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From Ann Arbor to LA: AAFF and the Oscars

Frank Mouris, Frank Film, 1973

Hello Film Lovers!

My name is Jimmy Pawlowski, and I am the Archive and Video Intern for the Ann Arbor Film Festival. I have been enjoying taking on my role at the Festival, and I am excited to experience the vibrancy of Festival Week in March!

With the 2023 Academy Award® nominations announced just yesterday, many people are unaware that the Ann Arbor Film Festival is one of a select group of US-based film festivals that can qualify a film for consideration for an Academy Award®. The three AAFF qualifying awards are the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, the Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film, and the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film.

I wanted to know more about the relationship between the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Academy Awards® and to find out how many films that played at AAFF went on to be nominated or win. I searched through a comprehensive database of films that have played at the festival, and I compared them side-by-side with the films that have been nominated and have won Academy Awards® since AAFF’s founding in 1963. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large number of films that did just that in several categories.

The first film I found in my research is the 1973 animated short Frank Film by Frank Mouris, which went on to win the Academy Award® for Best Short Subject, Animated Films in 1974 after winning the first place award at AAFF the year before (the Oscar was presented to Mouris by Linda Blair and Billy Dee Willams). One year later, the stop motion film Closed Mondays by Bob Gardiner and Will Winton won the same award in 1975 after being officially selected by AAFF.

In addition to Animated Shorts, AAFF films were also selected in the Documentary categories with Jay Rosenblatt’s documentary short When We Were Bullies being nominated just last year. In total 37 films screened at AAFF subsequently received Oscar nominations, 5 of which won in their respective categories.

I am proud to be a part of a Festival with such a vast and illustrious history as the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and I look forward to seeing you at the 61st AAFF in March!


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