Virtual Experience: The Ann Arbor Film Festival will be streamed for free

. March 19, 2020.
Still from Sketch Artist (Loretta Fahrenholz), as part of ‘Films in Competition 2: Music Videos’, to be screened at 2pm on Wednesday, March 25.
Still from Sketch Artist (Loretta Fahrenholz), as part of ‘Films in Competition 2: Music Videos’, to be screened at 2pm on Wednesday, March 25.

Faced with possible cancellation of the 58th Annual Ann Arbor Film Festival organizers instead decided to offer a free live stream of the film entries. While festivals across the country are postponing or canceling scheduled events, AAFF Director Leslie Raymond found streaming to be the best solution.

“We did explore options of canceling the festival entirely and rescheduling. We just don’t have the resources available to hold the 58th AAFF (at a later date) while planning for next year’s 59th AAFF at the same time,” Raymond says. “Even though we are 58 years old, we are a tiny organization with a team of three full-time employees, a festival assistant, and a crew of interns. Once we tie up loose ends after the festival week concludes, it takes us the whole year to put the next festival together.”

The 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival will screen via Vimeo March 24-29, along with moderated Q&A sessions between the filmmakers and audience. The full schedule can be found here. Jurors deciding on $22,500 worth of awards will still view films to determine the winners, keeping in concert with the usual process.


See filmmaker Jon Rafman’s latest single-channel video, “Dream Journal 2016–2019” at 8pm on Saturday, March 28. 

Silver screen, silver linings

Though not screening films in a theater setting will be a big change for the AAFF, the oldest independent film festival in North American, Raymond views this resourceful way of maintaining the festival’s momentum as bringing new viewers the opportunity to enjoy the cinema experience.

“With our USA Today win for the second year in a row (for Best North American Film Festival), my sense is that our name is out there,” Raymond says. “So people are familiar with us from that, and if they see that we’re doing an online streaming, they are likely to check it out.”


A still from Alexandre Lechasseur-Dubé’s When Night Falls at 4pm on Thursday, March 26 as part of the Films in Competition 5: Out Night.

First Timer’s Guide

Attending the AAFF this year will be less like “going to the Cineplex, and more like going to an art museum,” Raymond explains. The Festival, comprised of experimental independent films, added a blog that discusses what to expect — “The Ann Arbor Film Festival First-Timer’s Guide” — on their website. If you go in ready to question and analyze, you’re doing it right; if you begin your viewing the way you would a summer blockbuster, you’re doing it wrong.

And now is a great time for a week of intellectually stimulating films. The AAFF received 3,500 entries, and those screened at the Festival are chosen for diversity and contemporary subject matter, as well as aesthetics and technique which set them above the rest. No film lover, expert or novice, will be disappointed with the selection.

The organizers couldn’t bring themselves to throw that all away. “Our commitment to the filmmakers, the art of moving images and to our audience is too strong,” Raymond explains. “The filmmakers deserve to have their work seen by an audience as well as by the jurors considering the awards. In this time of quarantine lockdown, people are in the perfect position to take in the best moving image art of our time.”

To check out the film lineup and read more about The Ann Arbor Film Festival, visit aafilmfest.org

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