Lights, camera, action: Hamtramck film and video festival attracts international attention

By |2018-01-15T16:35:09-05:00June 8th, 2006|Entertainment|
Planet Ant Film & Video Festival returns June 14-17

HAMTRAMCK – When the average person thinks about film festivals, it’s the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and the Cannes Film Festival in France that come immediately to mind. But to filmmakers all over the world, Hamtramck, Michigan has become yet another important stop on the all-important festival circuit, thanks to the fourth annual Planet Ant Film & Video Festival that gets underway June 14.
Approximately 200 submissions were received this year, Festival Director Nate DuFort told BTL last week. Of those, nearly 80 films and videos from 10 countries will be shown during the four-day event. Screenings will take place at Planet Ant Theatre, the nearby Belmont Bar and the Detroit Film Center in downtown Detroit.
“The internet is a beautiful thing,” DuFort laughed when asked how producers and directors learn about such festivals. “It’s one of the best ways to market a film now, especially with MySpace. You can get word out on your film or your festival so fast. People are also putting snippets of their films or their trailers on so anyone can view it. You can even embed it in your Web pages, making it a lot more accessible for everyone to see.”
Plus, DuFort noted, with digital media now so readily – and cheaply – available, anyone and everyone can now be a filmmaker. “Of course, there’s a lot more garbage because of it, but there’s also a lot more people making movies that wouldn’t have gotten the chance even ten years ago.”
This year’s slate includes a broad selection of comedies, dramas, animations, music videos and experimental films. But it’s the documentaries that particularly stand out, DuFort said. “They just keep getting better and better every year.”
One such documentary, “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea,” is narrated by John Waters and tells the story of a 30-mile long inland lake near San Diego that was created by accident in 1905, marketed as a posh vacation spot in the 1950s and is now one of the country’s worst ecological disasters. “It’s so sad and so beautiful simultaneously, with the oddest sense of humor,” DuFort said. “Something’s off the entire movie. It’s absolutely hysterical.”
What’s missing from this year’s festival, however, are LGBT films, DuFort said – despite the interest generated by “Brokeback Mountain.” “We’ve been incredibly open since our inception to all kinds of films and all kinds of themes, and last year was a great year for gay and lesbian film. This year I don’t know what the difference is. We didn’t get that many.”
Last year, two of the three feature films had gay and lesbian themes; this year, 12 features will be shown, none of which contain LGBT themes.
Judges for this year’s competition include several familiar names, including Larry Joe Campbell (“According to Jim,” ABC), Keegan-Michael Key (“Mad TV,” Fox), Nyima Funk (“Wild ‘N Out,” MTV; “Style Star,” The Style Network) and Josh Funk (“Wild ‘N Out,” MTV; Joseph Jefferson Award-winning director). Jack Cronin from the Detroit Film Center and Oakland Community College and Kristine Trever from Wayne State University round out the panel.
Winners are expected to take home thousands of dollars in prizes donated by festival sponsors such as Sony.
Running such a complex festival is a blast for the one-time film school student and cinephile. “It really is the hardest job you’ll ever love!”

UPDATE: After this story went to press, Festival Director DuFort contacted BTL with good news: LGBT-themed films have been added to the schedule. “We had two great additions to this year’s festival lineup,” he said, “with Leah Meyerhoff’s ‘Twitch’ and the cross dressing extravaganza ‘Team Queen’.
“Team Queen” is Leah Meyerhoff’s new music video for the queer-post-punk band Triple Creme. It stars the best of New York burlesque, including Murray Hill, Julie Atlas Muz, Tigger, Scarlet Sinclair, Molly the Dolly and Scotty the Blue Bunny. Meyerhoff, a graduate film student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, is currently featured on the Independent Film Channel’s popular series “Film School. To date, her films have been screened at over 50 film festivals.

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