PREVIEW: CMENAS Film Screening: “Rachel”

The first film to kick off a series organized by UMich’s Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, “Rachel” is the story of a young American woman who was killed tragically while fighting for peace in the Gaza strip. Her death had little coverage in the time it occurred, and though witnesses claimed it was an intentionally committed murder, American and international investigators brushed it under the rug and soon forgot about it. With the poignancy and engagement of a great storyteller, director Simone Bitton does the work that should have been done during her tragic death, showing the injustice of Rachel’s story and the larger Palestinian narrative in which is takes part. You can watch this film on 4:00pm – 6:00pm in Weiser Hall – Room 555. It is a free screening.

PREVIEW: Folk Festival

The annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival is a fundraiser for The Ark that takes place in Hill Auditorium with two entertaining nights filled with the best folk music around. For the 42nd Folk Fest, the first night on Friday, January 25 features Brandi Carlile, Gregory Alan Isakov, Haley Heynderickx, Sam Lewis, Parsonsfield, Michigan Rattlers, and Peter Mulvey. Then, the folk fun continues on Saturday, January 26 with the exciting lineup of Rufus Wainwright, I’m With Her, Pokey Lafarge, Ahi, The RFD Boys, and Peter Mulvey. Tickets can be bought at MUTO in the League Underground, at the Ark box office, or online at www.theark.org.

PREVIEW: The Great Tamer

In the spring of 2017, Dimitris Papaioannou and his ten performers premiered their first display of the breathtaking visual production, The Great Tamer, at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Greece. Since then, this production has travelled to a multitude of countries in Central Europe and Asia, leaving its viewers in tremendous awe and feeling gravely inspired to exhaust our lives and to give everything we can before leaving this world.

The production encompasses the human condition, revealing the small tragedies and great absurdities of our modern lives through classic theatrical conventions. Papaioannou has chosen to use unique techniques to manipulate simple props, ultimately creating illusions that engage with the material and the metaphysical of life on our current world.

With Ann Arbor, Michigan being one of only two locations that this production is being performed at in the United States, I am anticipating this event highly. I am excited to feel the tragedy and the frivolity that other reviews have promised and to feel enlightened by an orchestrated presentation of the universal emotions common among all of us.

 

REVIEW: Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer’s music has long been a favorite of mine, but her Sunday evening concert at the Ark only deepened my appreciation of her artistry. At times quiet and contemplative, and at other times toe-tapping, the night’s program took the audience on quite a journey. It included several new songs from her upcoming album, as well as old classics for those familiar with Newcomer’s music, a poem from one of her two books of poetry and essays, and more than one occasion in which the audience was invited to join in song. She was joined by pianist Gary Walters.

Carrie Newcomer is at once wise, humble, humorous, and down-to-earth, all of which was evident as soon as the concert began. Rather than a far-off stage with the audience below, the atmosphere was one of a room filled with friends. Between each song, Newcomer shared musings and anecdotes, some which left the audience laughing, and others which left the audience silent in thought, but it is her music that I think communicates most deeply. It is clear to me that one woman and her acoustic guitar can communicate truth and wisdom more intensely than most of us could ever imagine.

In introducing her song If Not Now, Newcomer discussed hope. Hope, she said, is taking all that is, and all that could be, and working every day to narrow the distance between the two. The song’s refrain reflects often unnoticed work of those with this kind of hope: “If not now, tell me when / If not now, tell me when / We may never see this moment / Or place in time again / If not now, if not now, tell me when.”

Betty’s Diner, another song that Newcomer performed, celebrates the range of humanity that passes through the restaurant Betty’s Diner (“I’m an artist, so I’ve waitressed,” she remarked, to laughter).

On a separate note, if you’ve never been to the Ark, I would highly recommend it! The performance space, or listening room as it is called, is an intimate space that seats 400 people or so. It isn’t every day that one gets to sit in the front row at a concert of one of their favorite artists, but that is what I was lucky enough to experience at Carrie Newcomer’s performance! Most performances are general admission, and there are also tables in front of the stage that audience members can choose to sit at.

Carrie Newcomer manages to celebrate and affirm life, while challenging the audience to live each moment more intentionally, all within the space of musical notes. I don’t think that I could get tired of listening to her music!

 

PREVIEW: Roma

On January 16 and 17, the Michigan Theater will be screening Roma, a 2018 film directed, produced, co-edited and shot by Alfonso Cuarón. A semi-autobiographical film, Roma details the life of a maid to a middle-class family in Mexico City. The film has received favorable attention from critics, as evidenced by its two Golden Globes and four Critic’s Choice Awards. Be sure to catch a screening of this film on January 16 at 4:00 or 9:25 PM, or January 17 at 7:45 PM. Tickets are $8.50 for students.

PREVIEW: The Favourite

The Favourite has become one of the most talked-about films of late 2018 and early 2019, receiving no less than five nominations at the Golden Globes (including a win for Olivia Colman as Best Actress — Motion Picture Comedy or Musical). Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the film stars Emma Stone (Maniac) and Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel) as two cousins competing to be the “favourite” of Queen Anne (Colman) in 18th century Britain. The Favourite is showing this week at the State Theatre as well as at Ann Arbor’s Quality 16.