Vick's Picks: Former A2 Film Fest exec Vicki Honeyman curates an evening of cinema


Vicki Honeyman & Elizabeth Cox

Vicki Honeyman and Elizabeth Cox, former directors of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, July 1992. Photo by Michael Curlett/The Ann Arbor News via AADL's Old News.

Vicki Honeyman knows a thing or two about film.

As executive director of the Ann Arbor Film Fest from 1988-2002, Honeyman nurtured and expanded the event by acquiring sponsorships, personally screening films for the festival, and much more. 

Honeyman is now the owner of the hand-crafted jewelry store Heavenly Metal at 208 N. Fourth Ave. in Kerrytown, but she's been invited to use her cinematic curatorial skills once again for AAFF's 56th anniversary, March 20-25. "Vick’s Picks," shown March 24 at 9:15 in the Michigan Theater, features 13 films from Honeyman's 15-year tenure as AAFF's leader.

We chatted with Honeyman at Heavenly Metal about her picks for this year's AAFF. 

Q: So you’re showing 13 of your top picks for the AAFF this year. 
A: Well, it’s not my top picks. I started volunteering with the Festival long before [my time as executive director] as a screener, so instead of being able to do a whole week of films, which I would have loved to have done, I put together a list of strong films from the festival's history that we’re referring to as “Vick’s Picks” because I feel that they’re very strong representational films of what the festival has always been about. But also [these] are films that I know the audience who goes back that far [to the 15th festival] would really appreciate seeing again. So, this is my third retrospective that I’ve put together for the Festival. The first one I did ran until four in the morning. People loved it. They said, “Oh, do it again!” I did that [first retrospective] for the Festival’s 30th. And I did another one for the Festival’s 40th, and [for] this one I was told I only have 90 minutes. So, it was a process of going through the list of all the films that had been entered in all those years going back to the early '70s and then coming up with a concept of how much animation, how much experimental. I don’t think I put any narrative [films] in there. And then the process was “what was available” because I wanted to show everything on print. Only one [film] is being shown digitally because it's a 35 print that would be shipping from France and it’s cost prohibitive. So everything is being shown on the 16mm prints. 

Q: Are there any three films in particular that really stand out to you?
A: Well Hong Kong, that’s the film that is being shown digitally, was shot in 35mm and it’s just a luscious black-and-white film documenting airplanes flying over Hong Kong because there use to a downtown airport. And the filmmaker shot this film as kind of a memory to the airport because the airport has since been shut down and moved. It’s so exquisite. I am very excited that the audience will get to see that and to see the black-and-white film as it’s intended to be seen. 

Another one, All the Great Operas in Ten Minutes, is a very accessible and very delightful animation from Toronto that is exactly what it says. So [the filmmaker] has cut out images of all these famous opera characters and in 10 minutes she tells a story. It’s very funny and people will be really excited to see it again. It really is a delightful hit and was back at the 31st Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Paul Winkler’s film Sydney Harbor Bridge -- Paul is a filmmaker from Australia. I always felt the Festival really wasn’t in full swing when we’re in our screening process until Paul’s films showed up from Australia every year. His work is very complex and very specific in his process. The audience has a hard time watching his films because there’s lots of repetition and they don’t tell a story. But his technique using the optical printer, and he does these complex split-screens and uses sound. It’s all meticulous. It’s not an audience pleaser. But if you can appreciate watching moving art on the screen -- that is what Paul Winkler is [as is] the Ann Arbor Film Festival. 

I could talk about all of these films. Another filmmaker who is, to me, one of the voices of the Ann Arbor Film Festival is Jay Rosenblatt, who always entered. And we would be screening his films and I would call him as soon as he entered. Because we used to screen together, just [a group of] seven of us -- we looked at prints as a group. It wasn’t digital -- it was just a 16mm film festival until I left. And I left because that’s where the board wanted the direction of the festival to go, [but] I love film and I felt that the Festival probably needed younger management since my background is 16 [mm], not at all digital. So I would call Jay after we were done screening and we would talk about his entry. It’s really just part of our process, for the group of us who would screen together for those seven nights a week for seven weeks, something like that. Anyway, he uses archival footage and he tells a story. His background is psychology and he uses his films to speak to that, especially young childhood psychology and gender and gender identity. But this film Brain in the Desert it really not as complex as that. I had to use something really short. I asked Leslie [Raymond, the current AAFF executive director] to bring Jay to the festival last year so he could show a program of his works. I wanted to show something that people wouldn’t automatically remember having just seen. 

Q: Are there three films that didn’t quite make the cut?
A: My list was huge. Yes, there’s like 30 films that didn’t make the cut! I’m serious, I could have programmed an entire week! Because I was part of the festival for so long that I saw a lot of work and a lot of memorable work. So going through the program schedules, I was just sitting there going, “Oh right! Oh my god!” So, I have all these notes but I was given 90 minutes so I stuck to that. But, you know, I would have liked to have been able to show the work of James Benning, who is also an important filmmaker and definitely a part of the history of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Helen Hill, who was a young animator who was killed at her doorstep after [Hurricane] Katrina. She’s important to the Festival and was a friend of the Festival. I wanted to include her work but didn't. I just couldn’t put everything in there [her 90-minute slot]. 

I could go on and on and on. So, what was interesting when I was putting together the program was [that] I was realizing how many of the filmmakers are male. And there have always been women filmmakers and women makers as part of the festival's history. I wasn’t trying to do anything gender-related in terms of whose work I was picking. It was really the work itself, not the makers so much, except for -- I just had to show Paul Winkler, absolutely had to include Paul Winkler! So I think that the audience is going to see a strong mix of feeling, of look, image, genre, sound. And that’s the way I programmed the festival. It was always every film was completely different from the previous film. And I never gave the shows [genre-specific] titles, so every program would have a mix of animation, narrative, experimental, documentary, personal documentary, black-and-white, garish, scary, funny, emotional, black-and-white, pounding images, soft colors, and the same thing with the sound. 

That’s what my time is remembered for with the festival -- how I programmed -- and it’s kind of like my store. I feel like my store, they’re all blended in together. I also do radio on WCBN -- I’m Sashay DelMonico -- and I kind of program music the same way. But everything kind of always makes sense. It blends. I was very particular which films I put back-to-back, so this program will be a small indication of that. And that’s why it’s called "Vick’s Picks." 

Sarah M. Parlette spends her time freelancing, working at the AADL, and planning her next adventure.

"Vick’s Picks" will be shown March 24 at 9:15 at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. For a 15% discount, enter the code AAFF56_AADL when you purchase tickets. Listen to Honeyman's WCBN-FM 88.3 radio show "Sashay's Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop" on Thursdays at 8 pm and visit her shop, Heavenly Metal, at 208 N. Fourth Ave. in Kerrytown.