WSU’s communication department represents at 61st Ann Arbor Film Festival
Six Wayne State University Department of Communication students and two professors will have their work displayed during the 61st Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Featured as part of the New Voices program — showcasing college and university student work — will be WSU student filmmakers Alyssa Marchi, Andrew Shea, Rishi Gudduguriki, Ben Garza, Vincent Renard and Linda Miller. The highlighted pieces were produced through their coursework in COM 5440 (Film, Cinematography and Lighting) and COM 1600 (Introduction to Audio-Television-Film Production).
“The Ann Arbor Film Festival is an internationally renowned film festival, and it is right in our own backyard. It brings incredibly accomplished filmmakers, programmers and artists to the area,” said Julia Yezbick, assistant professor of media arts and studies in the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. “This is a great opportunity for our students and faculty to gain visibility for their work on a larger scale. The fact that WSU has such a visible presence at this year's festival really shows we are a thriving, growing program — and one to watch.”
Designated as a supplement to the standard schedule, New Voices will run on a loop for the entire duration of the festival. The students’ works can be viewed at the University of Michigan North Quad Space 2435, with a reception for the program taking place on Tuesday, March 21, at 4 p.m. The Department of Communication encourages members of the Wayne State community to attend the reception or one of the many programs taking place during festival week (in-person March 21 through 26; online until March 29).
One of those programs will be the world premiere screening of Yezbick’s short film titled, “Roses, Pink and Blue” on Wednesday, March 22, at 5:30 p.m. The film is a personal essay Yezbick made to process the grief of losing a loved one.
“Many of us have experienced loss of various kinds, especially in recent years, and it's important we allow ourselves the time and space to grieve,” Yezbick said. “Much of my work unfolds over years, but this film, quite uncharacteristically, found its form rather quickly, which I think was in part due to the fact that it was an emotional response to a life experience.”
While Yezbick has participated in the festival in multiple facets — as a community partner with Mothlight Microcinema (which she co-directs), as a programmer of special programs, as a filmmaker, an interviewer of other filmmakers, a reviewer and a screener — this year’s program is even more noteworthy.
“It is very special to be premiering at the Ann Arbor Film Festival — the longest-running experimental film festival in the nation and an Academy Award qualifying festival,” Yezbick said. “I also grew up in the area, so it means a lot to me to be able to screen my work there.”
Founded in 1963, the Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America. Internationally recognized as a premiere forum for independent filmmakers and artists, AAFF engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences. This year will see 108 films in competition from 33 countries, with films also presented in the online festival. For a second year, AAFF will be presented in a hybrid format that will allow filmmakers selected for the festival to reach a worldwide audience.
“This is also the first year the Department of Communication has participated as an Education Partner for the Ann Arbor Film Festival,” said Paul Echeverria, assistant professor of digital and emerging media. “The Midwest has a strong foundation in media, cinema and the arts. This partnership reflects the Department of Communication's ongoing interest in establishing outreach with the local and regional community.”
Echeverria has curated a program for the festival titled “MFW Decades,” which celebrates the history of the Millennium Film Workshop. What began in 1966, the Millennium Film Workshop has served as one of the longest running artist-run workshops in operation. Echeverria has served as a board member and archivist for Millennium since 2016. “MFW Decades” pays tribute to the long-standing history of the organization, which he said includes films from practically every decade of the MFW's existence. The program will screen on Saturday, March 25 at 7 p.m in the State Theater.
“Personally, I'm very excited to see this partnership come to fruition. One of our recent graduates, Jerod Willis, screened a film at the 60th AAFF. Jerod's film, ‘Miracle Whip,’ went on to win the Best Michigan Filmmaker Award,” Echeverria said. “Furthermore, I'm elated to see that our students' work will appear in back-to-back editions of the festival. Looking into the future, this type of partnership can produce tangible opportunities for our students.”
This year’s Ann Arbor Film Festival by the numbers:
- Submissions: 2,754 films from 95 countries
- Films in competition: 108 films from 33 countries
- Premieres: 12 world, 30 North American, and 13 United States premieres
- Percentage on film: 11% of selected films shot on 16mm or 35mm
- Features in competition: All 12 features from outside the United States