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.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. Founded in 1963, the AAFF started as a critical, alternative forum for filmmakers and artists to publicly share their work. Today the festival continues its focus on the art of film, serving as one of the country’s premier showcases for bold, visionary, experimental and independent filmmakers.