6th CINETOPIA Brings Film Fest Best to Southeast Michigan

May 31, 2017

The 6th annual Cinetopia film festival gets underway this week in Ann Arbor and Detroit. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley spoke with one of the Cinetopia organizers which doesn’t take submissions. Instead, the staff scours film festivals across the world, and a few festivals closer to home.


"Some of the best films from the best films festivals are happening in our own backyard." says Brian Hunter, director of programming for the Cinetopia Film Festival which runs June 1st thru June 11th. "You know, if we see a film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival that makes sense for us, or makes sense for our audience, we want to bring it in. I mean, the Ann Arbor Film Festival is a great film festival."

The documentary 12TH AND CLAIRMOUNT, about the 1967 Detroit riots and rebellion, is one such Cinetopia find, as originally screened at the Detroit Free Press Film Festival.

"You know, it's the [50th] anniversary of the Detroit uprising and that's actually a thread that we've been able to follow through the, sort of, zeitgeist of film that comes out here is this theme of uprising, just sort of across the board, you know? We heard it from our partners going into the festival this year, but we were sort of under-prepared for how it wasn't just in Detroit, that it was sort of universally in the zeitgeist. That the conversations about uprising were happening everywhere and specifically happening in cinema.

[Audio from a clip from the film 12TH AND CLAIRMOUNT]

A brief bit of the documentary about the 1967 Detroit uprising, 12TH AND CLAIRMOUNT, one of many films to be shown during the Cinetopia Film Festival. This year marks the 6th annual Cinetopia festival, but it is one that programming director Brian Hunter, who is also senior film programmer of Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater, Brian has had to contend with being down a few screens since the Michigan Theater’s sister cinema is being renovated.

"This year with the State Theatre not being opened, we have added the annex cinema at the Michigan Theater, it's a little 60-seat theater in the back. So that helps us recreate it, but you can't, you know, that's good real estate to lose the State Theatre. So we're excited for the State to hopefully finish up it's renovation this fall then open as a 4-screen multiplex and then use it next year and have seven wonderful, beautiful screens here in Ann Arbor. But it has made it more complex. It's just technology's advanced for cinema exhibition to DCP. You have to have a lot of DCP projectors and when you lose a theater like that, it does make it more difficult. But we'll survive this year and next year State will be better than it's ever been.

That term, DCP, or Digital Cinema Package is also one of the many conversations going on currently in the movie world, particularly as streaming providers like Amazon and Netflix are impacting the filmgoing experience.

'As long as there are teenagers willing to get away from their parents, the movies will always exist.'

"It's great that Netflix and Amazon exists. I'm a big believer that, you know,  if you're a kid in Iowa and your access to Jean-Luc Godard films is downloading the Jean-Luc Godard film, I want you to download every Jean-Luc Godard film. It's all about access to me, and if a great film like THE BIG SICK is going to be seen on Amazon or Netflix, and that's the only place it's going to be seen… I wish I could show it, I wish I could share it with my audience, but I'm just glad people are seeing it. I’ve jokingly said for a very long time, 'As long as there are teenagers willing to get away from their parents, the movies will always exist.'

As Brian Hunter, his hopes for the audiences of Cinetopia?

"I also hope people just take a chance! That's what festivals are all about, you know? I go to Sundance and I see 37 movies in six days, I don't like all of 'em, but it's, you know, you get a pass and you go see a movie and if you don't like it, walk you and go see something else. Part of it is just discovering something. Discovering what you like, or discovering what you don't like."

Brian Hunter is programmer of the Cinetopia Film Festival running June 1st through the 11th showing dozens of films across Ann Arbor and Detroit with tickets to individual films, or festival passes good across the 11 days of movies. Find more information online at cinteoptiafestival.org