Drew Waller, Director of Sponsorship and Talent Acquisition for Cinetopia, has strong opinions about this year’s lineup, and he couldn’t wait to share them with everyone…

For me, if a film can grab you with a compelling visual while delivering a unique story, it has the necessary makings of being a worthy contender for “favorite of the festival.” Cinema like this gives you the chance to escape, to explore and discover thought-provoking topics that keep you talking, long after the credits roll. Our ushers should show you to your seat for these highlights …


When the programming team did a search for bringing quality Chinese cinema to Cinetopia, this one rose to the top after its lead actor, Fan Liao, won Best Actor at the Asian Film Awards earlier this year, after already winning the Golden Bear at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. The festival has built a solid relationship with our University of Michigan partners Confucius Institute and the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies over the years. Those partnerships help us lean on experts to know that this film from accomplished director and screenwriter Yi’nan Diao is worth making time on your schedule at Cinetopia this year. Neo-noir meets the gritty urban landscape of northern China as a detective investigates identical murders potentially connected around a beautiful female clerk in an area shop.


This Official Selection of Cinetopia 2015 was flagged to us from the University of Michigan Germanic Languages and Literatures after it premiered overseas at the 2014 Venice Film Festival. Being a major fan of lead actor Tahar Rahim since his work in 2009’s Un Prophéte, seeing him take on an epic role of this magnitude will be a solid reason to catch it on the big screen. To know that Martin Scorsese lauds the film with “great intensity, beauty and impressive grandeur”, even more so. Make sure to be part of the screening on Friday, June 12th at the Michigan Theater, when the chair of UMGLL, Johannes von Moltke, and Michigan State University professor, Tamar Boyadjian, join film distributor Strand Releasing representative, Nathan Faustyn, for a post-film discussion with the audience on German-born, Turkish writer/director Fatih Akin’s work and his final installment of the cinematic trilogy of “Love, Death and the Devil.” [MICHIGAN PREMIERE]

PALE MOON [“Kami No Tsuki”]

With Cinetopia being dedicated to bringing the best films from the world’s best film festivals, looking to the Tokyo International Film Festival, taking place each year in late October, is a natural to help us do so. Always a fan of seeing how works of fiction are adapted from the written word to the silver screen, this particular film, with its source material from Naoki Prize-winning author Mitsuyo Kakuta, delivers a page-turner of a story to visual non-stop suspense. Celebrated Japanese actress Rie Miyazawa plays the conflicted lead role of Umezawa Rika, that won her Best Actress at 2015 Awards of the Japanese Academy and at the 27th TIFF. Understand more about the film when University of Michigan Professor Jennifer Robertson offers a post-film discussion with the audience on Saturday, June 13th. To know that the 27th TIFF also gave the film its Audience Award, it is a proud moment to say that audiences here at Cinetopia will be the first in the U.S. to be able to see this acclaimed work from Japan. [U.S. PREMIERE]


Understanding a poet like Dylan Thomas from the man he was, not just the words he wrote, is ample reason to add this film to your must-see roster. To have it done so onscreen with such raw reveal from Celyn Jones (who also co-wrote the film) ensures the viewer is in for a worthwhile ride. With New York academic John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Wood) desperately grabbing at the proverbial steering wheel to try to make sense of what he unleashes stateside, you have the makings of truly memorable cinema. Shot in stark, retro-tinged black-and-white and a sonic backdrop scored by Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys. Cinetopia welcomes director and co-writer Andy Goddard to Detroit at the Detroit Institute of Arts Lecture Hall on Saturday, June 6th to discuss his feature film, and Michigan premiere, with the audience. [MICHIGAN PREMIERE]


The Sundance Film Festival is a solid partner with the Michigan Theater Foundation and now the Cinetopia International Film Festival, which ensures each January that the programming team is focused on bringing its best to our area. Writing the description for this film, there is a perfect line to describe what will be experienced: “As the audience sees the planes loop and weave in the air, it is hard not to feel that same sensation of butterflies watching the two lead characters navigate around each other’s feelings and hearts.” The film is both touching and headstrong, with sumptuous visual moments to take in. Winning World Dramatic, Best Director Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, director and screenwriter Alanté Kavaïté will discuss her work with the audience at the College for Creative Studies on Saturday, June 6th with a post-film onscreen, live online chat.

Drew Waller, Cinetopia International Film Festival Director, Sponsorship and Talent Acquisition

For more Top 5 lists and behind-the-scenes information, visit www.cinetopiafestival.org/category/blog/