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Reflections from the 60th

Published July 5, 2022

How the time flies! Spring has come and gone since the conclusion of the 60th AAFF that went down in late March of this year. After two years of online-only Ann Arbor Film Festivals, our 2022 was hybrid. It felt amazing to return to the glorious Michigan Theater. Experiencing the physicality of the work projected at monumental scale in the theater was incredible. Studies show that viewing art increases blood flow to the brain, improves thinking and reduces stress.

A third of our audience joined virtually from both far and near. Shifting pandemic sands and all, many are not ready to return to crowded rooms, and others are wary about the environmental impact of air travel. We are proud to offer broad access to the best film art of our day, and intend to continue doing so for the 61st AAFF in March 2023.

The palpable life force at the in-person gathering of 60th AAFF embodied a deeply engaged excitement shared by all present. We humans are built for connection. It improves physical well-being, nourishes, motivates, and energizes us.

A few of my favorite things from the 60th AAFF:

It is always a treat to work with the theater’s IATSE Local 395 tech crew. Here I am checking in prints with Erica Gleichman, Dan Moray, and Jared Van Eck.

Playful lobby decorations by N. Stupek who experimented with texture, shape and color to foster a unique festive atmosphere.

We hosted so many special personas including artists Pat Oleszko, Lydia Lunch, Joseph Keckler, Tracey Snelling as well as artist-jurors Mariam Ghani, Gina Kamentsky, and Thomas Renoldner.

Our tribute to AAFF tech director Tom Bray really took him by surprise! And he just thought we were celebrating our return to the theater. See the text of our tribute speech at the end of this blog!

Our incredible team of staff and volunteers made it all possible.

While it’s not necessarily easy to make the shift back to pre-pandemic social interactions, it's good for us. The shared ritual of gathering and viewing the glowing screen together attunes us to one another.

Nothing beats the unmistakable vibrancy of being in the company of other humans or encountering films on the silver screen. For those in the region, I hope you'll join us for the AAFF Presents monthly screening series of feature films from the 60th AAFF. The films show at 7pm every first Thursday at the State Theatre through November. We will be there and look forward to your company!

Tribute to Tom Bray:

"Just what in the world's going on here?" you may be asking yourselves.

Certainly we are celebrating the return of the festival alive at last, but we have a secret message.

It is with great art-felt cheer that we offer a proclamation of praise for a very particular and worthy maestro of magic.

A maestro whose ingenuity builds formidably on the great tradition set forth in the earlier years by legendary Ann Arbor Film Festival wizard Peter Wilde.

The technical competence of the individual being recognized here commands not only the demanding intricacies of converging technologies, but also the artistic imagination and sympathies to put it in motion.

When the pandemic took us down in 2020, he jumped right up and carried us online as the first virtual pandemic film festival.

And when it was done, he wrote the instructions for it the very next day, an astonishing feat in itself.

And we were welcomed to present to our film festival colleagues from across the continent in a zoom confab where we shared what we did bringing a model of possibility to the scrambled cloud of early pandemic technological confusion.

Our honoree almost always delivers the goods with his daunting skills, camaraderie, and high spirits.

And if not, being human like the rest of us when stressful situations take a toll, he is eternally eager to restore harmony. bless his heart for that.

for the good of the ideal,

he lifts us with his can-do, will-do, and does-do.

every festival he wears his badge on his lapel because

you can always trust the sheriff to keep order.

You know who I’m talking about—

He’s generous to a fault, whip-smart, fun and funny and, how did we get so lucky, he's ours.

Let’s put our hands and voices together for a roar of appreciation for Ann Arbor Film Festival Tech Director Tom "the master blaster" Bray.


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