Locals Rule: Highlighting the Washtenaw County creatives in the 62nd Ann Arbor Film Festival


Ann Arbor Film Fest's A logo floating over an image of red theater seats and a black background.

Ann Arbor Film Festival logo added to a photo taken by Felix Mooneeram.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) draws experimental filmmakers from across the world, but ever since it began in 1963 it's also made room for local creators to show their works.

The 62nd edition of AAFF is running March 26-31, and the fest's website and YouTube page have a ton of info, interviews, and articles about the hundreds of films that will be screened this year alongside dozens of social events, panels, and exhibitions.

But it's a lot. Like, a lot a lot, which means you would have to comb through a ton of material to figure out the creatives with local connections.

So, being the hyperlocal fans that we are, we did that for you and collected the events, screenings, and installations created by Washtenaw County-associated artists, curators, and film lovers who will have a moment to shine at the 2024 Ann Arbor Film Festival.



Dope Women in Media exhibition:
- The Haunting of Michigan Central Station
- Wash Your Hair

various hours - Ann Arbor Art Center

The Ann Arbor Art Center's Dope Women in Media Exhibition, curated by visual artist and filmmaker Laura D. Gibson, runs March 11 through April 6 and honors "seven women artists from greater Detroit who work in film, video, photography, and new media, sharing their research of, contributions to, and impact on contemporary art and popular culture." The opening reception is March 22, 6-8 pm. There will also be a panel discussion as part of the AAFF on March 28, 3-5 pm as well as a social event at North QuadSpace 2435 on March 28, 10-11:30 am, to honor the filmmakers. All of these events are free. Two creatives featured in this multimedia exhibition also have connections to Ann Arbor through the University of Michigan.

Shanae M. Pruitt, a U-M grad, offers her 2021 work The Haunting of Michigan Central Station, a 360-degree film that AAFF described this way: "Young seamstress Marguerette Hamilton falls in love at first sight with Oscar Jacobs, a World War II soldier. Separated by the war, the couple maintains their bond by exchanging love letters. However, when Oscar’s letters suddenly cease and rumors of his infidelity begin to circulate, Marguerette turns to dark forces to exact her revenge upon her former love, resulting in tragedy and the haunting of Michigan Central Station."

Veyda DeAgro-Ruopp, who studies psychology at U-M, presents Wash Your Hair, an experimental digital short from 2023 that was "prompted by Yoko Ono’s Touch Poem No. 3."

CTN's Dana Denha also interviewed curator Gibson about putting together the Dope Women in Media Exhibition:


MARCH 26 to MARCH 31

Off the Screen
- Dance the Rainbow
Hope 4 Harmony
- What We Saw
- Martha in Berlin and Other Acts

ongoing - Michigan Theater

AAFF always offers plenty of visual art installations as part of its Off the Screen programming, including Ann Arbor's Peter Sparling, who will have his work front and center at the festival. The dancer, choreographer, and visual artist created painted nylon banners inspired by dancing bodies, and you can enjoy these works inside the Michigan Theater where they will be suspended throughout the AAFF.

Noel Stupek returns to the Michigan Theater, which he has helped decorate for past AAFF events, with Hope 4 Harmony, an installation in the grand foyer, below Dance the Rainbow, that features works created by the Ann Arbor community via a workshop at AADL on March 2.

There's still time to add to the Michigan Theater's decor, too, with What We Saw, which allows AAFF attendees to write down what they've seen at the fest—on and off the screen—and their cards will be added to an ongoing "experimental remix documentary" that will be running continuously in the venue.

Finally, Amanda Krugliak, curator for the U-M Institute for the Humanities Gallery, is the instigator behind Martha in Berlin and Other Acts, a series of flash performances that will happen at the Michigan Theater throughout AAFF, which says of the project: "Martha in Berlin and Other Acts is an extension of a 2023 performance series at U-M by Performance Squad, an unofficial and anonymous band of female-identifying and non-binary performance artists who presented unauthorized and unexpected flash performances in public spaces during the Arts and Resistance theme semester. Supported by the U-M Arts Initiative, this project intends to allow for pockets of creative expression in otherwise carefully controlled and choreographed public spaces within institutional settings. Martha in Berlin and Other Acts celebrates individuality and experimentation, absurdity and play, free from narrative mandates."



Off the Screen
Grafica Harmolodica
4:30 pm - North Quad Space 2435
As part of a reception for the New Voices program, Ann Arbor native David Olson will screen Grafica Harmolodica, his 2024 multimedia work based on a video he shot in 2003 of jazz great Ornette Coleman. The installation uses six monitors, a wall projection, large prints, and graphic notation of Coleman's compositions.

CTN's Dana Denha interviewed Olson about his work and the development of Grafica Harmolodica:



A Dreaming Angel
9 pm - State Theatre 1
The world premiere of this 20-minute short by Phoebe Gloeckner—a graphic novelist and U-M associate professor—and Aliyah Mitchell will be shown before Anqaone of the feature films in competition. From the AAFF description: "A cartoonist’s fever dream digs in on her relationship and memories with the Chavez Caldera family of Colonia Anapra, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, through an archive of media spanning over ten years." 

CTN's Dana Denha interviewed the filmmakers and assistant editor Natalia Rocafuerte about A Dreaming Angel:



The 8 Fest, Coffee, & Bagels: Remembering Ann Arbor’s Other Film Festival
10 am-12 pm - U-M North Quad Space 2435

Frank Uhle, the author of the Cinema Ann Arbor, curated this tribute to the 8mm Film Festival, which ran from 1971 to 1990 and was produced by the Ann Arbor Film Cooperative. This free event will screen films from the 8mm festival by Jimm Juback, Gerry Fialka, Danny Plotnick, Dan Bruell, and more. Additionally, Steve Cole will re-create the "live cinema performance" he created in 1968. [Info]

Playing Footsi: Ann Arbor Filmmakers of the 1960s–1980s
9 pm - State Theater 1
Later the same day, Uhle will again highlight local creatives with a screening of experimental film made between the 1960s and 1980s by Ann Arbor artists and "recent expatriates." Works by George Manupelli, Pat Oleszko, Chris Frayne, Tom Berman, Robert Halper, John Nelson, and many more will be shown, with 13 of the 16 films being original 16mm prints and the other three will be seen as high-definition restorations. [Tickets/Info]

Films in Competition 5: Music Videos
5 pm - University of Michigan Museum of Art Helmut Stern Auditorium

Southeast Michigan fans of jazz and experimental music probably know Ben Willis as a bassist in bands such as saajtak and Lovely Socialite, but he's also made numerous animated music videos, including at least two for Throwaway, an avant-garde rock project by Kirsten Carey, his fellow U-M grad and partner. His 2019 video for Throwaway's "I Work!" was screened at AAFC 58 and his latest work for Carey, "Kyubabe," was selected as part of this year's Films in Competition 5: Music Videos.



Films in Competition 10
- Becoming Fossil

3:30 pm - Michigan Theater
Ypsilanti's Petra Kuppers—a U-M professor, disability rights activist, poet, and visual artist—will debut her 13-minute film, Becoming Fossil, as part of the Films in Competition 10 event. The short acts like a visual poem, inviting viewers "to become time travelers through kaleidoscopic sensations of touch and elemental change," according to AAFF. 



Festival trailers by University of Michigan students:
AAFF always engages film students to create trailers for the festival; here is this year's collection.

The 62nd Ann Arbor Film Festival runs in person March 26-31 and online through April 7. Visit aafilmfest.org for tickets and more info.