April 13 2011 12:00 AM

The Capital City Film Festival gets underway Thursday with shorts, features, music and a John Hughes tribute


As far as Capital City Film Festival co-founder Dominic Cochran is concerned, there’s plenty of room in Lansing for more than one film fest. After all, this is not going to be a cinematic battle royale, with two organizations slugging it out for prime pictures. The East Lansing Film Festival, which is going into its 14th year, doesn’t start up again until November. So, Cochran says, why not offer something in the first half of the year?

"Our goal is not to compete," he said, sitting at his desk in the festival office, located in the Washington Street Armory. "We think because there’s no art house theater here at all, there’s no reason this market can’t support two festivals, especially if they’re six months apart."

The idea that there’s only one proper time to screen foreign films, student shorts and out-of-the-mainstream features is, in Cochran’s opinion, "ridiculous."

Dan Hartley, one of CCFF’s programming directors, completely agrees.

"East Lansing Film Festival has a different history behind it; we’re kind of creating our own here," he said. "It’s really two different worlds."

But Hartley’s fellow programmer, Katie Wittenauer, hopes there’s still opportunities for crossover. "People from Lansing go to the East Lansing Film Festival," she said, "and we hope people from East Lansing will come to Lansing for this festival."

When they do, they’ll find more than just movies. CCFF is aiming for a party atmosphere, with multiple venues around town and live music at several of the screenings.

"We thought it was important to focus on the word ’festival,’ and the best way to do that is to focus on different parts of the city, like Old Town and REO Town," Cochran said. "We’re big fans of South By Southwest (the annual film and music showcase held each March in Austin, Texas). But I wouldn’t say we’re ripping them off: It’s more like an homage."

The festival kicks off Thursday night with director Kitao Sakurai’s moody mystery "Aardvark," which combines elements of documentary with modern film noir. It’s followed by a party at The Loft in downtown Lansing, featuring the music of Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s and Maps & Atlases.

DJ Ruckus, Danny Brown and Othello and the Third Coast Kings are slated to perform Friday night at The Loft, following a showing of local director Matt Ortleib’s documentary "Respiration," which looks back at the monthly hip-hop concerts that took place at Mac’s Bar in Lansing. Musicians John Beltran, Rob Perry and Noah DeSmit are playing at a Saturday night retrospective devoted to the late director/screenwriter John Hughes.

"We want people to remember Hughes was born in Lansing," Cochran said of the evening, which includes the 1984 teen comedy "Sixteen Candles," starring Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, and the 1987 farce "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," starring Steve Martin and John Candy. "We wanted to program something that would appeal to every body, to introduce people to the festival that might not have gone otherwise."

Get the public interested in seeing a couple of classics on the big screen, Hartley said, and they might enjoy themselves so much that they’ll pick up tickets to some of the other events.

"Some festival films can be a little daunting to some people," he admitted.

The CCFF team put out a call for entries last fall. Hartley and Wittenauer said filmmakers from all over the world quickly responded. "Chasing Cotards," the short playing with "Aardvark" on opening night, came from England; the festival also includes a documentary feature from Iran ("Chasing Che"), as well as showcases dedicated to short works from Burundi and Spanish-language films.

There are also two series of student-made shorts, which Hartley hopes will get the attention they deserve.

"I wouldn’t want people to skip over them because they’re by students," he said. "Some of them are really incredible, remarkable films. These are not class assignments."

In terms of programming, Wittenauer said the goal was to find movies that were distinctly different from the norm.

"In the conversations we had, we knew there were things we wanted to steer away from, like the same stories that have been told again and again," she said. "We wanted films with stories that you’d talk about afterwards."

Capital City Film Festival schedule

Thursday, April 14
4 p.m. — CCFF Red Carpet Launch Party at Troppo, 120 N. Wasington Square, Lansing. Free and open to the public.
7 p.m. — "Aardvark" and "Chasing Cotards" (approximately 100 minutes). $9 adults; $7 students. Dart Auditorium, Lansing Community College, 500 N. Capitol Ave.
9 p.m. — Opening Night Party, with music by Maps & Atlases and Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos. $15. The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing.

Friday, April 15
5:30 p.m. — Made in Michigan Showcase (approximately two hours). $8 adults; $6 students. The Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing.
8 p.m. — "Shepherds of Helmand" and "Prayers for Peace." $8 adults; $6 students. The Lansing Center.
10 p.m. — "Respiration," with live music from Danny Brown, DJ Ruckus and Othello and the Third Coast Kings. $15. The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing.

Saturday, April 16
Noon — Digital 10 Student Showcase #1 (approximately two hours). $5. Old Town Temple Club, 502 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing.
2 p.m. — Digital 10 Student Showcase #2 (approximately two hours). $5. Old Town Temple Club.
4:30 p.m. — Spanish Short Film Showcase (approximately two hours). $6. Old Town Temple Club.
7 p.m. — John Hughes Retrospective, featuring "Sixteen Candles" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (approximately four hours). $10. Old Town Temple Club.

Sunday, April 17
11 a.m. — Burundi Short Film Showcase (approximately 45 minutes). $6. LCC 3D Theater, Gannon Building, Lansing.
12:30 p.m. — Michigan Documentary Showcase (approximately two hours). $8 adults; $6 students. LCC 3D Theater.
3 p.m. — "Chasing Che" and "Rooftop Wars" (approximately 90 minutes). $8 adults; $6 students. Washington Street Armory, 2500 S. Washington St., Lansing.
5 p.m. — "Answer This!" and "Two Men, Two Cows, Two Guns" (approximately 100 minutes). $9 adults; $7 students. Washington Street Armory.

A Full Festival Pass is $75 for adults and $65 for students with valid ID. A VIP Festival Pass is $100. For prices of individual tickets, check show listings, or visit capitalcityfilmfest.com.