The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) will be hosting its 59th annual festival on March 23-28, 2021. One of a few Academy Award–qualifying festivals in the United States, the AAFF is going virtual for the second year in a row! 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.
This year, the festival received over 2,000 film submissions, from 100 different countries. The field of submissions was narrowed down, through a rigorous, multi-stage screening process, to include around 150 films. The schedule for the 6 day festival is out now! View the detailed schedule for the 59th AAFF here.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival was voted the #1 film festival in North America in a USA TODAY reader’s poll in 2019 and 2020. This is your chance to see something new and innovative, expand your creative mind and examine the far boundaries of cinematic exploration. And you don't even have to leave your home! Below, we have answered some of the most common questions about how to experience the 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Pictured above: Earthquake, Loretta Fahrenholz | 5:30pm Tuesday
How Do I Watch the Festival Virtually?
The 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival will be held on an online platform called Eventive. An online festival will allow the AAFF community to experience the festival in the safety of their home, while continuing to socially distance. All short Films in Competition screenings will take place as an online live stream.
After the initial live stream, the programs will be available for on-demand viewing until 12:00am midnight EDT on March 31. Features in Competition and Special Programs will be available for on-demand viewing March 23-31, unless otherwise noted.
Pictured above: The Inheritance, Ephraim Asili, Feature
Can I watch the festival on my TV?
Yes! The Eventive platform is compatible with TV viewing- via apps for Apple TV, Roku, and Android TV. Viewers can also stream to a TV from a laptop, using an HDMI cable or by using Chromecast from an Android device.
Where do I buy tickets and passes?
Festival-goers can get their tickets through the Eventive platform, linked on the Ann Arbor Film Festival website starting on March 1. Tickets for each event will be available on a sliding scale with a suggested price of $12 and a minimum of $2 per ticket. Passes are on sale now and include access to all film screenings. Get your tickets and passes today!
The higher the pass tier, the more you support the AAFF and their mission of promoting visionary filmmakers. A Festival Pass for $50 includes access to all programs during the 59th AAFF. A Supporter Pass for $75 includes extra financial support that helps support year-round programming and a 15% discount for their online shop. The Super Fan Pass for $150 also includes additional support and as an extra thank you for your dedication to the AAFF you will receive a $20 discount on any purchase in their online shop.
Pictured above: Electromagnetic Environments: Sound Image Performance, Paloma Kop, 5:00pm Saturday
Are the films appropriate for all ages?
The films are not rated and some material may be more appropriate for adult audiences, unless otherwise noted. Some films are family friendly. Some need an adult perspective, even if the medium is animation. The Films in Competition 12, Almost All Ages program, Saturday, March 27 at 11:00am, is best suited for a wide variety of viewers over the age of 6 years.
Pictured above: Ici, Sylvie Denet, 5:00pm Saturday
Are there any ways to experience the festival in-person?
While the majority of films will stream from the Eventive online platform, there are several in-person In The Screen! (ITS!) installations around Ann Arbor that are viewable from the street. ITS! installations will be starting on March 3.
- For Your Eyes Only by Yasmine Nassar Diaz, at U-M Institute For Humanities
- One Man’s War by Li Binyuan, at 111 South 4th Ave.
- Undue Burden by Jex Blackmore, at The Ann Arbor Art Center
- The Well by Deb Todd Wheeler, at The Ann Arbor Art Center
Pictured above: Undue Burden, Jex Blackmore, Installation at the Ann Arbor Art Center
59 Years? What is the history of the festival?
The AAFF started in 1963 by George Manupelli and is now the oldest avant-garde and film festival in North America. It started as a critical venue for alternative filmmakers and artists to share their work. The AAFF has always focused on film art, serving as one of the country’s premier forums for bold, visionary, experimental and avant-garde filmmakers.
The festival is renowned for introducing the world to pioneering work, including the early films of Kenneth Anger, Brian DePalma, Devo, Barbara Hammer, George Lucas, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Agnes Varda, and Andy Warhol.
Pictured above: The Viewing Booth, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Feature
Are there any firsts for the 2021 festival?
