top of page


© Abby Rose Photography

Ann Arbor Film Festival founder George Manupelli passed away in New Hampshire on Sunday September 14. He was 82. George was an artist, filmmaker, teacher and activist.

George earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in fine art and fine art education from Columbia University. His distinguished 38-year teaching career included positions at the University of Michigan, York University in Toronto and the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was dean. He won a Cleo, the advertising industry’s equivalent of an Oscar, for his admissions film featuring Father Guido Sarducci.

During his tenure at the University of Michigan Art Department, George taught painting and initiated a filmmaking class for art students. He performed as a member of the ONCE Group, a collection of musicians, visual artists, architects, and film-makers who wished to create an environment in which artists could explore and share techniques and ideas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Ann Arbor Film Festival, which George founded in 1963, evolved from his work with the ONCE Group. He directed the AAFF for 17 years.

A pioneer in experimental film since 1955, he won international awards including the 1964 Venice and 1965 Sao Paulo Biennials. George won the Avant Garde Film Masters Award in 2007 for his Dr. Chicago film trilogy. His many films are preserved at the Anthology Film Archives of New York.

George also founded Aid to Arts of Nicaragua to fund art development after he served as Cultural Representative of the United States to Nicaragua in 1983.

In declining health and with failing eyesight, George continued to make and exhibit his art until his death, combining and re-combining objects gleaned from flea markets and antique stores into assemblage sculptures whose ironic juxtapositions and telling titles offered offbeat insights into these “modern times.” Recent exhibitions include the a one-man show at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan, and an invitation to screen Dr. Chicago at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Thessaloniki, Greece.

He is survived by his daughters Aune Manupelli-Hamilton of Ypsilanti, MI, Ingrid Manupelli of San Francisco, CA, his cousin Michael Buckley of Hudson, NH, ex-wife Betty Johnson of San Francisco, CA, 4 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Those who knew him will miss his wry humor, penetrating intelligence, loyalty and unfailing generosity. A card or remembrance can be sent to The Manupelli Family, 1 Muchmore Road, Bethlehem NH 03574.

bottom of page