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Cinema Chat: 'Runner,' 'Sometimes Always Never,' Quarantine Cat Film Festival, And More

Michigan Theater
Bradley Pritts
Michigan Theater Facebook

It won't be long before we can set foot in our favorite movie houses.  Still, there's a lot of good flicks available for home viewing.  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's Mat Hopson gets in touch with Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins to discuss the latest films and special screenings coming to the comfort of 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



When he was only eight, Guor Mading Maker (known as Guor Marial) ran from capture in war-torn Sudan to eventually seek safety in the U.S.  In his new life, Maker began running again, participating in high school track and field and eventually becoming a sensation and qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.  But because the newly formed South Sudan was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, Maker had to fight to compete independently, refusing to run for Sudan and taking a stand against its oppression.

Runner depicts Maker’s difficult and triumphant journey from refugee to world-renowned athlete, told in intimate interviews with gorgeously animated flashbacks of Guor’s upbringing and culminating in a heart-wrenching reunion with his parents after a 20-year separation.  His story is a distinctly inspirational one in which the indomitable human spirit emerges against all odds.

Quarantine Cat Film Festival

This compilation reel from over 1,200 submissions brings together the cutest, funniest, bravest and most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.  Amateur filmmakers from around the world filmed their beloved cats during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.  This compilation reel from over 1,200 submissions brings together the cutest, funniest, bravest and most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.

The purpose of this festival is to raise money for independent movie theaters, with the help of everyone’s cats. So not only will you get to watch a fantastic cat movie, but through your ticket purchase, cats will help save independent cinema.  Ticket revenue will help ensure these locally owned, independently run cinemas can survive the COVID-19 crisis until reopening.

The winners haven’t been announced yet.  The videos will be judged in four categories: Cutest, Funniest, Bravest, and Most Loving.  There will be a Best Of Show award as well.  The videos will be judged by cat experts who are very opinionated.  The cash prize amounts will be determined closer to the film’s release.  Winners will be notified before the release of the film and identified in the film.
"Sometimes Always Never"

Alan (Bill Nighy) is a stylish tailor with moves as sharp as his suits.  However, he’s spent years searching for his missing son Michael, who stormed out over a game of Scrabble and hasn’t been seen since.  With a body to identify and his family torn apart, Alan must repair his relationship with his youngest son.  Worst of all, he must solve the mystery of an online player who might just be Michael–and find the right words before it’s too late.

https://vimeo.com/344470268">"Picture of His Life"

Presented by the Cinetopia Film Festivaland Ann Arbor Jewish Film Festival.  Yom Kippur War veteran Amos Nachoum is one of the greatest underwater photographers of all time, and has a special affinity for apex predators—he has captured great white sharks, giant crocodiles, anacondas, and killer whales in breathtaking close-up.

The film tells the personal backstory behind Amos Nachoum’s long-standing obsession with the polar bear.  It follows Nachoum’s quest to become the first still photographer to photograph the world’s largest land carnivore, while swimming with one in open water, without any protection.  As he prepares for his biggest and most dangerous mission in the Canadian Arctic, Nachoum faces past traumas in an intimate story of dedication, sacrifice, and personal redemption.  The journey begins in Israel in the 1950s and involves the lasting emotional impact of military combat in the Yom Kippur war.

"Reggae Boyz"

Plagued with poverty and violence, Jamaica tries to inspire its populace by qualifying their national soccer team – the “Reggae Boyz” – for the 2014 World Cup.  On the soccer field Jamaica’s big dream comes crashing to a halt. After a devastating losing streak, the coaching staff resigns.  To revitalize the mission, Jamaica hires the colorful Winfried Schäfer, a journeyman coach who is known in his native Germany as ‘Winnie Wahnsinn’ (‘Wacky Winnie’).  Seeking knowledge about the local culture and sensing how much music and soccer are intertwined in Jamaica, Winnie meets the local newcomer band ‘Nomaddz’ and visits Bunny Wailer – the lone survivor of ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’.  Bunny introduces him to the ‘benefits of herb’ and suggests that his team’s fortunes will change if he put Tuffy, an amateur player with dreams of playing on the national team, on the team.  Winnie complies and is promptly rewarded when Tuffy scores a last-minute goal that keeps the campaign alive a little longer.

While Jamaica’s World Cup dreams don’t come true in the end, Tuffy’s goal and his courage to keep a dream alive, against all odds, inspires Jamaicans of all stripes and sets the national team on a path to success that culminates with Winnie coaching Jamaica to their first-ever Gold Cup Final.


Cocktail Cinema -- TUESDAY, JUNE 23 7:00-8:30 PM

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 "Heathers" and "The Big Chill" 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 23 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.

Black Voices, Black Filmmakers

Three great documentary films:


"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 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. 

"Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba"

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" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(22, 141, 217); line-height: inherit; background-image: initial; background-position: initial; background-size: initial; background-repeat: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial;">"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:

  • Wednesday, June 24 at 7:00 PM moderated by our staff with with Director Sharon Shattuck, a U-M alum, and on-screen subject Dr. Jane Willenbring - Register to join.

"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.

"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.


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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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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