Being based in Ann Arbor, the Daily Arts Film Beat has a tradition of covering the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Through our connection with the community and our commitment to supporting the local film scene, it’s a genuine pleasure to get the chance to watch and review the films coming out of this local festival. Honoring the work of local artists and filmmakers is necessary, but, more importantly, it’s incredibly rewarding. For the 2021 Ann Arbor Film Festival, our writers had the opportunity to cover very experimental and unique films, ranging from standard narrative formats to films that experiment with unconventional forms — even films that were never intended to be films at all. With that, check out the Film Beat’s reviews of some of this year’s feature films at Ann Arbor Film Festival.

— Kari Anderson and Sabriya Imami, Daily Film Editors

Still from Al Largo, Anna Marziano.

“Al Largo” 

“Part of what makes ‘Al Largo’ so meditative is Marziano’s focus on the bodily hyperawareness prompted by chronic illness. Marin says that this hyperawareness “anticipates the disappearance to come, but, above all, supports the present.” Accordingly, even pain-free viewers are brought into their own bodies and made aware of these supportive functions.”

Read more from Ross London here.

Still from “The Inheritance”, Ephraim Asili.

“The Inheritance”

“‘The Inheritance’ combines fact with fiction to create a unique plot-based documentary format that works well for the dual purpose of informing while also entertaining. The dramatized reenactment of the collective’s struggles educates viewers on how the household functions while also simultaneously captivating them with conflict and humor. However, the main bulk of the story is told through historical footage of MOVE that cuts in and out of the plotline.”

Read more from Laura Millar here.

Still from “The Viewing Booth”, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz.

“The Viewing Booth”

“This film should be required viewing for anyone who writes about watching. The way Levy’s biases and Alexandrowicz’s anxieties interact in conversation provide a primer and warning on the dangerous illusion of objectivity. Our response to images, particularly images of war or injustice, cannot be unfiltered. When these images threaten to change a point of view that we associate with a core identity, objectivity is even less attainable.”

Read more from Ross London here

Still from “Instructions for Survival,” Yana Ugrekhelidze.

“Instructions for Survival”

“‘Instructions for Survival’ suggests immediacy and danger in its title and prologue. However, it struggles to link these themes to what it chooses to depict in its central subject’s life and experiences. Despite painting a touching portrait of a couple who are willing to go to great lengths to protect one another, the film fails to make good on its stated purpose.”

Read more from Katrina Stebbins here.

Still from “Purple Sea,” Amal Alzakout, Khaled Abdulwahed.

“Purple Sea”

“There is no structured narrative, camera movement or characters. Instead, the camera bobs in and out of the water, showing images of mangled boat equipment and human body parts. The images are accompanied by a monologue, which doesn’t give the film any arc. Instead, it seems to be a series of recollections of memories and conversations from Alzakout’s childhood. The monologue floats in and out, becoming increasingly relevant to what is happening on screen.”

Read more from Judy Lawrence here.

Still from “Just a Movement,” Vincent Meessen.

“Just a Movement”

“Visually, the film weaves in and out of the documentary format. Standard interviews with Diop’s friends bolster the narrative, while B-roll is given tacit emphasis and apparently fictional skits highlight major themes. I say “apparently” since the distinction between fiction and fact is often blurred. This is perhaps another reference to the real Diop’s performance in Godard’s fictional ‘La Chinoise.’ Either way, it muddles the historical narrative and swallows the philosophical motifs.”

Read more from Ross London here

Still from “The Quoddy Fold,” Paulette Phillips.

“The Quoddy Fold”

“Unfortunately, creative intentions and thoughtful sound bites can’t save a film. I felt myself getting increasingly bored — not just because there wasn’t any dialogue, but because the film didn’t seem to know what it wanted to say. It would’ve been fantastic as a short film, or maybe even a traditional documentary that included more exploration of the families behind the home.”

Read more from Mary Elizabeth Johnson here.