Friday, 21 February 2014 15:56

March Indie Film: The Francophone Film Festival of Kalamazoo brings Cultural Diversity to WMU

Written by  Josh Spanninga
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inch’Allah, a film about a young canadian obstetrician caught between two worlds at a Palestinian refugee camp in the West bank, will be shown at WMU’s francophone film festival on March 21. inch’Allah, a film about a young canadian obstetrician caught between two worlds at a Palestinian refugee camp in the West bank, will be shown at WMU’s francophone film festival on March 21. COURTESY PHOTO

This March will mark Kalamazoo Francophone Film Festival's 13th year. The festival brings French language films to WMU's Little Theater in a celebration of the French language, diverse world cultures and a tradition of expanding horizons.

The festival, which originally focused on French language African films, has since expanded to include content from other French-speaking locales, including Belgium, the Caribbean, Quebec and more. Dr. Vincent Desroches, director of the festival, saw the expansion as an opportunity to share a new, broader cinematic experience with festival-goers.

"Very soon I realized it was possible to do an event that did not exist anywhere else in the states," Desroches said. "We are the only ones in the United States who have an event of that nature."

The festival is so unique, in fact, that it is not uncommon for the event to be the U.S. premiere of films otherwise undistributed in the country.

In addition to screening these lesser-known cinematic gems, the festival employs audience participation to hand out the "Golden Kazoo" award for short and feature-length films. Attendees can also expect some exciting guest appearances at the event.

"We have managed every year to bring to Kalamazoo one or two filmmakers to present their film and discuss it with the public, which is also an attraction at this festival because it does not happen often in Kalamazoo," Desroches said.

Tickets for the festival, which takes place the weekends of March 21-23 and 28-30 are $8 per event, $40 for a full pass. Student discounts are also available. For more information visit wmich.edu/fffkazoo.

WST-3K: Celebrating the Worst Selections Cinema Has to Offer

Those who like to venture to the metaphorical deep end of the cinema pool and indulge in gloriously awful B-movies and cult classics are in luck. On March 13 Ben Wilke and Wealthy Theatre will be bringing some impeccably horrendous selections, and the side-splitting commentary to go with it.

The event, aptly titled WST-3K, follows the same guidelines laid down by Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and will showcase some of the worst films found in the public domain, from the cheesily offensive blaxploitation flick Black Fist to the Godzilla rip-off titled Attack of the Monsters.

Local comedians will then guide the audience throughout this warped journey down the delightfully unrefined rabbit hole with commentary and improvised dialogue.

Ben Wilke, event organizer and commentator, has been putting on similar events elsewhere for some time now.

"We used to do it at some of the improv theaters in Chicago that I performed at, and then when I came to Grand Rapids years ago I was good friends with Joe Anderson, and me and him started to do it at Dog Story Theatre," Wilke said.

Interested in taking the show to a larger venue equipped with better display options, Wilke met up with Wealthy Theatre Director Erin Wilson to discuss the possibility of bringing it to the theatre and was met with instant approval.

"When I pitched it to him he was like 'Oh my gosh, I've been wanting to do that forever!' So it was completely serendipitous," Wilke said.

The event will be produced in conjunction with LaughFest, a partnership the Wealthy Theatre is happy to foster.

"At Wealthy Theatre, LaughFest has been more than a showcase of talent – they've encouraged us (and trusted us) to take risks, get weird and try new things," Wilson said.

Open Projector Night at UICA

Open mic nights are great for aspiring musicians, but where do you go if you're an aspiring filmmaker?

Look no further than the UICA.

The Open Projector Night series at UICA is a recurring event that invites all of West Michigan to submit their short films to the Open Projector Selection Panel for review. The panel then curates the selections for viewing, and screens the best pieces in the UICA theater.

Films must be less than 20 minutes, but other than that, anything goes. Short films, home movies, found footage, animation, all are welcomed for review.

At the end of the night, audience members will vote for the best selection, and the winner goes home with free film passes and chance to host their favorite film at the UICA.

The UICA will be hosting its seventh installment of Open Projector Night on March 26. The event is free for members, $4 for non-members. For submission guidelines and more information visit uica.org/event/openprojectornight.

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