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The Ann Arbor Film Festival celebrates exceptional film art in a variety of ways, including a robust awards program. Thanks to the generous contributions of a number of individuals and businesses who have supported AAFF awards throughout our 58-year history, the awards program is able to recognize the work of more than 20 talented makers at the festival each year.

To ensure that the funds that make these laurels possible every year will continue to be available for generations to come, forward-thinking donors set out about five years ago to begin building toward the full endowment of some of these awards. At this time, two of the festival’s 22 awards are fully funded through an endowment that AAFF donors have helped build for the festival under the stewardship of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF). Two other AAFF awards are not far behind in their quest to become fully endowed.

Of these four award-endowment initiatives, the one to launch most recently is the quest to endow the \aut\ FILM Award for Best LGBTQ+ film. This effort began with the Out Night program at the 57th festival, held in March 2019. At that time, the AAFF honored \aut\ BAR founders Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, who by then had already supported the award on an annual basis for a dozen years running (since 2007). Contreras and Orr retired from running \aut\ BAR not long before the festival this year, making 2019 an important time to begin securing the future of this vital award and its distinctive place at the intersection of the LGBTQ+ community and experimental film.

Contreras and Orr generously pledged a 1:2 match for every dollar contributed to the endowment effort for the \aut\ FILM Award. So far, their match challenge has generated just over $4,500 from big-hearted donors, bringing the award fund halfway to the goal of $9,000—an endowment amount that will, once achieved, produce $300 in award monies every year in perpetuity for a deserving LGBTQ+ filmmaker.

The first Ann Arbor Film Festival award to reach its original endowment target is the Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film. Peter Wilde was a longtime projectionist for the festival and a master of special effects. In honor of his creativity and continual pursuit of new techniques, the $500 award in Wilde’s name recognizes the film each year that demonstrates the most pioneering technical innovations. The generous donors who helped establish this fund in loving memory of Peter Wilde include Wilde’s sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Jim Warner, as well as Peter and Susan’s brother, the late Alan C. Wilde. Additional support was provided by 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.

The most recent AAFF award to meet its endowment goal is the Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film. The endowment fund for the Prix DeVarti was established by the DeVarti Family of Ann Arbor. The award honors the memory of Dominick and Alice DeVarti and recognizes the 58-year friendship between the establishment they founded—the much-loved neighborhood bar and restaurant Casa Dominick’s—and the AAFF. The festival has been presenting this award since at least the 4th Ann Arbor Film Festival, if not before. Worth $25 in 1966, the Prix DeVarti now disburses $1,000 to a deserving experimental filmmaker each year.

Last but not least, the George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award is also working its way toward full endowment. With lead support from brothers Dave and Rich DeVarti, this $500 award recognizes the filmmaker whose work best captures the bold and iconoclastic spirit of the Ann Arbor Film Festival founder, the late George Manupelli—whose vision for the festival continues to this day. Contributors to this key fund have included Betty Johnson and Joseph Wehrer, Pat Oleszko, Marilyn Rockefeller, David Rosenboom, and Buster Simpson, with matching funds contributed by the Helmut Stern Legacy Challenge at the AAACF.

To make your gift today to the \aut\ FILM Award for Best LGBTQ+ Film and the George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award, please visit the donation page or mail your check to:

The Ann Arbor Film Festival

230 Collingwood Drive, Suite 160-B Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103

Thank you for your support of filmmaker awards at the Ann Arbor Film Festival!

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