After a star-studded week of film shootings in Ann Arbor, one would expect things to cool down a bit. But thanks to the Ann Arbor Film Festival, which began this week, filmmaking will remain a focal point on campus. Tonight, the Penny W. Stamps Lecture Series will welcome ‘U’ alum and Academy Award nominee Sam Green to share his film, “Utopia in Four Movements.”

Utopia in Four Movements

Tomorrow at 5:10 p.m.
Michigan Theatre
Free

Green premiered the piece at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and spent the last year traveling around the world — from Turkey to Boston — screening the film. “Utopia in Four Movements” allows audiences to think about the future in a more positive light.

“The purpose of the piece — in sort of a poetic way — is to try to examine the question of why we are living in an anti-utopian time,” Green said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “Today, most people probably don’t think that the future is going to look that great, so we are examining that (idea).”

The film looks at four examples, as hinted in its title, that have tried to demonstrate some sort of utopian vision. For example, it examines the language Esperanto, which was created in the late-19th century under the belief that a universal and neutral language could potentially prevent war. It was a utopian idea that may not have succeeded, but many people did (and some still do) believe in the language’s power.

Though Green’s other films, like his Academy Award-nominated “The Weather Underground,” are presented in a more traditional fashion, “Utopia” acts as a theatrical performance and a film. Green narrates each screening live alongside Brooklyn-based band The Quavers and sound artist/musician David Cerf who synthesizes the live documentary’s soundtrack together. Ann Arbor’s performance will also feature Brendan Canty on the drums, who is notorious for his association with the punk-rock band Fugazi.

While “Utopia” is breaking the mold of the familiar film-going, Green is not pretentious or even stuffy about this experimental way of sharing cinema.

“I am excited to do this in the Penny Stamps lecture because this is a fancy-ass lecture, you know?” Green said. “When’s the last time you saw someone give a lecture and saw them bring their own live band to do a soundtrack?”

Green first became interested in filmmaking while at the University. As a student of the Residential College, he spent time working for a group called Michigan Media, which consisted of students going into classrooms and lectures to help set up projectors and other equipment to share multimedia with students.

Though the technology at the University has developed since Green’s time here, he is still interested in the connection between live engagement and multimedia.

“Live performance made me realize that in the world today, as a filmmaker, you need to accept that people are going to watch your films on a laptop while checking their email — where people don’t need to give their full attention,” Green said.

With limited distractions for moviegoers, Green hopes viewers will experience the content in a new and exciting way.

“I love the theatrical experience of going to a theater, sitting with strangers, lights go down and the magic of the cinema,” Green said. “You lose yourself in something. I wanted to make something that would be seen in a theatrical context.”

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