I just returned from a quick visit to Durham, NC where I was delighted to take part in a round table discussion at The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. I also presented the AAFF touring program at Shadowbox Studio.
Thank you to Simone Barros who invited me, independent filmmaker Madeleine Hunt-Elrich, and recent grad Anne Kipervaser to talk with her cohort of MFA students in Experimental and Documentary Arts. Simone led an engrossing conversation that drew from our collective knowledge of making and exhibiting film art as we explored the medium and its expanded forms alongside the reality of the marketplace. What is different about experimental media, and how did each student identify with it? I enjoyed representing AAFF and appreciated the generous hospitality that I received from the program’s Assistant Director Ted Mott who toured me around the facilities, including the impressive new Rubenstein Arts Center that features multiple flexible production and exhibition spaces for students.
I am grateful to Jim Haverkamp for hosting our touring program at the Shadowbox Studio microcinema. It was a special treat to see AAFF alums Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat who came over from Chapel Hill. Sabine’s film Moving or Being Moved, received the 60th AAFF Gil Omenn Art & Science Award and was included in the program. I loved watching the program with a full house and experiencing the AAFF tour films projected huge and bright with solid audio!
In my introduction, I talked about AAFF’s founding ethos of inclusivity, which I believe is essential in supporting the advancement of the art form. In his notable Unauthorized History talk at the 47th AAFF, George Manupelli (AAFF founder) spoke about launching the festival as a response to the exclusivity of the NYC circle of experimental filmmaking at that time. He expressed his appreciation for the important contributions being made through those channels, but wanted to make space for and encourage new artists to make work in the medium. That objective persists to this day.
The AAFF screening review process that began in the 1960’s endures because of our continuing dedication to conversation about the works in consideration. We now receive over ten times the number of submissions, but learning as a shared enterprise remains at the heart of the process. We welcome new volunteers to expand their film knowledge with us, and we have created screening groups, a channel that enables students to screen and discuss submitted films with their professors, and then collectively decide which films they would like to see advanced to the next round of consideration.
At the end of my presentation, I was pleased to share with my Durham audience that we will continue to offer a hybrid festival format for the upcoming 61st AAFF in March 2023. While we are seeing many festivals end their online programs, we recognize the value in continuing to offer world-wide access to the amazing film art that we bring to our audience each year.
While it is hard to predict just how our audience will respond, we will continue the experiment this year and see what happens!