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A Word from our Executive Director

The AAFF came about through George Manupelli’s determination to celebrate avant-garde film art in the midwest and to embrace and encourage everybody in their endeavors to express themselves creatively through film. George planted that seed in 1963, in the hotbed of Ann Arbor’s counterculture milieu. Art of the time—Happenings, Situationism, Fluxus and Ann Arbor’s own ONCE group—professed that life is art, performed social experiments, collaborated across media and expanded consciousness.

During and after George’s time presiding over the festival, an array of dedicated individuals enabled his sensibility through their creativity, hard work and support. Their embrace carried forward a set of fundamental values that were embedded in the organization at its founding. This ethos is distinguished by openness, freedom of expression, artistic risk-taking and experimentation, tolerance, inclusion and respect for the full variety of human experience.

The many indomitable characters—makers, doers and other proponents—who helped the festival become what it is today are part of our living history. The early AAFF generation has become cheekily known as the “old-timers.” Fueling our longevity and momentum, they inspire and challenge us to maintain the integrity of festival.

For that we are grateful.

We are constantly balancing between honoring the festival's past and looking towards the future. The aesthetics of experimental and avant-garde film, by definition, evolve over time in response to developments in the medium and the zeitgeist. From the visceral shuttering of celluloid, to the saturated static of video, to the digital glitch, all things change, and the AAFF embraces and exhibits the latest work of artists experimenting and working in the art of the moving image.

To our “old-timers,” the elders, we ask that you please recall that this is the territory that you have enjoyed, contributed to and fought for. We thank you for your care and love. To the newcomers, the upstarts, we ask you to please be mindful that knowledge can be transmitted in mysterious ways.

We are honored to carry on the festival's forward-thinking spirit of experimentation. As a scrappy, tiny nonprofit, it is incredible that we have been able to uphold this space for pure creative expression. Experimental moving-image art requires an unparalleled purity and dedication because it has no commercial value. It is in this space that true freedom exists.

Leslie Raymond

AAFF Executive Director


(Longtime AAFF alumna Pat Oleszko performs at the 55th AAFF in 2017.)

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