\aut\ Film Award is Endowed


Still from Why Can't I Be Me? Around You by Harrod Blank, winner of the \aut\ Film Award at the 58th AAFF


The Ann Arbor Film Festival is pleased to announce that the Martin Contreras and Keith Orr \aut\ Film Award is now fully endowed. The endowment was made possible with the support of 28 contributors in addition to the final generous contribution from The James and Helen McCaffery Charitable Foundation that put the fund at its $9,000 goal.


The \aut\ Film Award honors the film that best addresses and gives voice to LGBTQ+ issues. Longtime festival supporters and former owners of the locally known and loved \aut\ BAR, Contreras and Orr initiated this award in 2008 to highlight the diversity of voices that achieve excellence in filmmaking. The \aut\ BAR in Ann Arbor served as a local gay bar as well as a safe space for members of the community for twenty-five years before it recently closed.


“The LGBT community, like other minority groups, has been discriminated against in the past, and our struggle continues today. There are many ways to confront discrimination. Our experience teaches us that representation matters,” said Orr. “Representation matters in politics and business. We believe that one of the best ways to encourage representation is through Arts and Culture. We have been moved by winning films in the past, and we are excited that the Award is being funded in perpetuity through this endowment.”


Contreras and Orr’s legacy of support will now live on, and the films that best address and give voice to LGBTQ+ issues will continue to be honored at the AAFF.


The winner of the \aut\ Film Award at the 58th AAFF was Why Can’t I Be Me? Around You directed by Harrod Blank. The documentary follows Rusty Tidenberg, an Albuquerque, New Mexico auto mechanic and drag-racing aficionado, who shocked friends and family by coming out as a Trans woman. Rusty guides us through the aftermath of her transition, as growing acceptance among her straight-talking Southwest community still doesn’t ease her romantic and professional woes.


The AAFF has a long history of celebrating LGBTQ+ films. The 59th AAFF will be presenting its twentieth Out Night, a program comprised of work that honors queer experimental cinema. Sean Donovan, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan in the Film, Television, & Media department, has been the Out Night programmer since 2018. His research analyzes LGBTQ media cultures and his current dissertation project examines nostalgia in different queer media forms.


The AAFF is excited to continue its tradition of honoring LGBTQ+ films at the upcoming 59th celebration, taking place online from March 23 - March 28, 2021.


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