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Cinetopia 2018: Lesser-known films that deserve your attention

Still from "Quiet Heroes" courtesy of the Cinetopia Film Festival.
Still from "Quiet Heroes" courtesy of the Cinetopia Film Festival.

ANN ARBOR – The 2018 Cinetopia Film Festival is so close it's ridiculous. The festival runs May 31 through June 10 and will feature many films you've probably heard of from the festival circuit, as well as some lesser-known indie gems you might not be aware of. We wanted to highlight a few of them here as you're no doubt already making the necessary preparations and planning your festival schedule. 

First up is a documentary called "Quiet Heroes," which screens on June 8 at the Michigan and June 10 at the State.

Directed by Jenny Mackenzie, co-directed by Jared Ruga and Amanda Stoddard, the film focuses on Dr. Kristen Ries, an infectious-disease specialist who arrived in Salt Lake City on June 5, 1981 -- the same day the Centers for Disease Control first published a report on what would become known as AIDS.

By the next year, Ries would encounter her first patient with the disease. Because of stigma and fear surrounding both AIDS and homosexuality, Ries and her eventual partner, physician assistant Maggie Snyder, became the only medical professionals in Utah willing to treat the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS. These patients, facing certain death in the early years of the epidemic, often had to keep their status a secret or risk ostracism from their families, workplaces, and religious communities. "Quiet Heroes" reveals the impact of the disease on a less obvious, more conservative location as it shares the evocative story of these unheralded caregivers and their patients.

"Quiet Heroes" will feature many special guests, including the filmmakers and the subjects in the film. It's an important documentary that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Make sure to add it to your "must-see" Cinetopia 2018 list. 

Next up is another documentary, "The Last Race," which will screen at the Henry Ford with director Michael Dweck in attendance on June 8. (The film also screens June 10 at the Michigan.) The synopsis for "The Last Race" is as follows:

Riverhead Raceway is a rare beast. For decades it has hosted showdowns between local residents who bring their "Mad Max"–inspired stock cars to do battle on a quarter-mile track. Forty such tracks used to exist on Long Island alone. Today, Riverhead is the last. Dweck's evocative portraiture turns the raceway into a theater of catharsis while the track’s owners struggle to maintain an American tradition as a real estate boom surrounds them. Dweck’s stirring imagery takes you inside a race and eye to eye with the cars’ snarling grills and white roll bars that protrude like bones out of scarred metal. The track is on the only piece of undeveloped land in the area -- it’s worth millions -- and the only thing keeping the bulldozers at bay is track owners Barbara and Jim Cromarty’s love of the track and its community. Nominated for the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.

On the narrative feature side of the festival lineup, Cinetopia darling Michael Curtis Johnson, an Eastern Michigan University graduate, returns to Ann Arbor 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.) The film screens on June 2, 3 and 9 at the State Theatre

"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.

Another favorite of the Cinetopia Film Festival is director Joel Potrykus, whose film, "Relaxer," screens June 7 and 8. His previous films, "The Alchemist Cookbook" and "Buzzard," screened as part of the official lineup in their respective years. "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.

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 #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

Michigan filmmakers come home

Festival to screen 'Thirst for Justice' in celebration of Mayor's Green Fair June 8

Check out more Ann Arbor events on the A4 Community Calendar 

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