to use their imaginations while learning the process of creating theater and adapting a book or story for the stage.  We’ll show you video clips from TheaterWorksUSA productions, take you behind the scenes with our artists, and provide theater activities and crafts for you to make and share with us!  For this content, visit the TheaterWorks Anywhere site at twusa.org/shows-artists/on-tour/anywhere.

For more information on virtual screenings and content available, visit michtheater.org/screenings.  Stay safe.  Stay strong.

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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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