For the first year ever, the Ann Arbor Film Festival will be paying filmmakers to show their films in competition. Also for the first time, the Ann Arbor Film Festival offered a $20 submission fee discount for BIPOC filmmakers, the same discount they offer their alumni filmmakers, to welcome more diverse voices to the festival.
Pictured above: Yellow Fever, Mukii, BIPOC Experimental Animation Special Program
Can I interact with other festival-goers?
Yes. The audience will have the opportunity to meet fellow festival goers through a virtual lobby, in between film screenings. Stay tuned. More details coming soon!
Pictured above: Silver Femme, Nico Reano | 7:30pm Thursday
Are all the films on the schedule "in competition?"
The short films, included in the Films in Competition programs and Features in Competition, are eligible for the $23,000 conferred in awards. The AAFF directly supports independent filmmakers by giving awards for films that might not find commercial distribution. In 2020, the festival provided a total of $22,500 in cash and in-kind awards, with a top festival prize of $3,000. The awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, March 28, the closing night of the festival.
Pictured above: March of the Thinking Machines, Adi Gelbart, 11:00am Saturday
The AAFF Schedule
**All programs are presented in Eastern Standard Time (EDT).
Tuesday 3/23 | Opening Night
- ITS! Salon | Film Art Forum | 3:00pm
- Films in Competition 1 | 5:30pm
- Films in Competition 2 | 7:30pm
- ITS! After Party performance | IT'S NORMAL FOR SOME THINGS TO COME TO YOUR ATTENTION by Negativland and SUE-C | 9:30pm
- Juror Presentation: Sheri Wills | What Does Light Remember? | 1:30pm | Free
- Films in Competition 3 | 3:30pm
- Films in Competition 4 | 5:30pm
- Films in Competition 5 | 7:30pm
- ITS! After Party performance | The Room Presumed by Scott Kiernan | 9:30pm
- Juror Presentation: Lynn Loo | Conversations: Light, Color, Movement | 1:30pm | Free
- Films in Competition 6 | 3:30pm
- Films in Competition 7 | 5:30pm
- Films in Competition 8: Out Night | 7:30pm
- ITS! After Party performance | Sonic Escape Routes: Shall We Fly? or Shall We Resist? Rena Anakwe & Akeema-Zane | 9:30 PM
- Juror Presentation: Thorsten Fleisch | Sensual Destruction: Disintegrating the Frantic
- Silence of the Universe | 1:30pm | Free
- Films in Competition 9 | 3:30pm
- Films in Competition 10 | 5:30pm
- Films in Competition 11: Animation | 7:30pm
- ITS! Performance | Operation Jane Walk by Robin Klengel & Leonhard Müllner | 10:00pm
- Films in Competition 12: Almost All Ages (Ages 6+) | 11:00am
- ITS! Salon | Animation Connections by Christine Veras and Steve Leeper | 12:45pm
- Films in Competition 13 | 3:00pm
- Films in Competition 14 | 5:00pm
- Films in Competition 15 | 7:00pm
- ITS! After party performance | AFTER-DINNER LOOPS 2021 by Pickle Fort Collective | 9:00pm
The closing night of the festival offers two programs of select award-winning films, as chosen by this year’s panel of three distinguished AAFF jurors.
- ITS! Salon Session | What the Hell Was That? moderated by Daniel Herbert | 12:00pm
- ITS! Salon Session | Maybe You're a Peach Tree Maybe by Sholey Asgary and Heather Kapplow | 2:00pm
- ITS! Salon Session | Behind The Scenes with Negativland and SUE-C | 3:00pm
- Awards 1 | See the announcement of the 59th AAFF awards and a screening of select awarded films | 4:30pm
- Awards 2 | Stay for a second screening to see even more of the award-winning films from the 59th AAFF | 6:30pm
- ITS! After party performance | TERRIBLE TUESDAY by Mary Hourani and DJ Girl | 8:00pm
Pictured above: DrEAD, Sylvanie Tendron | Sylvanie Tendron: Everyday Obstacles, Special Program
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. Get your tickets, grab your popcorn and get ready to be amazed!
Like our content?
Get all of the latest Ann Arbor happenings delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.