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Cinetopia Film Festival is proud to not only feature a diverse and wide-ranging selection of movies curated from some of the world’s best film festivals, but also to collaborate with other like-minded events and individuals around Southeast Michigan to bring further innovative programming to our attendees.

This year we’re excited to announce a new partnership with the A2 Tech Film Showcase, which for the past two Januarys has held a screening of tech-inspired short films at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. This year’s event will take place Friday May 15 at 7:00pm at the Michigan Theater. Entry is free for Cinetopia passholders, and individual tickets are available – $12 for members and $15 for non-members.

Founded by creatives working within Ann Arbor’s burgeoning tech scene, the A2 Tech Film Showcase aims to provide a platform for rich conversations around the convergence of technology, diversity, and everything in between. This year’s program will feature eight short films from across the world, including music videos, animation, documentary and more.

We caught up with founder Rik Cordero to learn more about the Showcase, its beginnings and its goals. For more information, please visit this page or the A2 Tech Film Showcase website.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to found A2 Tech Film Showcase?

I am a local filmmaker, originally from Queens, New York. I moved out here about five years ago to work for Duo [Security, Inc. in Ann Arbor] as their senior media producer. My background is in filmmaking, music videos and commercials, and I wanted to pivot to tech—there was an opportunity at Duo for someone to come in and apply some of those skills to their marketing team.

It’s just been a really cool journey to go from New York City, and sort of the cutthroat world of music video directing to technology and democratizing security and actually, you know, helping people. I really wanted to find a place where I could contribute to an actual community and not be so involved with  hustling around and finding work and juggling side hustles and side gigs.

In addition to the work that I was doing at Duo, I felt like I had more free time to pursue my passions of filmmaking and narrative filmmaking. So very early on, we made a few films and we played them at the Michigan Theater—and then about three years ago, a couple of us creatives at Duo wanted to do a film showcase that would play in the basement of Duo. We wanted to call it the A2 Tech Film Showcase, because we felt like Ann Arbor was the real hub for the intersection of technology and creativity.

When did you hold the first Showcase?

We got  together a bunch of us on the creative team at Duo, created some films, created sort of a mission statement. We scheduled it to screen in January 2017, and what we found out right away was that a lot of people wanted to come out and it exceeded the capacity of our basement. Our facilities manager was freaking out, like, ”This is going to be a fire code violation!”

So I talked to Dug Song our CEO, and he [linked me up with] Ann Arbor Spark, and that was sort of our first big sponsor for the event. And as more people joined, as more sponsors joined, we had the ability to afford to play at the Michigan Theater. So that was the first event in 2017—we had over 800 attendees.

Many of the local tech companies came out to support, to sponsor, they had recruiting tables, things like that. The second year was just as great, we had a good turnout. We were trying to push the boundaries of the quality of  the programming, but also taking in the feedback from the surveys that we sent out.

How did Cinetopia get involved?

We’re coming up on our third year, and we were really struggling with how we wanted to do this year’s program because we weren’t sure how we could fill out the main auditorium at the Michigan Theater.

We weren’t sure if we were going to do it in January, and, January passed and [Cinetopia festival director] Sarah Escalante reached out to me and said, “Hey, why isn’t this on the Michigan Theater schedule?” And I was very honest about it, I said that the truth is we can’t afford it. And we had some discussions, and she said “I would really like to bring A2 Tech Film Showcase into the Cinetopia family as a special program.”

Instantly it just clicked in my mind, like “Wow that totally makes sense.” Being exposed to Detroit Voices last year, it was such a fantastic program, and what Sarah is doing to really lead the program this year, it’s just really amazing.

We had long conversations about what she sees for the future of Cinetopia and it’s really inspiring. We’re totally on the same page of how we can contribute to the community, and bring some other views and expose that to the film lovers and film enthusiasts here in Southeast Michigan.

Tell us a little about what A2 Tech Film Showcase stands for

The mission statement of the A2 Tech Film Showcase is really inspired by being a platform for diversity and inclusion in filmmaking. I’m from Queens, New York, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the most diverse places on the planet, with so many different cultures and ethnicities interacting daily.

But there’s also this community of filmmakers that was largely dominated—and still is largely dominated—by young men, and even young men of privilege who could afford the kinds of equipment that would help further your career.

And for my generation, that’s something that I definitely recognize now, that I was probably guilty of having a male dominated cast and crew on some early projects. And so I really wanted to change that perspective.

We wanted to make a platform where we were drawing different perspectives. It’s a lot of the ethos that we have at Duo, that we are best at problem solving when we have a wide range of perspectives at the table.

What sort of films should people expect to see at the event?

I’m really excited to show the eight films that we’ve curated for this 2020 A2 Tech Film Showcase. We have a movie from the UK called How To Be Human, which is a story about AI personalities who must learn to be more human.

We have a movie called Out Of Range from France, which is created by three women filmmakers as their senior project—they attend a very prestigious animation school in France called Gobelins. 

We have another film called Feathers, which is directed by a filmmaker that I know personally named A.V. Rockwell. She’s a young woman filmmaker, from Queens, New York, where I’m from, I’ve seen her work as a music video director, and we’ve kept in touch through the years. I’ve known about that film for a while, and I was really excited when we actually had the sponsor money to say, hey, how can we bring this to Ann Arbor?

Is the Showcase submission based, or are you curating it?

I think for now we’re sticking with curation, only because our showcase is non-juried, there are no prizes, there’s no competition. We want the program to feel like you’re listening to an album, and not just each film playing against each other, trying to see who’s best.

They all work together and are really thought about, in a way that flows together as one unit. We put a lot of effort into that, how we do the lineup and who we think deserves an opportunity.

Any other thoughts on this year’s event?

It’s really been cool to see all this coming to fruition. I feel like being on the board of the Michigan Theater, in doing this A2 Tech Film Showcase, and helping with Cinetopia is really just meeting all of the goals that I had imagined when we first thought about moving [to Michigan].

It was like, How can I pursue my love of movies, watching movies, making movies and have it be part of some sort of community activation? And more than that, it’s how do I become more generous? Where am I adding value? And not just making videos for corporate companies, but also how do I utilize those skills into paving the way for future filmmakers?

It’s been fantastic, and we’re really excited to keep this going. Being part of Cinetopia, it’s like we’re not just this lone event that’s happening in January—we’re part of a bigger purpose.

The A2 Tech Film Showcase takes place Friday, May 15 at 7:00pm in the Michigan Theater’s main auditorium. Entry is included with your Cinetopia pass and single tickets are also available – $12 for members and $15 for non-members.

40% of all ticket sales for this year’s Cinetopia Presents A2 Tech Film Showcase will be donated to the Neutral Zone. Thank you to our generous sponsors for supporting diverse, independent filmmaking.