Ann Arbor Film Festival – Reviewed

Edge Hill brings the legendary Ann Arbor Film Festival to the North West, something of a coup, says Rachael Jones…

Short films aren’t what they used to be. For every 10-minute masterpiece there are forty versions of YouTube smash LOLcat, or whatever it’s called (we admit to thinking it’s funny, but you know what we’re talking about).

Lucky, then, that Edge Hill University recently gave short film fans something to shout about, bringing eight flicks from the hugely influential Ann Arbor Film Festival, now in it’s 50th year, to Blighty for the first time. Owen Evans, Senior Film and Television Lecturer at Edge Hill and the man who made it all happen said: “These aren’t the sort of films you see every day; this is a festival that prides itself on being avant-garde. It has something like 15, 20 categories, all for shorts.”

We’re straight in at the avant-garde end with Nulepsy, the tale of a man constantly seized by the urge to be naked. Yep, that really is a nekkid old dude on a skateboard in the opening shot. And in the middle. And an equally starkers yoof version at the end.

Just a few minutes later it’s all over and we’re straight into our second short of the night, Home Movie. This was one of our favourites, as a mother and her two children meander about their evening. It’s a pretty standard dinner-bathtime-bed sketch (no late night Xbox in this household), but while Mama bustles around getting everybody ready for the Land of Nod, the kids pass the time with some pretty heavy questions. Life, death, religion, love and the breakdown of family life are all covered in that ‘but why, Mummy?’ way that only kids can get away with. Gorgeous.


Mechanism of Spring. The only animated flick in the programme and one of the most fantastically odd things we have ever seen in our lives. Deer folding T-shirts? A young boy rubbing insects on his nipples and then inexplicably transforming into a turtle? Utterly mental, but we loved it.

Now for something a little more familiar – teenagers grinding up against each other in a club. This is I Touched Her Legs, a treatise of young life on what appears to be a trailer park, somewhere in Texas. We get what it’s driving at, but eh. It just didn’t do it for us, soz.

Now we love a bit of people-watching, so Pink was right up our alley. CCTV! With commentary! We listen while two faceless ladies pass judgement on passers-by – interesting, as quite a lot of people would probably do the same to them. You know, because they’re in a brothel and all that. Such a simple concept, but we’ve got to be honest; the idea that everyone in the world is just walking around judging everyone else makes us kinda sad.

Next up is Part 1, the most obviously bizarre film in the set. It’s a mish-mash of text, speech, action…everything but the kitchen sink (there might have been one there if we’re honest, we may have missed it). It. Is. Nuts. No other word for it.

Finally, the movie we’ve been looking forward to putting into words – Jan Villa (pictured), the Mumbai-set winner of Ann Arbor’s Ken Burns Award for Best in Fest. Shot in the city after 2005’s devastating floods, the film uses images of nature’s violence to convey decay, destruction and neglect, as well as taking a more personal tack. What happens to families when home is destroyed? See it if you can.

Our final film of the evening is Aliki, the story of a flamingo visiting Cyprus from Iran (apparently this happens a lot in winter). Alas, it’s not much of a holiday – there’s not much food to be had and there are a more than a few dead birds lying around. The final shot is of our guy trudging off into the distance, by himself, feet sinking into the swampy sand. Short, silent and oddly heartbreaking.

Rachael Jones

Posted on 15/02/2012 by thedoublenegative