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A Word from our Executive Director

Last week I travelled to Santa Fe to visit the 8th annual Currents new media exhibition and the immersive art installation Meow Wolf. I stayed at an Airbnb on the outskirts of town, a bucolic garden oasis in the high desert featuring olive and fig trees and a natural swimming hole. There I discovered and read On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, historian Timothy Snyder’s latest publication.

Against the backdrop of this former hippie commune, the book inspired me to think about our assumed liberties, in particular the freedom to express ourselves in all of our unique variations. Imagine a world where personal expression —the currency of the artist— is suppressed. At this moment, in much of America, we are fortunate that we can say what we please, but that is not the case for many in this world. And, as artist Christina Rees points out in her recent article in Glasstire:

The men in power today, and their followers, really, really distrust artists and artistic freedom —here, in Europe, in Russia, in Turkey, et al. Total power can’t afford the threat that artists pose. It’s in the leaders’ interest to undermine, bully, silence, exile, and threaten intelligent and creative people, free-thinkers, people with questions, people capable of great abstract thought and novel productive action. Historically this has always been the case.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival remains committed to the variety of individual voices that challenge the messages and conventions of the most popular medium of our time. We are grateful to our community for making the Festival possible through generously contributing time, talent, money, and goods. Thank you to all of the artists, volunteers, members and donors, businesses and schools from the region and beyond that make the AAFF a reality every March.

We are motivated year-round by our love of sharing the best artist films and moving image art being made today. We delight in presenting films that challenge the status quo through both content and form as they reflect on the present, contemplate the past and envision the future. We celebrate non-conformity and those who stand out from the mainstream. We embrace individualism and, to quote Timothy Snyder, “the small truths of daily existence.”

Please continue your support of the AAFF through volunteering, submitting work, financial contributions, becoming a member, and attending the Festival. Every ticket or pass you purchase is a demonstration of your support. We also encourage you to expand the power of your influence beyond the Festival, beyond art, and into every aspect of your world. Festival week is empowering as a touch point, a gathering and a celebration. But we believe that resistance must burn all year round, and that these challenging times demand active opposition to the ruling class. Following blindly may lead to the downfall of democracy.

If you are as concerned as we are about the current political climate, we suggest breaking out of the collective trance of the media. Let us have the discipline to look at our screens less and to read books more. We can make a difference by purchasing a subscription to print media that publishes investigative journalism. These are just a few of the tamer suggestions put forth in Snyder’s aforementioned book.

It is also important that we not look away in hopes that the situation will fix itself, that others will fight to ensure our rights and freedoms. There is too much at stake. Let us be conscientious, courageous and ethical. Let us stand up for democracy. Directly, with actions both large and small. If your alma mater calls to request a contribution, you might tell them that you are eager to support them when a larger percentage of minorities are represented in the student body. We possess the ability to safeguard our rights, to speak up and stand out.

Let us, together, actively uphold the greater good in order to preserve truth, ethics, individualism and all of the things that the AAFF has embraced since its beginning, galvanized in the cauldron of the 1960's counter-cultural revolution.

Leslie Raymond

AAFF Executive Director

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