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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, May 10, 2002

Short but sweet Short but sweet (May 10, 2002)

The 40th Ann Arbor Film Festival comes to Foothill College

by Tyler Hanley

You never know where you will find the next Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese -- both of whom ignited their careers by directing short films.

The process isn't easy -- a 16-millimeter short film can cost thousands of dollars and take years to shoot. And with big-budget Hollywood films produced every day, venues for short films are few and far between. But every so often, a film festival will give filmmakers the opportunity to display their works. Such works, featuring such diverse genres as animation and documentaries, are the specialty of the 40th Ann Arbor Film Festival.

A total of 440 short films were submitted to the film festival this year. Of those, only 16 were selected for the festival's nationwide tour, which kicked off on March 10 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Following stops in Ohio, Oregon, Michigan and Tennessee, the festival will screen this weekend at Foothill College.

Filmmakers from all across the country produced and directed short films in this year's festival -- from as far as Frankfurt, Germany to as near as San Francisco. Local radio station KFJC-FM will play host to the festival's pit stop at Foothill. It is the ninth year in a row the community college has acted as a local venue for the ever-growing festival, which began 40 years ago in Ann Arbor.

Created by filmmaker/artist George Manupelli, the festival is a showcase for independent and experimental filmmakers. The festival screens only 16-millimeter short films, which range in running time from two to 38 minutes and cover a wide variety of genres.

The following is an overview of the festival's highlights:

"For Our Man" New York director Kazuo Ohno tells the tale of an elderly writer attempting to pen his next captivating story. The writer reminisces about his own childhood and fantasizes about a grocery store stick-up gone awry, a bold do-gooder, and a child's hopeful penny sacrificed to a wishing well. The 25-minute narrative short won the prestigious Ken Burns Best of the Festival Award and the Screener's Choice for Narrative Integrity Award.

"Madame Winger Makes a Film: A Survival Guide to the 21st Century" New Orleans filmmaker Helen Hill utilizes both live action and animation to humorously assist viewers in understanding the myriad forms of filmmaking. Southern belle "Madame Winger" narrates this clever 10-minute short highlighting creative and simple ways to make a film. The short received an honorable mention at this year's festival.

"Tsipa & Volf" This sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic short documentary was photographed over a six-year period, from 1994 to 2000. Made by San Francisco documentarian Daniel Gamburg, the film follows a pair of elderly Jewish ÈmigrÈs from Latvia, Tsipa and Volf, as they reminisce about their 50-year relationship and how the atrocities of World War II affected their lives. Tragedy strikes when Volf develops Alzheimer's disease and Tsipa is forced to care for her ailing husband. The 19-minute short was awarded the Michael Moore Best Documentary Award.

"Vessel Wrestling" This unusual animated 13-minute short by Los Angeles filmmaker Lisa Yu was made using a wide array of claymation techniques. A woman stands in her kitchen as strange goings-on alter her life. The film received the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker.

"Transfixed" A young boy absorbs the beauty of a breezy day through the open window of a traveling car. Filmmaker Jason Britski of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was awarded an honorable mention for his two-minute experimental film, the shortest of the festival.

"Austria o5 2000" Austrian filmmaker Frederick Baker relates the protest against the right-wing movement in Vienna with his five-minute documentary. A variety of words and symbols in the form of graffiti decorate walls throughout Vienna, including the symbol "o5," a sign designed by an Austrian anti-Nazi resistance group during World War II. The film received an honorable mention .

"Deadpan" This experimental animated film was given the Prix de Varti Award for funniest film. Utilizing a combination of animation techniques and title cards, filmmaker Rick Raxlen of Victoria, British Columbia expresses his feelings about growing up as a meat- eater with this six-minute short.

"The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal" Documentarian Matt McCormick of Portland, Ore. highlights the unusual, but emerging art form of graffiti removal. This 16-minute experimental documentary was given the EMPA Work Life Award, for best addressing issues that pertain to working conditions, careers or the workplace.

"Erased" A poignant look at the aging process of Illinois filmmaker Jay Rosenstein's mother. The four-minute documentary was awarded the Marvin Felheim Special Jury Prize.

"Reaper, Sheeper, Treasure Seeker" Clay/puppet animated film featuring a band of treasure-hunting pirates, the grim reaper and one very hungry sheep. Filmmaker Dave Lieber of Massapequa, N.Y. was awarded an honorable mention for his 15-minute film.

What:The 40th Ann Arbor Film Festival, featuring 16 short films of various genres

Where: Foothill College's Appreciation Hall

When: Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. Each program lasts four hours.

Cost: Tickets are $5-$10 on a sliding scale and can be purchased at the Foothill College box office. Early arrival is recommended for Saturday viewers. All proceeds go to the filmmakers and KFJC-FM.

Info: Visit or call (650) 949-7099.


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