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Cinema Chat: Report From Sundance 2021, 'A Glitch In The Matrix,' And More

Michigan Theater
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In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins about the latest films now available to view online in the comfort of own home.  Plus, the Michigan Theater Foundation's director of programming and communications, Sarah Escalante, joins the chat to share her experiences with this year's virtual Sundance Film Festival.


Films Watched = 31

How Sarah's Sundance Experience Was Different This Year from Last Year

  • It was 7 days instead of 11 – however, she watched the same number of films as I did last year and could have fit in at least 25 more.
  • Life-work balance was better, but the connection and buzz/energy of being among colleagues, friends, and movie fans was missing – although she did get to share the experience with her fiancé!

Favorite Dramatic and Documentary Films

  • Our Cinetopia 2019 motto was “It’s Hard Work Watching All Those Films” – and it really is!
  • Lots of stories surrounding Black voices, Female voices, gender injustices, needs for education and police reform, and life on and in the water.

  1. "Coda"
    • U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, Directing Award: US Dramatic, U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble Cast, Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic
    • Coda (Child of Deaf Adults) is a coming-of-age story of a young woman and only hearing member in a deaf family, and does a wonderful job of connecting with what it means to be in a family and also be your own person.

  1. "Summer of Soul (…Or When, The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)"
    • U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary and Audience Award: U.S. Documentary
    • Directorial film debut of already legendary musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson from the Roots
    • Brings to light for the first-time moments from 45-hours of basement-found footage from the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts attended by 300,000 the same summer as Woodstock. Radiates gems of Black history, culture, fashion, and music that was put away and forgotten for 50 years – a young Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, to name just a few of the many, many musical icons that appear!

Other films she's still thinking about:

  • "MY NAME IS PAULI MURRAY," from the directors behind RBG, who rightfully honor a legal mind so ahead of their time and an American that we should all know and thank for laying the ground work for so much of current thinking about race and gender equity.

  • "TRY HARDER!," a documentary that that really puts you into the anxiety and pressures felt by many of today’s high schoolers as they journey through the American college application process. 

  • "PLAYING WITH SHARKS,"a beautiful tribute to Australian marine conservationist and fearless diver Valerie Taylor. While many of us do not know her name, we have seen her thrilling and terrifying underwater films and photographs made famous in the movie Jaws.  We follow her transformation from an early age as the pretty blond top ranked woman spear fisher to a dedicated marine conservationist and educator of the value and need for sharks and all marine life.


The Michigan and State Theater’s management is confident that safety protocols implemented when the theaters were briefly reopened in October makes customers as safe as possible when they are in these lovely historic theaters.

Individuals and Organizations May Rent the State or Michigan Theaters for Private Screenings

Currently, the theaters are available for private rental use by any interested person or organization who agrees to abide by government, health department and the theater’s own established health and safety guidelines.

Reopening for Public Screenings and Events

The Theater will reopen in February and March for some cinema and performing arts events presented at both the State and Michigan.  There will be:

  • Films acknowledging Black History Month (films TBA) – Feb. 20 & 27
  • AWARD WORTHY – February 12-14 –"Minari"
  • AWARD WORTHY – Coming soon – "Nomadland"
  • An Award Worthy Film Series – Continues through April – Films celebrating 2020 best films
  • A HERO FOR A NIGHT, a Valentine’s Day screening celebrating the Michigan Theater’s 93rd anniversary and a rare opportunity to see the film that opened the Michigan Theater.
  • Program to celebrate State Theatre’s 79th anniversary in the middle of March ("The Fleet’s In")
  • Occasional concerts, lectures, educational programs, etc.


Order in advance and pick up at the Michigan Theater between 5-7 PM.  Walk-ups also welcome.


Do you have a Michigan or State love story?  Was your first date at a midnight screening, or did your meet-cute involve jostling for the shared armrest?  We want to hear about it!  Email your story to feedback@michtheater.org for the chance to be featured on the big screen!


Direct from Sundance: "A Glitch in the Matrix"

This Friday, we have a virtual take on our popular Direct from Sundance event with the opening of a documentary which asks, “What if this is all just a simulation?”


Let’s talk Oscars. Early in January, we launched a virtual series showcasing a new international feature every week that’s been officially selected to represent its home nation at the 2021 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film.

Available Now!

