Raising the curtain on the 57th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival

Ann Arbor, Michigan—The 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) will take place March 26–31, 2019. The six-day festival, which features a total of 40 programs of experimental, documentary, narrative and animated films, consists of 16 shorts-in-competition programs, 11 feature films, seven special programs, two awards programs, three juror presentations, and a presentation of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series featuring the Meow Wolf arts collective.

Short and feature films in competition come from 32 countries all over North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. The films include 16 world premieres, 22 North American premieres, and 17 U.S. premieres. World premieres of feature-length films include vulture by Philip Hoffman (Canada), originally shot on 16mm film and developed, in part, with flower/plant processing carried out as blooming occurred, and Two A.M. by Loretta Fahrenholz (Germany), a hallucinogenic fairy tale about peer-to-peer surveillance.

Films in Competition 5: Out Night (Thursday, March 28, 2019, at 7:15 p.m. in the Michigan Theater Main Auditorium) was programmed by Sean Donovan, a doctoral student in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at the University of Michigan; and Films in Competition 6 (Thursday, March 28, 2019, at 9:15 p.m. in the Michigan Theater Main Auditorium) was programmed by Woody Sempliner, a past and returning member of the AAFF screening committee and former AAFF board member who also served as festival manager, 1976–81. Further information about the AAFF programming process is available here.

Special programs of curated films not in competition at this year’s festival include:

  • Ethnographic Frictions, an exploration of anthropological filmmaking, curated by Julia Yezbick, a Detroit-based filmmaker, artist, and anthropologist who founded the online journal Sensatefor experiments in critical media practice
  • Remnants of a Dream, a recollection of global black experience, curated by Chicago-based filmmaker and curator Amir George, founder of Cinema Culture and co-founder of Black Radical Imagination
  • a retrospective on the work of Dutch filmmaker Barbara Meter, curated by New York City–based independent curator, writer, and experimental filmmaker Monica Sáviron
  • a retrospective on the work of Japanese animator Atsushi Wada, curated by Markus Nornes, a professor of Asian cinema at the University of Michigan in both LSA and the Stamps School of Art & Design
  • programs of early women’s video art from the Video Data Bank (VDB) collection, curated by VDB executive director Abina Manning
  • Chinese video art curated by Zhang Fang, the 2016–17 Hughes Scholar at the U-M’s Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and a lecturer in art history in LSA at U-M
  • a program of films by the late Robert Todd (1963–2018) – a prolific film artist whose work was a mainstay of the AAFF for two decades – to be presented by his sister, Deb Todd Wheeler

The festival’s three invited jurors this year are Bryan Konefsky, Akosua Adoma Owusu, and Stacey Steers. Each juror will present a program of work, with Konefsky presenting at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27; Steers presenting at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 28; and Owusu presenting at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, March 29, all in the Michigan Theater Screening Room. These programs are free and open to the public. The jurors will be present for the duration of the festival to watch the films in competition and bestow 22 awards consisting of $22,500 in cash and in-kind prizes.

The festival will conclude with Winners Night on Sunday, March 31, presenting two different screenings of awarded work: at 6:00 p.m. (Awards 1 program) and 8:00 p.m. (Awards 2 program). The all-female party drumline known as Bitch, Thunder! of Toledo, Ohio, will play in front of the Michigan Theater preceding the awards announcement at 6:00 p.m. They will play again in the Michigan Theater Grand Foyer between Awards 1 and Awards 2. When the Awards 2 program concludes, the drumline will march everyone down to Babs’ Underground Lounge  (213 South Ashley Street) for the final afterparty of the week, featuring Cowboy Microwave Music, a performance by Elliot Sheedy.

Tickets and passes, along with a complete festival schedule, are available at aafilmfest.org.

In addition to the film screenings, the AAFF’s Off the Screen! (OTS!) series presents installations, performances, and salon sessions that expand the footprint of the festival beyond the Michigan Theater (603 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor) to several other venues, including:

  • North Quad Space 2435at the University of Michigan (105 South State Street, Ann Arbor)
  • the Ann Arbor Art Center(117 West Liberty Street, Ann Arbor)
  • the Stamps Gallery, part of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at U-M (201 South Division Street, Ann Arbor)
  • afterpartylocations:
    • Lo-Fi (220 South Main Street)
    • \aut\ BAR (315 Braun Court)
    • Club Above (215 North Main Street)
    • Circ Bar (210 South First Street)
    • Babs’ Underground Lounge (213 South Ashley Street)

Many of the OTS! events and installations are free and open to the public.

The festival will kick off with the Annual Director’s Fundraiser, to be held 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Opening Night (March 26, 2019) at Sava’s (216 South State Street). Tickets to the fundraiser are available for purchase here and include admission to the Opening Night Party, to be held 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the Michigan Theater Grand Foyer, as well as reserved seating for Films in Competition 1at 8:15 p.m. in the Michigan Theater Main Auditorium.


About the Ann Arbor Film Festival
Founded in 1963, the Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest independent and experimental film festival in North America and is internationally recognized as a premier forum for film as an art form. The AAFF typically receives nearly 3,000 film submissions a year from more than 70 countries, and the festival serves as one of a handful of Academy Award–qualifying festivals in the United States. The AAFF is also a pioneer of the traveling film festival tour. Each year the touring programs visit more than 35 theaters, universities, museums, and micro cinemas around the world. The 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival takes place March 26–31, 2019. For more information, please visit aafilmfest.org, and be sure to join AAFF on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Vimeo.

Major AAFF Partners and Foundation Support
AAFF gratefully acknowledges support from and partnerships with the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, which encourages, initiates, and facilitates an enriched artistic cultural and creative environment in Michigan; the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office, which supports the media industry in Michigan and helps the state of Michigan become a production destination; the historic Michigan Theater, a vital partner whose beautiful venue serves as the primary location for AAFF events; the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation; and the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, with a mission focused on creative practice as an engine for cultural change and innovation.

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