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Ann Arbor Film Festival facts for kids

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Ann Arbor Film Festival
Opening animation during the 43rd fest
Location Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Language International

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is an annual film festival held in Ann Arbor in the U.S. state of Michigan. Established in 1963, it is the fourth-oldest film festival in North America (after the Yorkton Film Festival, 1947; Columbus International Film & Video Festival, 1953; and the San Francisco International Film Festival, 1957); and the oldest experimental film festival. It has become one of the premier film festivals for independent and, especially, experimental filmmakers to showcase their work. Now entering its 55th year, the Ann Arbor Film Festival attracts over 3,000 entries from filmmakers in more than 60 countries, and distributes over $20,000 in cash awards. As a pioneer of the traveling festival concept in 1964, each year the Ann Arbor Film Festival Tour continues to present a collection of short films at more than 30 art house theaters, universities, galleries and cinematheques throughout the world.

Created as an alternative to commercial cinema, the annual week-long festival remains true to its original mission of promoting film as an art form. The Ann Arbor Film Festival also fosters the growth of emerging and established film and video makers. The festival is open to film and video of all lengths and genres, including experimental, narrative, animation, documentary, and genre hybrids. The mission of the Ann Arbor Film Festival is to promote bold, visionary filmmakers through the advancement of film and new media art, and to engage communities with remarkable cinematic experiences.'


The Ann Arbor Film Festival was founded in 1963 by University of Michigan professor George Manupelli. Manupelli originally screened only films in the 16 mm format, and thus the festival was called the 16 mm Film Festival. The festival gained prominence quickly, as it was one of the few outlets for experimental filmmakers to screen their work. In 1980 the festival moved from Lorch Hall on the University of Michigan campus to the Michigan Theater, an Ann Arbor landmark with a seating capacity of 1700. In 1983, after becoming independent from the University of Michigan, the festival became a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. In 2003 the festival began accepting entries in digital formats, opening up the festival to more filmmakers. In 2007 the festival was named one of Variety magazine's "Top Ten Festivals We Love." In 2020 due to the COVID-19 Outbreak, the festival moved to streaming online for free, rather than showing at the Michigan Theater.

Since its inception, thousands of influential filmmakers and artists have showcased early work at the AAFF, including Kenneth Anger, Agnès Varda, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Barbara Hammer, Lawrence Kasdan, Devo and George Lucas.

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