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The Ann Arbor Film Festival is internationally recognized as a premiere showcase for creative, inspiring, and influential films of all types: avant-garde and experimental, story-based narratives, documentaries, and animation. As the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America, the AAFF is steeped in a rich tradition of ground-breaking cinema. Thousands of influential filmmakers have showcased early work at the AAFF, including luminaries such as Kenneth Anger, Agnes Varda, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Barbara Hammer, Lawrence Kasdan, Devo and George Lucas.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival receives more than 2,500 submissions annually from more than 65 countries and serves as one of a handful of Academy Award-qualifying festivals in the United States. The AAFF is a pioneer of the traveling film festival tour, and each year visits more than 30 theaters, universities, museums and art house cinemas around the world.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival was started in 1963 by University of Michigan School of Art filmmaker/artist George Manupelli. The 1960s sparked rapid changes in cinema, thus challenging the art world to accept fresh ideas and talent. Manupelli took advantage of this shift and envisioned a festival that would serve experimental and pioneering filmmakers with the exposure, feedback and competition they desired. He designed his festival to be open to anyone who saw filmmaking as art.
From a casual group of fascinated students, filmmakers and film enthusiasts crowded into the smoke-filled Lorch Hall auditorium, to the thousands of filmmakers, artists and spectators hosted in the grand Michigan Theater, the Ann Arbor Film Festival has grown to be an internationally celebrated institution. Since 1980, it has been independent of the University of Michigan as an independent non-profit arts organization. In the fall of 2003 the festival broadened its scope to include video and digital formats for competition.