IMAGINE THAT

by Gerry Fialka 3-3-12

Flash ! AAFF incites collective potential for new perception.

The AAFF community of filmmakers and viewers are social engineers of perpetual motion machinery who have musicalized a symphony of cinema, needling somnambulism and actualizing the “abnihilization of the etym” (James Joyce’s words for making something out of nothing). The AAFF is a way of seeing the paradoxical exuberance of being through community. Founder George Manupelli nurtured growth via love, which I felt so deeply at a party to design program graphics as he sang Marlene Dietrich’s Falling In Love Again.

I’ve interviewed many filmmakers for my AAFF history book. When I asked Jay Rosenblatt about Chris Marker’s influence, he said that what really inspired him was how he imagined how Marker made Sans Soleil.

Craig Baldwin imagined that when he first got to Ann Arbor for the Festival the MC5 would be kickin’ out the jams on the streets in raucous righteous revolution.

I imagined that the screening of Willard Small’s controversial Disco Dog would cause riots in the lobby of the Michigan Theater. Small radically combined Un Chien Andalou and bloody Vietnam execution footage. It had previously flipped viewers out at the 8mm Festival, so I encouraged him to blow it up to 16mm.

Who could imagine?…

Dental hygiene films causing dilemmas.

Seeing a filmmaker shoot his foot on screen to get out of the draft (Selective Service).

Fish hooks taped onto celluloid.

Iconic hippie stripper Pat Olesko blending performance art, costume design and live interaction with her filmic self.

The Velvet Underground, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Blue Gene Tyranny, Friends Roadshow, Arwulf and my wife Suzy Williams tearing the roof off the pre-show suckers.

Rubber stamping body parts as graphic design for the program, next to listings supporting the anti-war movement and the Black Panthers.

Learning from Frank Mouris that Marshall McLuhan’s pard Tony Schwartz played a big role in the success of Frank Film.

Pat O’Neill’s films consistently recalling “the memory of image,” and asking the question “Is the screen an illusion or an object?”

Former teen sports writer Craig Baldwin reading one too many copies of Covert Action Bulletin to Bruce Connerize and invent a new genre, the fake-fake documentary Tribulation 99 (and winning).

Coleman Miller fusing Tex Avery and Ernie Kovacs to create Bruce Conner’s favorite fake experimental film Uso Justo (and winning). Both Craig and Coleman were pulled from the “time permits” list (the kind way of saying the reject pile).

Revelatory Bill Brown, who combines semiotic smarts with nomadic long take contemplations, would be reading Finngeans Wake out loud at my AAFF workshop.

Now Hollywood pro Gus Van Sant getting zero out of eight votes in the 70’s when I was a pre-screening committee member.

Sally Cruikshank’s Quasi at the Quackadero phantasmagorically hybridizing Betty Boop and psychedelicness evoking Jordan Belson’s “Early in life I experimented with peyote, LSD and so on. But in many ways my films are ahead of my own experience. The new art and other forms of expression reveal the influence of mind-expansion. And finally we reach the point where there virtually is no separation between science, observation and philosophy.” Sally duly exemplifies that combining kaleidoscopic control and “that never happened to me” chaos is one of the keys to the Ann Arbor zeitgeist.

Ivan Krall’s silent 8mm footage of Iggy Pop on the big screen at the Michigan Theater in all its sweating swirlingness.

Peter Wilde spawning Tom Bray’s dedication to accurate aspect ratio occupation.

Curt MacDowell & George Kuchar being the darlings of the Fest for years, then having their epic wall-to-wall K-Y gel masterpiece Thundercrack rejected.

Seeing the crane shots of the Porno Oscars in Las Vegas at the documentary on censorship pioneer Larry Flynt and wondering why this just did not seem to fit at AAFF?

Zooming through Paris in Lelouch’s Rendezvous.

Loving and lodging in the AAFF parallel universe of Robert Smithson’s: “What I would like to do is build a cinema in a cave or an abandoned mine, and film the process of its construction. That film would be the only film shown in the cave. The projection booth would be made of crude timbers, the screen carved out of a rock wall and painted white, the seats could be boulders. It would be truly ‘underground’ cinema.”

George Manupelli, who is still active as a filmmaker, poet, collagist and political/environmental activist, making Film For Hooded Projector and evoking the cosmic giggle ala the Duchampian inquiry of making art that is not art.

Who could imagine? WE COULD, WE CAN, WE WILL.

We can all imagine what director Woody Sempliner learned from George when they stood behind the screen at Old A&D and saw second sight, projection of/on projection, a tetradic flip into Gaugin’s questions: “Where have we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”

Who could imagine that George Manupelli’s vision would inspire 50 years of community exploring the mysteries of art? His “The things you think you can do are the things you can do the best of all” lives. Thanks George !

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