top of page
Untitled_Artwork (1)_edited.jpg


The Ann Arbor Film Festival provides direct support to filmmakers. Our 2024 awards competition presents $25,500 to filmmakers through cash and in-kind awards that include film stock, film processing, and camera equipment rental. An award from the AAFF not only confers prestige and financial support, but can also qualify filmmakers for an Oscar® nomination by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in short film categories. Qualifying awards include the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, the Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film, and the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film.

Many thanks to our donors who make it possible for the Ann Arbor Film Festival to present awards to deserving filmmakers each year. Their generosity creates a positive impact on experimental film by providing support and recognition for talented artists.


Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival


Presented to the film of any genre or length that best represents the artistic standards of excellence for the festival, this award is generously provided by influential documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, a graduate of Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School.


Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film


Hollywood film producer and writer Lawrence Kasdan came to know Ann Arbor well during his years as a student at the University of Michigan. He keeps his connection to the town’s film culture alive in part through his support of this festival award. The distinction goes to the narrative film that makes the best use of film’s unique ability to convey striking and original stories. 


Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker


Tom Berman was a student of AAFF founder George Manupelli at the University of Michigan, as well as an early festival supporter and close friend to many in the festival community. To honor his memory, this award—contributed by the Berman family—supports an emerging filmmaker who the jury believes will make a significant contribution to the art of film.


Kodak Cinematic Vision Award 

$1,650 in film stock

This award goes to the film that demonstrates the highest excellence and creativity in cinematography. The recipient will receive $1,650 in film stock from Kodak. This includes complimentary processing at Kodak labs should the recipient select 16mm or 35mm color negative film stock.


Susan Dise Best Experimental Film


Supported by longtime AAFF volunteer Sue Dise, for whom festival week is like Christmas and New Year combined, this award celebrates the film that most successfully showcases the use of experimental processes, forms, and topics. 


Best Documentary Film 


This award recognizes the best nonfiction film in the festival program.


The Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for an Emerging Experimental Video Artist


This award provides support to the year’s most promising early-career video artist. The award was conceived by the Aronofsky family to honor the late Barbara Aronofsky Latham, a Chicago-based experimental video artist who passed away in 1984 and whose work is distributed by the Video Data Bank.


Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film


Chris Frayne was a key participant in the festival’s early years whose approach to life called to mind his colorful cartoon characters. This award honors the spirit of Chris by recognizing the animated film that delivers the best style, creativity, and content. Support for the award comes from several dedicated AAFF enthusiasts.


Gil Omenn Art & Science Award


Provided by Gil Omenn, who seeks to encourage a positive exchange between the arts and sciences, this award honors the filmmaker whose work best uses the art of film and video to explore scientific concepts, research natural phenomena, or embrace real-world experimentation.


Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film*


Supported by an endowment fund established by the DeVarti Family, this award goes to the film likely to create the most laughs at the festival. The prize recognizes the 60-year friendship between Casa Dominick’s and the AAFF and honors the memory of Dominick and Alice DeVarti.


The Terri Schwartz Film Award for Parody and Satire*


This award goes to the film that best effectively turns familiar images, music, and assumptions on their heads—and perhaps uses gentle or barbed humor—to offer pointed insights about injustice. It honors Terri P. Schwartz (1952–2021), a University of Michigan alumna employed as a graphic designer in the Netherlands. Favorite films of hers included Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019), a Nazi-mocking satire; Settlers of Brooklyn (Above Average Productions, 2015), a parody of gentrifying hipsters; and Pull My Daisy (Robert Frank, 1959), a parody of the Beat Generation.


The Eileen Maitland Award


Supported by several local AAFF fans, this award is given to the film that best addresses women’s issues and elevates female voices. It was created to honor the spirit and memory of Eileen Maitland, who was a dear friend and longtime supporter of the festival, as well as a patron and practitioner of the arts.


George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award


With lead support from brothers Dave and Rich DeVarti, this award recognizes the filmmaker who best captures the bold and iconoclastic spirit of the late George Manupelli, founder of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, whose vision for the festival continues to this day.


CameraMall Best Michigan Filmmaker Award

$565 in kind

This award recognizes top Michigan talent. The winner will receive a $100 gift card and a one-week rental for a camera body and two lenses, valued at $465, from CameraMall, Ann Arbor’s camera store and photo lab, dedicated to supporting the Great Lakes photo community in learning, renting gear, and printing their work.


Lawther/Graff No Violence Award


In a culture that too often uses images of violence to entertain and inform, this prize is awarded to the film that best engages the audience while meeting the challenge of “No Violence Depicted!”


Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award*


Barbara Hammer was a filmmaker with a profound commitment to expressing a feminist point of view in her work. In 2020, filmmaker Lynne Sachs received the Oberhausen Film Festival Grand Prize for a film she made with and for Hammer. With funds from the prize, Lynne created this Ann Arbor Film Festival award for a work that best conveys Hammer’s passion for celebrating and examining the experiences of women. Qualifying work by artists of any gender will be considered. Sachs’s contribution has been followed by those of other individuals, and now with Florrie Burke, Hammer’s partner, matching a recent contribution from Barbara Twist, Film Festival Alliance Director, the Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award has reached full endowed funding.


