Ari Newman: "I felt my whole life begin to make sense"

By Jes Reyes

Ari Newman returns to the Ae Film Fest as a 2016 co-curator! In this interview she discusses the experience of programming a film festival, discloses her goals as a filmmaker, and shares with us why she has organized an art collective for student artists who work in film and video.


Jes: Gear up here, because I have a lot of questions! Ari Newman, who are you? Where do you come from? What do you do in your free time? Why do you live in the Twin Cities? 

Ari: My name is Ari Newman. Ariana is my full name, but I use it only for special occasions, like galas and debutante balls and such. I was born in Minnesota, and I have lived here my whole life, almost. For two years, I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, attended the University of Michigan, and thought I wanted to be an opera singer. In due time, I realized I really didn’t enjoy sitting in a windowless practice room, crying over a piano, so I moved back to Minnesota to pursue film. I enjoy rockclimbing, drinking coffee, writing emails to the Art House Collective, speaking Dutch to my cat, Gilly, going to movies, and thinking about Jason Schwartzman.  


The Ae Film Festival felt like the beginning of the rest of my life. That sounds mighty dramatic, but honestly, that night was the happiest I had felt in a very long time.



I am really honored to have worked with you this past year. You did a lot of great work with Altered Esthetics Film Festival's 2015 season. You showed how committed you are to being an artist, but you also showed off your skills as an emerging curator - tell me and our readers a bit more about your role with the film festival. What did you think of it all?     

I am a co-curator of the Ae Film Festival. This means I review and select submissions, organize the program of films based on theme, mood, length and style, and plan the event itself. In addition, last year I blogged for the Ae website, interviewing artists and reflecting on my experience.

I have felt nervous when presenting my own work to others, but presenting the Ae Film Festival to an audience at the Southern Theater is another beast entirely. I felt personally responsible for all of the selections in our festival. I invested my entire heart in the film program last year, as I do with my individual projects.

Organizing a film and video art festival is hard work. It is also exciting! Do you have any memorable moments or experiences from co-curating that you can share? 

Arizona Filmmaker Joshua Provost flew in from Phoenix for the festival. Provost made my favorite submission from last year, Love in Five Parts. After the program that night, Joshua went for drinks at Republic with my roommates and me, and I asked him all of the questions I had thought of while watching his film. He explained that he writes in different languages because different speech sounds create different moods in movies. He described his experience in Paris, simply filming what he saw and creating his ode to French New Wave, Love in Five Parts later. As we talked to Joshua, I felt my whole life begin to make sense. I felt glimmers of purpose in my seemingly ordinary college-kid life. The Ae Film Festival felt like the beginning of the rest of my life. That sounds mighty dramatic, but honestly, that night was the happiest I had felt in a very long time.

As the last fest season ended you wrote an excellent Ae blog post where you discussed how inspiring your curatorial experience was, but you also talked about how hard it was to say goodbye. That's why I am super excited to announce that you will continue on into the 2016 season as a festival curator again! On top of that you have also developed and coordinated a unique student collective component for the festival. What is the Art House Collective and why did you organize this group?

The Art House Collective is an emerging artist organization affiliated with Altered Esthetics. Our short term goal is to create films for this years Ae Film Festival. As the U of M doesn’t have a film production major, I wanted to create a space where students and new filmmakers to learn from one another and create their own film degree. In addition to working on projects for the festival, we have a weekly AHC Movie Night, where we watch art films and discuss afterward. 

In the long term, I see AHC turning into my life’s work. I dream of founding a non-profit like Dave Egger’s 826 Valencia, or Patrick’s Cabaret. AHC is my research project, if you will. I am gathering data, learning how to lead, collecting inspiring people and encouraging them to stay with me always and make art. 

Are you working on any film or video projects of your own right now? What are some of you goals as an artist or filmmaker?

Ari: My goal of all goals and dream of all dreams is to learn how to use celluloid film and develop my own photography. I am currently resisting the impulse to build a darkroom in the basement of my house. But the house isn’t mine, so I really shouldn’t.

Jes: As we move into the planning stages for Altered Esthetics 2016 film festival season, what are your curatorial hopes for the upcoming program? 

Ari: Sometimes, a movie comes along like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or It’s Such a Beautiful Day that makes me say “Wow. I just felt everything I have ever felt in my life all at once.” I want every person in our 2016 Ae Film Festival audiences to say that at least once while watching our programs.

There is always a lot to do when organizing a festival. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, particularly when reviewing hundreds of submissions. What do you dislike the most about the process? What do you love most about it?

Ari: I may sound disgustingly optimistic when I say this, but I don’t dislike any part of the process. Yes, reviewing hundreds of submissions gets overwhelming, especially if I procrastinate, but every film I watch informs me as an artist, and more importantly, a fellow human being. There is nothing like 400 experimental films to make you realize who you are and who you aren’t. Sometimes, reviewing submissions feels like a big, psychological experiment. I love pondering why someone made a certain decision with the camera/music/lighting/costume/etc. What experiences shaped how these artists make their decisions? How are these decisions different from my own?

Lastly, what was the last film you saw? Why did you see it?

I just saw Alejandro Innaritu’s The Revenant last night. This film is not for the faint of heart. I spent about half of the time gawking at the majestic cinematography, and the other half hiding under my jacket. I went in to the movie knowing very little except that Leo DiCaprio’s costar is a giant grizzly bear. I saw The Revenant because Innaritu also directed Birdman, one of my favorite movies. The Revenant and Birdman are similar in that they both follow a distressed man through his solitary journey down the rabbit hole.

A quick-and-dirty video diary from Joshua Provost of "L'amour en cinq parties" world premiere at the Ae Art House Film Festival, Minneapolis, MN, USA on July 23-24, 2015:







Joshua Provost on Vimeo:


Ari Newman is a student at the University of Minnesota. Jes Reyes is the Co-Exhibitions Director and Festival Director for Altered Esthetics.

The 2016 Ae Film Fest kicks off at The Southern Theater on July 27, 2016! Stay tuned for more updates. To submit your work of art to the festival go to FilmFreeway to enter: