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A Word from Our Executive Director

Thanks to the creative passions of the filmmakers, generous support of our patrons and sponsors, and unwavering dedication of our many fantastic volunteers, the best in experimental and avant-garde moving image art came to our community this year for the 56th time. This time around, the Ann Arbor Film Festival launched on the vernal equinox, marking the return of the light.

Katie McGowan’s efforts in our programming department have crystallized in this second year of her appointment at AAFF, underscoring the festival’s commitment to presenting a broad variety of artist voices.

Our revamped method for reviewing film submissions using the new online platform Festivant, developed in collaboration with InfoReady, supports a robust and equitable process. In addition to the quality of the work and fit with the experimental nature of AAFF, this system insures that the entire array of work receives full consideration.

The special curated programs are another indicator of our dedication to the multiplicity of artistic voices. This year’s selections included URe:AD TV (United Re:Public of the African Diaspora Television), Black Radical Imagination, Memories of Disintegration: Ibero-American Experimental Film, The Irresistible Joy of Film: The Early Works of Karpo Godina, and more.

Nearly 100 film artists presenting work were in attendance this year. Traveling from far and wide, their presence underscored the variety and range of experiences and voices represented. Filmmakers visited from as far away as Iceland, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Costa Rica. They repeatedly reported that an atmosphere of egalitarianism permeates the AAFF, a distinguishing characteristic in their experiences of attending film festivals. Everyone here is in it together, watching the films, interacting between screenings and in the green room, gathering at after-parties and other interstitial spaces.

The final day closed out with a rousing demonstration of percussive prowess by the all-female drumline Bitch, Thunder!, who drummed both outside and inside of the theater before each of the two awards programs. It was the first time ever that the AAFF Ken Burns Best of Festival was awarded to a silent film comprising only web-sourced images and Reddit-derived text—Chris Kennedy’s Watching the Detectives.

After the final Rorschach flicker of Josh Lewis’ 16mm film An Empty Threat, which earned a Jury Award, Bitch, Thunder! marched everyone down to Babs’ Underground for the final party where film lovers and filmmakers, staff and volunteers gathered. saajtak’s performance brought us all out on a powerful high note of experimental operatic punk. There were just a few who went on for the very last chapter at the Fleetwood Diner.

Our tiny staff is just a small drop in a giant ocean of support. AAFF sponsors, donors, members, interns, and volunteers lift up our event and create a rich stew of exchange. The Ann Arbor citizenry is unique. There is a good chance that the person scanning your ticket may have a Ph.D. And they love the festival.

The vibrancy of our community has a direct and positive impact on filmmaker experience, and people feel like they are a part of something big and strong. We thank our community for coming out to host, drive, take tickets, sell T-shirts, and more. We are grateful for our 100-plus volunteers for their time and for sharing their intelligence, wealth of diverse experiences, and passion for the festival.

We are currently in a time of reflection, thanking and saying goodbye to our beloved interns and volunteers. We are also reviewing our finances and gearing up for the next call for entries, which opens on July 1. It is time to plant the new seeds and to look forward to the 57th. The dates have already been set for March 26–31, 2019. Mark you calendars!!

Leslie Raymond

AAFF Executive Director

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