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Cinema Chat: 'Ella Fitzgerald,' 'Kinshasa Makambo,' 'The Last Tree,' And More

Michigan Theater
Michigan Theater

The movie world is still at your fingertips, so what's to come this week?  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair gets connected with Michigan and State Theater executive director Russ Collins to discuss the newest films and special screenings available this weekend through the Michigan Theater's Virtual Movie Palace.


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.”  Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday between 5-7 PM (order by 3pm day of). 

Due to weekend street closures, Friday pick-up has been moved to E. Washington, and Saturday is walk-up only on E. Liberty. 

Please note: Curbside Concessions will be closed 4th of July Weekend.


“Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things”

Tracing the story of Ella Fitzgerald’s life, this documentary film explores how her music became a soundtrack for a tumultuous century.

Join us for a Q&A on Sunday, June 28 at 7:00 PM, featuring producer Reggie Nadelson and renowned author and music critic Will Friedwald.  Register here.

“Kinshasa Makambo”

A 2019 Cinetopia Film Festival Selection!  In 2015, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, sought a constitutional amendment that would allow him to be elected president for a third time.  This film documents the resulting demonstrations.

https://vimeo.com/425823231">“The Last Tree”

Directed by Shola Amoo, this film is the semi-autobiographical story of Femi (as a child played by newcomer Tai Golding), a British bo of Nigerian heritage who, after being fostered in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner-city London to live with his birth mother.

“One Small Step Shorts”

Embark on a roller coaster of imagination and possibility in this https://vimeo.com/shortstv">ShortsTV-presented compilation of twelve new and acclaimed, family-friendly animation short films.


Presented by the Cinetopia Film Festival and Ann Arbor Jewish Film Festival.  Director Boaz Yakin’s dreamy film, with choreography from a former member of Israeli dance company Batsheva Dance Company, tells a story that is timeless, universal, and yet up-to-the-moment.

“Pioneers of Queer Cinema”

Celebrate Pride Month with this newly restored trio of classics from the early days of queer cinema, each far ahead of its time.  Rent each film separately, or purchase a pass for all three for $15.00!


Spike Lee talks about“Do The Right Thing”

AFI Movie Club is partnering with Universal Pictures to offer free rentals of this film on major digital platforms June 22-29.  Watch a live Q&A with Spike Lee on Thursday, June 25 at 8pm ET on AFI's YouTube channel.

Special “Shirley”Screening w/ Q&A

Saturday, June 27 at 7:00 PM Q&A featuring star Elisabeth Moss and director Josephine Decker.

Purchase a ticket for $12, and be sure to choose the Michigan Theater as “your theater,” and 50% of proceeds will benefit us!

Cocktail Cinema -- TUESDAY, JUNE 30 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 "Clueless" and "The Big Lebowski" 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 30 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. 


The story of a Lost Boy and refugee from Sudan, Guor Maker, who went on to compete as a marathoner in the last two Summer Olympics.  “Runner is about the ability to hope and the capacity to thrive even after enduring the most oppressive circumstances. It’s about letting the pain of our past propel us into turning negative circumstances into something positive.” – director Bill Gallagher

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.  The purpose of this festival is to raise money for independent movie theaters, with the help of everyone’s cats.

"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.  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.

"Sometimes Always Never"

A man searches tirelessly for his missing son who he has not seen in years.  When a body is located, the entire family’s life is turned upside-down and they must all learn how to reconnect with one another.  Starring Bill Nighy, who spent years searching for his missing son.

"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.


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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