Best Experimental Animation Award* 


This award recognizes the best experimental animated film that most successfully showcases the use of experimental processes, forms, and topics. Established by Deanna Morse, the award is endowed in memory of Erik Alexander, an aficionado of the Ann Arbor Film Festival.


The Edge of Your Seat Award


Awarded to a film the jury deems most captivating for audiences, drawing them fully into the artist’s vision, and onto the edge of their seat! This award is funded by the classic arcade games at both RoosRoast Coffee locations (just 25 cents a play), in honor of Al “Ten Pin Alley” Harrison, the original owner of the games and father of former AAFF director Donald Harrison.


Leon Speakers Award for Best Sound Design


This award for excellence and originality in sound design is provided by Leon Speakers, which has been installing custom-built high-fidelity speakers in home theaters throughout Ann Arbor and the world since 1995.


Martin Contreras and Keith Orr \aut\ FILM Award for Best LGBTQ Film


This award honors the film that best addresses and gives voice to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer issues. Longtime festival supporters Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, former owners of the locally known and loved \aut\ BAR, contribute this award to highlight the diversity of voices that achieve excellence in filmmaking. An \aut\ FILM Award endowment fund initiative is currently underway. Please contact should you wish to help ensure that Keith and Martin’s legacy of support lives on forever.


The No. 1 African Film Award*


“It is the story … that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather, it is the story that owns us and directs us.” –Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah


This award honors the film that best speaks to the historical and contemporary experience of living and dreaming in Africa.  It has been endowed through the generous contribution of filmmaker Amy J. Moore, long-term resident of southern Africa and producer of Botswana’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.


Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film*


Peter Wilde was a long-time projectionist for the festival and a master of special effects. This award honors his creativity and pursuit of new techniques by recognizing the film that displays the most pioneering technical innovations. Generous donors to the Peter Wilde Award Endowment Fund include Bernard Coakley, Constance Crump and Jay Simrod, Bill Davis, IATSE Local 395, the LaBour Foundation for Non-Institutional Living, John Nelson and Deb Gaydos, Glenda Pittman, Woody Sempliner, Kevin Smith, and Robert Ziebell and Elizabeth Ward. Additional support has been provided by Peter Wilde’s sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Jim Warner, in loving memory of Peter and Susan’s brother, the late Alan C. Wilde.


The Terri Schwartz Asian Film Award*


Given to the film that best speaks to the cultures and experiences of Asians or Asian Americans, this award is a tribute to Terri P. Schwartz (1952–2021), a University of Michigan alumna employed as a graphic designer in the Netherlands. From Europe she passionately pursued interests in film, music, and Asian people and culture, including travels and stays in nine Asian nations. She was also sensitive to the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees in the Netherlands and elsewhere.


Vox Populi Award


This award—affectionately dubbed the Vox Populi Award—goes to the year’s most highly rated audience-selected film in competition. This award is supported by longtime festival attendee Mark Hardin.  


Ghostly International Award for Best Music Video


Designed to recognize excellence in the art of music video—which stems from the special collaborative relationship between a musician and a film or video maker. This award is supported by the Ghostly International record label, founded in Ann Arbor in 1999. 


Juror Awards


Provided by friends of the festival and distributed at the discretion of the jurors, the remaining prize monies confer special recognition to films of distinction and artistic accomplishment.

*This award is fully endowed.  For information on how you can help other AAFF awards reach full-funding, please contact Festival Director Leslie Raymond (

No. 1 Africa Award


These valued donors make it possible for the Ann Arbor Film Festival to present awards to deserving filmmakers each year. Their generosity creates a positive impact on experimental film by providing support and recognition for talented artists. 


Huge thanks to all of you!


Randy K. Schwartz


$3,000 – $4,999

Florrie Burke

Ken Burns

Barbara Twist


$1,000 – $2,999

The Aronofsky Family

Elizabeth & Richard Berman

Martha Darling & Gil Omenn 

Susan Dise

Meg & Lawrence Kasdan


Ellen Rabinowitz & David DeVarti


$500 – $999

Mei & Richard DeVarti

Devon Flores, CameraMall

Mark Hardin

Donald Harrison

Leslie Lawther & Matthew Graff

Leon Speakers

Kari Magill & George Fisher

Myrna Jean Rugg & Rick Cronn

Eric Suchyta

Sam Valenti, Ghostly International

Susan & Jim Warner

$250 – $499

Katharine Burnett & Bob Moustakas

Martin Contreras & Keith Orr 

Vicki Engel & Dan Gunning

Kohlitz Animation & Video Production

Deanna Relyea & Piotr Michalowski

Susan Wineberg & Lars Bjorn

$50 – $249

Deb Gaydos & John Nelson

Laura Mendez

Mary Ellen Rounsifer & Dennis Hayes

Claywood Sempliner

Marcus Watts

bottom of page