Ann Arbor Film Festival

Ann Arbor Film Festival
The Ann Arbor Film Festival is an annual film festival that takes place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Established in 1963, it is the third-oldest film festival in North America after the Columbus International Film + Video Festival (founded in 1953) and the San Francisco International Film Festival (first held in 1957).

The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) was founded by University of Michigan professor George Manupelli as the 16 mm Film Festival because it screened only films in the 16 mm format. The festival became an outlet for experimental filmmakers to screen their work. For more than 15 years it was held at Lorch Hall on the UMich campus.

The festival outgrew its venue and moved to the Michigan Theater in 1980, which allowed it to accommodate 1,700 attendees. Three years later, it became independent from the University of Michigan and was converted into a not-for-profit organization. Having previously solely screened works in the 16 mm format, the AAFF began to accept entries in digital formats in 2003, which helped increase its popularity among filmmakers.

The AAFF is North America’s oldest and largest film festival dedicated to avant-garde and experimental cinema. Its mission is to support bold filmmakers and to advance the art of film and new media, engaging communities with exceptional cinematic experiences.

A premiere forum for independent filmmakers, it receives over 3,000 submissions from filmmakers in more than 65 countries. Among influential filmmakers and artists who have exhibited their early work at the AAFF are Kenneth Anger, James Benning, Les Blank, Matthew Buckingham, Devo, Barbara Hammer, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Agnes Varda, and Andy Warhol.

The AAFF is an Academy Award-qualifying festival for the Short Films category. It presents experimental, animated and documentary films, both shorts and features, in its competition programming. Awards given at the festival are named in honor of outstanding filmmakers. They include Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker, Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film, Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film, Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film, and more.

In 2021, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ann Arbor Film Festival

Photo: Mark Gjukich




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