"Blizzard of Souls"- Latvia’s Official Submission

After losing his mother and his home, Arturs finds some consolation in joining the army.  However, war is nothing like he imagined. this is the highest grossing Latvian film in decades and the first narrative feature from documentary director Dzintars Dreibergs.  Based on the novel by Aleksandrs Grīns describing his experience as a rifleman in World War I, and later in the Latvian War of Independence, it’s a film that tells the expected “war is hell” narrative but expands beyond that to explore a story of growth, both in its protagonist and in the greater Latvian people. 

"Another Round" - Denmark’s Official Submission

Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.

"Collective"- Romania’s Official Submission

This film is a gripping, real-time docu-thriller that follows a heroic team of journalists as they expose shocking corruption in the Romanian national health-care system.

"My Little Sister"- Switzerland’s Official Submission

Lisa has bid goodbye to her ambitions as a playwright and the Berlin arts scene and now lives in Switzerland with her husband, who runs an international school.  When her twin brother falls ill, she returns to Berlin.

"You Will Die at Twenty" - Sudan’s Official Submission

Shortly after Muzamil was born, the village’s holy man predicts that he will die at age 20.  Muzamil’s father can’t stand the curse and leaves home.  Sakina raises her son as a single mother, overly protective.  One day, Muzamil turns 19.

"True Mothers" - Japan’s Official Submission

A woman with an adopted child is contacted unexpectedly by the child’s birth mother.

Opens Friday, February 5

"Two of Us (Deux)" - France’s Official Submission

Starring legendary German actress Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallieras two retired women who have been secretly in love for decades.


"A Hero for a Night" -- SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14 AT 3:00 PM

The silent-era romantic comedy that opened the Michigan Theater in January 1928, will be presented this year as our special Valentine’s Day presentation, Sunday, February 14 at 3:00 PM.  A limited number of seats will be put on sale for Michigan Theater members next week.  Any remaining tickets will be put on sale to the general public on Monday, February 8.

Hiram Hastings (Glenn Tryon), who drives a taxi at an eastern United States summer resort, wants to become an aviator.  He takes a correspondence course in aviation and builds his own aircraft, hoping to enter a race from New York to Europe.  Samuel Sloan (Burr McIntosh), a wealthy soap manufacturer, arrives with his daughter Mary (Patsy Ruth Miller), a trained nurse (Ruth Dwyer), and his confidential secretary (Lloyd Whitlock), the last two secretly plotting to get Sloan's holdings.  Hiram, infatuated with Mary, crashes a banquet in honor of a visiting French aviator and takes it upon himself to be the speaker of the evening. Although he is ejected, Hiriam perseveres.  Mary learns of the plot against her father and with the aid of Hiram and his aircraft sets out for New York, but Hiram pilots them across the ocean into Russia and there makes a forced landing.  The success of the flight, however, saves the Sloan fortune.

The film will be presented with musical accompaniment on the Michigan Theater’s recently restored theater organ played by our primary organist Andi Rogers, who will create and play an original musical score.  A short newsreel from the period about first solo transatlantic flight by the Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindbergh, will be part of the program.  Before the programs starts the pre-show program will be short interviews with people who have met and fallen in love with and because of the Michigan Theater.  The emcee for this festive Valentine’s Day and Michigan Theater anniversary event will be Michigan Theater Foundation Executive Director, Russ Collins.

If the limited number of ticket sell out (320 ticket will be sold for a 1600 seat auditorium to assure proper social distancing), the event will be made virtually on the Michigan Theater website.



Steve Zahn stars as Troy, a troubled but well-intentioned father who has recently separated from his wife Sally (Jillian Bell).  Aghast at Sally’s refusal to let their trans son Joe (Sasha Knight) live as his authentic self, Troy runs off with Joe into the Montana wilderness.  Meanwhile police detective (Ann Dowd) pursues them, but her resolve about the case is tested the more she learns about Joe’s family.  This film, a modern day Western from director Anna Kerrigan, is a tale of rescue, family betrayal and a father and son on the run.  Westerns are perhaps the most clearly identifiable genre in all of film.  Cowboys on horses, wide landscapes, and a horn-filled score that trots along with the characters.  But it’s a genre steeped in very generic ideas of masculinity, which have aged poorly and inspired much discussion over the past decades.  In this film, from director Anna Kerrigan, we see a more nuanced vision of the genre and its take on masculinity, with a modern depiction of its perception in society and the nuclear family.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, 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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