The Vidlings & Tapeheads Film Festival returns to Planet Ant in Hamtramck for the second year on July 27th and 28th. The festival is dedicated to promoting unconventional narrative film. The producers seek out films with a unique voice that tell stories in an unusual way, experiment with the medium, or explore eclectic subject matter and themes. We asked the festival's Director and Programmer, Jerry White Jr., a few questions about it…
1. Tell us about the concept behind the festival.
There are sprouting seeds in this fest that go back to my teen years in the 90s. I was really inspired by an anthology animation show called Liquid Television on MTV. It was like a weekly televised film festival of bizarro shorts and was incredibly well-curated. That was one of the biggest inspirations for a public access TV show I made as a teen/twenty-something, which was a mixtape of short skits, also curated, though my friends and I were the creators of the videos.
Fast forward a bunch of years and I'm still very into the idea of curating a variety experience. I started programming for the Slamdance Film Festival in 2015 and within a year of doing that was like, “Yeah—I should do something like this, but in Michigan and with music and art, a curated experience that's both audio and video and people mixing it up in real life together.” I could go on and on, but yeah this is the second year of the fest, but it feels like a passion through line I've had for decades.
2. What can visitors expect to see? What advice do you have for planning their time at the festival?
Our niche is unconventional films that tell a story. We have four short film blocks: Made in Michigan, Documentary, Fiction, and Animation —each running around ninety minutes. In addition to these shorts, we have nine live music performances, an art exhibition, and the Michigan premiere of the feature documentary Man in Camo on our opening night.
Expect to be entertained, but also challenged with certain films. More than half of our films were directed by women, which I've heard is not common for most fests. Our music lineup was curated by the Seraphine Collective with Michigan musicians from many different genres, so my advice ties into audience expectation: come to the fest and go on this ride with us. There's a level of trust involved, trusting the taste of our programmers and coordinators, but for people who are into stories and new perspectives, this weekend is going to be a potent experience.
3. Tell us about a couple of the most unusual films selected for this year's program.
The first that comes to mind is the final short of our fiction block, a Polish film called Apocalypse. The director describes the film as “a dark fairy tale about loneliness,” which I think is great. It has these uncanny blue pigeons which—well, I don't want to give anything away, but I love this film. Another short that I adore is from Sweden, called The Burden. It's aptly billed as “an animated musical with apocalyptic undertones.” I guess I'm really into the apocalypse these days.
4. How many of the films are made by Detroiters or Michiganders? Have you seen some of the alumni filmmakers go on to further their careers more widely?
Our Made in Michigan program has eight films, all shot or produced in the state. There's also a film in the Fiction block called Get Action made by a Michigan-native, Elaine Strutz, though it was made in New York. As for our alum breaking out, I have no doubt it'll happen, but since this is just our second year, I think it may be too early to call.
5. What response have you gotten from the Detroit and Hamtramck communities?
I could write a book (or at least a very meaty ‘zine) about why Detroit/Hamtramck is a great place to host this fest. Part of that ties into the communities — I think there's a hunger for this here that maybe places like LA or NYC don't have. Partially because those cities just have so much going on, it can be impossible to get anyone to attend a newer event. I was once at a film festival screening in Brooklyn with six people in the audience, I think in part because there were three other film festivals running in NYC at the same time.
But it's not just about saturation since there are a ton of things to do in Metro Detroit any given weekend too. Detroit has an incredible music scene, one that I would hold right up there with any other city in the world. So our fest being a combo film/music/art fest is something that I think it just a really great fit here—and in Hamtramck specifically because I love our venue. Ant Hall and Ghost Light are able to house this carnival all under one roof—that kind of space is not common. An unconventional festival at an unconventional venue in an unconventional town…maybe that's overstating it, but it feels right to me.
Extra Credit: Which famous Detroiter, past or present, do you wish could be in the audience?
Oh man, let's see. For some reason the first two people who come to mind are Kirk Gibson and Bill Bonds lol. I mean, that'd be cool, but I don't know it'd be either of their cup of tea. Oh I know—Iggy Pop man, I think he'd totally dig it. If Iggy's busy though, then Roger Corman.
The Vidlings & Tapeheads Film Festival
Celebrating unconventional stories in film + music + art
Friday & Saturday, July 27th & 28th, 2018
Ant Hall & Ghost Light
2320 Caniff Avenue, Hamtramck, Michigan 48212