MINNIS MINUTE: Detroit filmmakers

By John Minnis

Legal News

Like Charlie the Tuna, I have good taste. I was one of the local literati attending the opening night of the second annual Detroit Independent Film Festival March 9 at the Ren Cen 4 theater. If was cool to see and be seen.

Actually, I didn't see anyone I knew. I half expected to see Royal Oak attorney/movie producer Michael Einheuser at the event, but he must have been in the cheap seats. Actually, they were all cheap seats. The theater is pretty rundown.

I'd like to be able to say I'm into the Detroit independent filmmaking scene, but the reason my wife, Terry, and I feasted on culture that night was our nephew, Matthew, who is a sophomore in high school, wants to go into filmmaking.

I know. I know. Why can't the kid want to go into engineering or mathematics or health care? Why do they always want to go into areas that pay little and have few job prospects ... like journalism? Perhaps it's because idealism hasn't been beaten out of them yet.

At any rate, we believe in encouraging "our" kids as much as we can (including Matt's golf game, but that's another story), so we thought he might get a thrill out of seeing half of a dozen of Detroit filmmakers' offerings.

Being shown at the Ren Cen 4 on opening night were "All of The Highs, None of the Lows" by A.E. Griffin; "Pink Lines" by Mike Madigan, Chris Lepley and Matthew Peach; "Side Effects" by Michael Clark; "Defying Deletion: Iraq's Nineveh Plains" by Andre Anton; "caroLOLiver" by Steven Karageanes; and "World of Art" by Mike Allore.

Interestingly, two of the film shorts, "Pink Lines" and "caroLOLiver," each had to do with unexpected, out-of-wedlock pregnancies where part of the storyline is the girls' dilemmas in informing the fathers. In "Pink Lines," the exasperated lead singer of the band, Statutory Grape, quips, "Couldn't they at least have used a little protection? What do they teach girls in high school these days?" To which one of the girls responds, "Abstinence."

The short "caroLOLiver" dealt with a cohabitating couple that mostly communicates by texting, even when in the same room. As expected, the father learns of his status via a text.

Ironically, in both cases, the fathers are ecstatic about the news, contrary to the women's fears.

"All of the Highs, None of the Lows" was about a husband's difficult-to-watch battle with alcoholism, but it ends happily with the help of the wife's patience and support.

"Side Effects" is an interesting piece about a research scientist's work on torture techniques and doubles as commentary about the insanity of inhumane treatment.

"World of Art," the 38-minute finale of opening night, was probably the most ambitious film. It involved an artist named Arthur whose loss of inspiration was a threat to the "World of Art." Jumping in and out of the "World of Art" - a la Harry Potter's moving portraits - Art saves the "World of Art" (himself), regains his inspiration and gets the girl of his dreams.

The film I particularly wanted to see was "Defying Deletion: Iraq's Nineveh Plains." Anton is a 26-year-old filmmaker from Farmington Hills. His goal is to shed light on the ongoing "slow genocide" of the Assyrian people.

Assyria, occupying the northeast region of what is now Iraq, dates back to the 22nd century B.C. In fact, tablets containing the earliest known "Code of Law" and "Flood" story, "Gilgamesh," dating back more than 1,000 years before the Bible, were found there. In 612 B.C., a combined force of Medes, Scythians, and Babylonians besieged Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, for three months before it fell. The films starts by stating that over the past 1,700 years, the Assyrians have experienced 33 genocidal episodes. "One has the feeling," the narrator says, "that this could happen at any time."

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the filmmaker, Christian Assyrians have experienced persecution and suffering. More than 50 of their churches have been bombed; hundreds of Assyrians have been killed, and hundreds of thousands of them have been forced to take refuge in unwelcoming countries like Syria, Jordan and Turkey. They are experiencing one of the world's largest humanitarian crises.

And, according to the film, it is happening at the hands of Kurds, those "heroes" of the War for Iraqi Freedom who sided with the United Sates against Saddam Hussein. Because of their support, I, like most Americans, thought the Kurds were the "good guys" in the War on Terror. They may be good guys where we are concerned, but they are not saints, as the documentary depicts.

Of course, the Kurds themselves have been abused and would like to have a country, Kurdistan, to call their own.

The second annual Detroit Independent Film Festival ran March 9-13 in Detroit and Birmingham. This being the Legal News, it would be amiss not to mention the film festival was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Warner Norcross & Judd Attorneys at Law and Linda Bruton Law.

Published: Tue, Mar 15, 2011

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