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Faces Behind the Festival and the Mind-Bending Odyssey of Avant Garde Films

September 20, 2023

Opening night for the 60th Festival, attending my first in-person AAFF.

Hi, my name is Rose.

I hope this message finds you well. It’s a bit of a long one, so grab your favorite beverage and let’s enjoy reading my message together. I am drinking vanilla latte by the way, in case you’re wondering.

October 7 somehow became my lucky day. I was accepted into the University of Michigan on October 7, 2020. Exactly a year later, on October 7, 2021, I got an email from AAFF offering the position of a Program Assistant intern. I replied within minutes to accept. Little did I know I would fall in love with that position and intern with AAFF for two years! October 7, 2023 I will be traveling. See? I told you it has become my lucky day.

Anyway, I will let you in on a little personal secret, but you have to promise not to let anyone know! I get bored so easily. Shushh! So interning for the festival was an absolute blessing. There’s always something new happening, from screenings, to managing different projects, to meeting new people from all over the world. I was constantly working on something new. So it really was impossible to get bored! More importantly though, I learned so much from working with the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Thanks to them I refined many of the skills I learned in school, as well as acquired a wealth of new ones. The best part too? I was constantly applying all of these skills while communicating and working with artists and filmmakers in the experimental film world, allowing me to make amazing connections while I was still a student. The adrenaline you get in the weeks leading to festival week is absolutely incomparable! It’s one of the best experiences you can have in an internship. Seeing all the projects you worked on finally coming together, communicating with filmmakers and artists on a daily basis as we get closer to festival week, assisting many of the festival installations, and last but not least planning all the outfits for the festival is an unmatched experience! One that you will cherish forever <3.

Before I tell you more about the festival week and the beauty of that one lively week in March, let me tell you a little about the amazing people who are keeping the Ann Arbor Film Festival thriving. The people who inspire you with every conversation you have with them, and who you will learn from while having so much fun. Leslie Raymond, festival director, who I met with once a week, sometimes twice, for the past two years. A leader, mother, boss, and friend, a creative person, it’s impossible to not look up to her! Our conversations about random events in our lives after we discussed a current project were always cherished moments of connection. Leslie’s genuine passion for Ann Arbor, the festival, everyone who works at and for the festival and everyone who participates in it is what makes the Ann Arbor Film Festival an unforgettable experience for everyone. Technical Director Tom Bray, whom I met with very often, is one of the funniest and brilliant people I know who will always tell you a fun fact inspiring a whole conversation about films. Thanks for teaching me so much about projectors! Deputy Director, Scott Boberg, who joined the AAFF family last year, and whose passion and enthusiasm were always inspiring me. Boberg and I share mutual interest in silent films which we often conversed about when we weren’t discussing festival projects. My times with Megi Mustafaj, previous festival coordinator, Madison Grosvenor, Cait Quinn, Missy Nuyda, Cheryl Tomsic, Dan Gunning, Vicki Engel, Mei Kiengsiri, Caitlin Mayernik, Megan Treglias, Laura Atkinson, Cameron Watt, and Joe Smith were filled with laughter and heartfelt memories.

The time I had with the amazing interns of the 60th and 61st festivals, the filmmakers, and the artists allowed for countless inspirational and eye opening conversations and laughter, weaving an intricate tapestry of shared experiences and lasting bonds.

Now let me paint you a brief picture of what festival week looks like. Amidst the dimly lit Michigan Theater and State Theatre, shadows dance with flickering anticipation of what the attendees are going to witness. Senses are heightened by the one week artistic journey they are about to embark on. Screens at both theaters are canvases of limitless imagination by some of the most talented avant garde filmmakers and artists. Their films and installations come to life through the magnificent use of shapes, surreal landscapes, burst of colors, and sounds. Each frame these filmmakers made and continue to make is a masterpiece that defies convention. As the festival unfolds hour by hour and day by day, we embark on a mind-bending and marvelous odyssey of creativity where every moment is a revelation and the boundaries of reality are blurred.

Now imagine all of this happening while attendees are adorned in astonishing fashion as if Copenhagen fashion week seamlessly merged with the Ann Arbor Film Festival. The immaculate outfits of attendees make the lobbies and hallways of the theaters feel like a runway. Attendees of the Ann Arbor Film Festival are a walking testament to the marriage of fashion and films in its most breathtaking form.

I hope you enjoyed reading my message and have a sense of why interning with the Ann Arbor Film Festival was one of the best experiences I had as an undergrad student.

Sincerely yours,

Rose Albayat

P.S. I finished writing this while drinking iced matcha =)


1) 61st AAFF Team

2) Missy Nyuda and Rose Albayat (61AAFF)

3) Megan Tregilgas, RA, Cameron Watt, and Joe Smith (60AAFF)

4) Leslie Raymond and RA (60AAFF)

5) Cait Quinn, Megi Mustafaj, Bhavya Arora, RA, Mei Kiengsiri, Madeline Sun Woo Kim, Selena Fack (60AAFF)

6) RA and Megi Mustafaj (61AAFF)

7) Ahmad Mohsin, Jimmy Pawloswki, RA (61AAFF)

8) RA and Sean Kenny (61AAFF)

9) RA and Madison Grosvenor (61AAFF)

10) RA and Caitlin Mayernick (60AAFF)


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