Our Michigan and State theaters effectively closed on March 16, meaning it’s been four months since we’ve last seen you in person. It’s been a bit bumpy adjusting to this new way of life, but we can’t overlook that something miraculous came out of this as well: our Virtual Movie Palace. An idea that was conceived and implemented seemingly on the spot so that even with our doors closed, we could continue to offer you access to new independent films from the comfort of your home.
With new titles being added every week for much longer runs then we’re traditionally used to, it’s a great time to review what’s currently available for you in our Virtual Movie Palace to rent and enjoy from home.
Plus, brand new today is our introduction of documentary and narrative cinema pages that will aid you in your browsing. Here are some highlights…
Film Festival Circuit
In creating a Virtual Movie Palace, one of our highest priorities is finding films from small, independent artists who have lost their creative outlet. That’s why we’ve made a point to seek out and exhibit films that were either on, or scheduled to run on, the Film Festival circuit.
Beginning with South by Southwest, it was heartbreaking to see the domino effect of film and music festivals being cancelled around the world including our own Cinetopia Film Festival, although of course it is understood and appreciated. In those cancellations, you could see the dashing of the dreams of those who have put everything on the line to participate and land their “big break”.
Though our Virtual Movie Palace cannot compete with the high-profile exposure one receives from participating in a major festival, we do what we can to promote these filmmakers’ work.
Some of our favorite titles from this category include:
- Waiting for the Barbarians (2019 Venice Film Festival)
- We Are Little Zombies (2019 Sundance Film Festival and originally scheduled to play at this year’s Cinetopia)
- Shirley (2020 Sundance)
- Kinshasa Makambo (2019 Cinetopia, 2018 Berlin)
- Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy (2019 SXSW and originally scheduled to play at this year’s Cinetopia),
- And coming soon CREEM: America’s Only Rock & Roll Magazine (2019 SXSW, 2019 Freep), opening August 7th
As the world continues to change around us, and we see history writing itself every day, it’s also very important for us to exhibit films that speak to these tumultuous times. Whether this means films that focus on climate change, LGBTQ+ and voting rights, or films that spotlight international conflicts, we will continue to promote and cultivate conversations within the home. Conversation is, after all, one of the most important and appreciated attributes of seeing films with an audience.
Some of our favorites from this selection include:
- John Lewis: Good Trouble, the story of the civil rights leader’s 50-year fight for equal voting rights
- Pioneers of Queer Cinema, a collection of films from the early 20th century that spoke to queer identities
- Kinshasa Makambo, a documentary that follows members of the resistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- And coming soon, A Thousand Cuts, a documentary about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s use of social media to spread disinformation. Opening on August 7th.
And in order to be part of making social change, it’s our goal to elevate the voices of Black filmmakers and artists. In selecting these films, not only were we looking for titles that were made by Black artists, but we wanted to find films that also speak to their specific experiences.
Some of our favorites of these titles include:
- Runner, a documentary about a refugee from Sudan, Guor Maker, who went on to compete as a marathoner in the last two Summer Olympics
- Reggae Boyz, a documentary about the Jamaican soccer team that tried to inspire their nation by qualifying for the World Cup
- The Last Tree, an autobiographical drama about a British boy of Nigerian heritage who, after being fostered in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner-city London to live with his birth mother
- And coming soon, The Cuban, the story of a nurse who befriends an Alzheimer’s disease patient who tells her about his colorful past as a famous Cuban musician. Opening on July 31st
And we also continue to offer films made by and about women, a demographic of artists that even today, must work twice as hard to succeed in a continually male dominated industry. Films in this category are incredibly diverse in genre and tone, tell the stories of artists through the decades, and speak to the female experience around the globe both in front of and behind the camera.
Some of our favorite titles include four documentaries:
- Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things, a documentary on the life of the legendary Jazz singer
- Denise Ho: Becoming the Song, the story of the remarkable journey of Denise Ho — from Hong Kong pop superstar to human rights activist. Directed by filmmaker Sue Williams.
- Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy, which shows the culinary journey of Diana Kennedy, famous for her simple Mexican cuisine. Directed by filmmaker Elizabeth Carroll.
- And coming soon, Suzi Q, the documentary about Detroit’s own Suzi Quatro, one of the first female rock stars. Opening next Friday, July 24th.
These are just our current favorites to help get you started in your exploration of our Virtual Movie Palace. This weekend, you should also check out the films in our other categories: Music, Comedy, Family-Friendly, and the Cinetopia and Ann Arbor Jewish Film Festival’s “A Summer of Film” series.
Let us know what you think of these new pages, and as always, be sure to let us know what you decide to watch this weekend! Whatever it is, we hope you enjoy it.