Ann Arbor Film Festival moves online, includes works by Ann Arbor- and Michigan-based filmmakers


On March 13 when the Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) canceled all in-person events for its 58th edition due to the coronavirus, the organization stated that it's "committed to finding an alternative means to present the 58th AAFF online, which honors the filmmakers’ rights and integrity and fulfills the mission of the festival."

With remarkable speed, the AAFF has done just that: starting at 4 pm on Tuesday, March 24, the festival will be streamed at The films won't be archived; the fest is being run the same way it would be in the flesh, with each film or program being screened on a certain day and time (albeit at different times from the calendar published when AAFF was to be its usual in-person event). The difference is there's no ticket fee for the viewing the virtual version of the festival; all films will be streamed for free, as will the various moderated Q&As with the filmmakers following certain screenings.

Click here to see the full streaming schedule for the 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Welcome to Commie High, the documentary about Ann Arbor's Community High School, is the one film previously scheduled for the festival that will cost money to watch. The film movie will be available to rent for $9.99 from 10 am, March 30 to 10 am, April 1; each rental will be active for 48 hours. The rental fee will be split two ways: 50 percent of the proceeds will go to the AAFF to help offset costs and the rest will be put toward the distribution of the documentary. Click here to pre-order the rental. (Check back to read our interview with Commie High filmmaker Donald Harrison.)

While Welcome to Commie High is the highest-profile film in the fest with local connections, numerous short entries by Ann Arbor- and Michigan-based moviemakers are part of the festival. Below is a list of those films, their screening days and times, and AAFF's descriptions for each work:

Wednesday 3/25, 2 pm
Films in Competition 2: Music Videos
I Work!
Ben Willis
Music: Throwaway
Detroit, MI | 2019 | 2 | digital
An animated music video for the band Throwaway’s song, I Work! created by artist and musician Ben Willis, featuring the Throwaway character created by Kirsten Carey. Part lyric video, part Jungian alternate universe wormhole, this frantic exploration of the song goes by pretty quick.

Wednesday 3/25, 4 pm
Films in Competition 3
Jack Cronin
Ann Arbor, MI | 2019 | 6 | DCP
A study in contrast of Las Vegas and the Red Rock Canyon.

Wednesday 3/25, 6 pm
Films in Competition 4
Rain: Then and Now
Diane Cheklich
Detroit, MI | 2019 | 11 | digital
Rain: Then and Now is an experimental short that contrasts rain over time—from the light, nostalgic showers of yesteryear to the climate change-induced deluges of today.rainrain:r

Friday 3/27, 5 pm
Films in Competition 7
Laura Magnusson
Ann Arbor, MI | 2019 | 12 | digital
Blue is a silent, short film shot entirely underwater on the seafloor of Cozumel, Mexico, 70 feet beneath the surface. Alone on an ocean “tundra,” a woman arduously moves, exhales, and burrows through the afterlife of sexual violence. The medium of water, with its destructive potential and capacity to heal, holds the fullness of traumatic experience.

Friday 3/27, 4 pm
Films in Competition 8
this one weird trick
Joanie Wind
Ferndale, MI | 2020 | 6 | digital
World Premiere
A woman slogs through an identity mired with gendered stereotypes and consumer capitalism to attempt to discover her true self. What is “natural” or “original” becomes inaccessible, forgotten, and nonexistent.

Friday 3/27, 4 pm
Films in Competition 8
Immaterial Los Angeles
Christopher McNamara
US/Canada | 2019 | 8 | digital 3D
World Premiere
The latest installment of an ongoing series of films about cities, Immaterial Los Angeles presents stereoscopic views of sites and non-sites in and around Los Angeles in the summer of 2019. 

Friday 3/27, 6 pm
Films in Competition 9: Animation
The Last Bottle
Max Majoros
Detroit, MI | 2019 | 2 | digital
A cycle of disposal is revealed through the actions of industrious life forms on an unnamed bottle-shaped planet.

Saturday 3/28, 10 am
Films in Competition 11
Trees of Heaven
Donald Harison
Ypsilanti, MI | 2019 | 6 | digital
World Premiere
Invasive weed trees are coming soon to a yard near you.

Saturday 3/28, 12 pm
Films in Competition 12
Seven Elegies
Peter Sparling
Ann Arbor, MI | 2019 | 8 | digital
A set of improvisational movement “utterances” shot against black backdrop suggested an echo effect in editing. The results suit my obsession with painting and the stroke of the brush as an extension of danced motion. Thollem’s music struck an elegiac note, and I immediately thought of the recent loss of a poet and old friend, Ulf Goebel.

Saturday 3/28, 6 pm
Films in Competition 14
Gary Schwartz
Detroit, MI | 2019 | 2 | digital
World Premiere
Two obsolete and forgotten microscopes make one last fling at fame and fortune on the tawdry burlesque stage.

Saturday 3/28, 6 pm
Films in Competition 14
The Lilac Game
Emma Piper-Burket
Detroit, MI | 2019 | 4 | DCP
This film is a celebration of springtime and an interactive game the audience is encouraged to play. Volume one of Films for a Future, a series of handmade and hand processed 16mm nature films, is intended for future viewers living in a time when the natural world no longer exists as it does today.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

Click here to see the full streaming schedule for the 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival.