Move over Cannes, Toronto and Sundance. This weekend, Detroit plays host to the first Detroit and Windsor International Festival of Film. Co-chaired by Tom McPhee of First Light Contemporary Releasing and Wayne Indyk, director of the Detroit Filmmaker's Coalition, this elaborately organized mega-event features 80-plus narrative, documentary, experimental and animated features and shorts, some submitted from as far afield as Zimbabwe, Mexico, Canada and the Netherlands. It also offers a series of related workshops and conferences on topics such as directing, screenwriting and diversity in film.
The festival begins Thursday evening, November 5th at the Detroit Opera House with a Hollywood-style gala tribute to Birmingham author Elmore "Dutch" Leonard. The audience will be treated to clips from films based on Leonard's work, a question and answer session, and a reading from his latest novel Be Cool. Afterward, people can party on with Leonard and pals at Hamtramck's Motor Lounge.
Festival submissions will be screened day and night, Friday through Sunday, at St. Andrew's Hall. Highlights from these selections include The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati, a "hysterical mockumentary" about a man of questionable sanity who befriends a group of filmmakers. Lead actor Alan Williams was nominated for a Genie (the Canadian "Oscar"), and the film weaves together a unique blend of rock 'n' roll, rebellion and pop culture.
"Too bad you can't live your life in hindsight," notes one of the characters in Blue Days Lost, a wistful drama graced by gorgeous cinematography that's about three young Texans in their late teens coming to terms with friendship, sexuality and parents, in a world where they're afforded an excess of freedom without any clear guidelines or boundaries.
Searching for Tony Joe follows four twenty-something Texans on an odyssey through the deep South on the trail of enigmatic roots musician Tony Joe White, remembered by only a few for the 1969 hit "Polk Salad Annie."
The hyperkinetic, ever-probing camera never stops moving in Bostonian Todd Verow's Little Shots of Happiness, an existential excursion which follows bored office worker Frances as she drifts through a series of random, after-hours encounters while living out of a tiny suitcase she keeps stashed beneath her desk.
Out of the Loop is an insider's look at Chicago's indie music scene, preceded on the Saturday program by Blues, a portrait of the men and women keeping the blues alive in Detroit.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, 1515 Broadway screens the "All You Can Eat Smorgasbord of Michigan Films," while on Sunday the Fine Arts Theatre will show a program called "Films By and For a Diverse Ethnic Community," a series of films exploring African American, Latino and Asian American experiences. All workshops and conferences take place at the Bankle Building (2944 Woodward) and parties follow Saturday and Sunday's screenings at St. Andrews Hall.