Cinetopia 2018: Michigan filmmakers come home

Still from "Savage Youth," a bold, brutal, brilliant film from director Michael Curtis Johnson. (Credit: Cinetopia Film Festival)

ANN ARBOR – In just a little over two weeks, the 2018 Cinetopia Film Festival will begin with many films that are sure to excite cinephiles and local audiences alike. The festival runs May 31 through June 10 at venues spanning from Ann Arbor to Detroit and, as with previous years, will feature several local filmmakers in attendance to answer questions about their work.

Last week, we wrote an article previewing Qasim Basir's "A Boy. A Girl. A Dream: Love on Election Night" (screening June 1 and 10), which you can read in its entirety here. The other local filmmakers who will be in attendance this year will include Joel Potrykus, whose film "Relaxer" screens June 7 and 8; Michael Curtis Johnson and his film "Savage Youth," which screens June 2 and 3; Meryl Goldsmith, who executive produced "Love, Gilda," which we also wrote about and screens June 10 as the closing night film; Thomas Morgan, whose film "Soufra" screens June 9; and several crew members from "The Big House" (screening June 1 and 10), all of whom will be announced in the coming weeks.

Potrykus is a favorite of the Cinetopia Film Festival, as his previous films "The Alchemist Cookbook" and "Buzzard" screened as part of the official lineup in their respective years. His latest, "Relaxer," appears to be perfectly in line with his other films, which you'll either love or hate, considering his films tend to have a polarizing effect on audiences. The synopsis for "Relaxer" is as follows: 

Doom and gloom are on the way. The Y2K apocalypse can't be stopped. Abbie's older brother issues him the ultimate challenge before it goes down: stay on the couch until he beats the infamous Billy Mitchell record on Pac-Man by getting past level 2. No getting up, no matter what. No quitting. Abbie (Joshua Burge, a regular collaborator of Potrykus) must survive inside a rotten living room with no food or water, and numbnut friends and toxic gas getting in his face. Luckily, Abbie's secret 3D glasses begin to give him new abilities, controlling the powers of his tiny universe.

Johnson, an Eastern Michigan University graduate, returns to Cinetopia with "Savage Youth," a bold, brutal and brilliant film that is sure to spark many conversations between audience members after they see it. (His previous film "Hunky Dory" was a hit at Cinetopia 2016.) 

"Savage Youth" spotlights the troubled lives of six American youths struggling to make their mark in a country that has little to no place for them. When aspiring rapper Jason (Will Brittain) meets struggling creative Elena (Grace Victoria Cox), their tumultuous relationship sets off a chain of events that will come to affect not only their own lives, but all those around them. Based on true events.

Morgan received his honorary doctorate of public service from Central Michigan University and has taught documentary film making to students around the world. His latest documentary, "Soufra," will inspire those who see it, as even the smallest steps can lead to the biggest changes.

After spending her entire life in the Burj el-Barajneh refugee camp near Beirut, Mariam Shaar decided to change her life. Gathering together other refugee women from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, and with a little help from Kickstarter, she expands her modest food business into catering. Despite her status as a Palestinian—barred from better jobs in Beirut—Shaar overcomes the obstacles to make Soufra (which means a table of delicious plenty) a success and to help other women heal the deep wounds of war through inspirational food. 

"The Big House" - Trailer from Laboratory X on Vimeo.

If "The Big House" sounds familiar, that's because it screened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival earlier this year and All About Ann Arbor was a proud sponsor. The list of filmmakers in attendance for this film is still being finalized, but one thing we can guarantee is that "The Big House" is not the sports documentary you think it is. It is so much more. 

Ann Arbor, Michigan is the prototypical college town -- a small city with a massive research university, a tradition of political radicalism and Michigan Stadium, the largest in the United States and the home of University of Michigan football. With a capacity of 107,601, the entire population of Ann Arbor fits in the stadium, which fans affectionately call “The Big House.” Michigan football goes back to 1879, and is known for its distinctive winged helmet and its fight song “The Victors.” But this direct-cinema documentary eschews gridiron grandeur to look closely at all the labor -- from the cooks to the cops to the cleaners -- that goes into hosting 100,000 people. Shot against the backdrop of the 2016 election and the rise of Donald Trump, it presents a microcosm of America by showing everything but the game.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Cinetopia Film Festival each week from All About Ann Arbor. To learn more about the festival itself, visit cinetopiafestival.org. You can also "Like" Cinetopia on Facebook and follow them on Twitter while also making sure to use the hashtag #Cinetopia2018. 

Planning to attend the festival? Tickets to individual films are now available and the full lineup of films can be found at cinetopiafestival.org/schedule.

More from Cinetopia 2018:

Opening and closing night films announced

'A Boy. A Girl. A Dream: Love on Election Night' screens June 1 and 10

Check out more Ann Arbor events on the A4 Community Calendar 

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