The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest experimental film festival in North America. Internationally renowned as a forum for artist-made moving image art, the AAFF screens a broad range of experimental work including animation, documentary, narrative, and hybrid films. The AAFF is steeped in a rich tradition of ground-breaking cinema as thousands of filmmakers screened early work at the AAFF, including luminaries such as Kenneth Anger, Agnes Varda, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Barbara Hammer, James Benning, Bruce Conner, Chick Strand, Les Blank, Suzan Pitt, and George Lucas.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival serves as an Academy Award®-qualifying festival in the United States for the Short Films category. The AAFF presents over $20,000 in cash awards to filmmakers in competition, as determined by the awards jury. The AAFF is highly competitive, receiving over 3,000 submissions annually from more than 60 countries. All submissions are reviewed by a minimum of 2 trained screeners, with many films watched and discussed collectively by 6 - 10 members of the festival screening team.

Each year the festival presents 100-145 shorts and 6-10 features as part of the films in competition programming. The majority of the works selected are experimental films as well as documentaries and animated films that demonstrate a high regard for the moving image as an experimental art form and are screened throughout 15-20 programs composed of experimental films from all genres; with additional competition programs dedicated to LGBTQ-themed films, Animation, and Music Videos. The AAFF is committed to high-quality exhibition of all films at the festival and presents work on 16mm, 35mm, and digital formats.

The AAFF provides additional opportunities for select filmmakers accepted into the festival. As a pioneer of the traveling film festival tour, each year a "best of" shorts program travels to more than 35 theaters, universities, museums, and art house cinemas throughout North America and internationally. Additionally, AAFF looks for opportunities to promote filmmakers and their work by holding screenings throughout the year. Filmmakers participating in additional opportunities are paid for each screening of their work.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is committed to supporting bold, visionary independent filmmakers, advance the art form of film and new media, and engage communities with remarkable cinematic experiences.

Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival
Presented to the film of any genre or length that best represents the artistic standards of excellence for the festival, this award is generously provided by influential documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, a graduate of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School.

Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film
Hollywood film producer and writer Lawrence Kasdan came to know Ann Arbor well during his years as a student at the University of Michigan. He keeps his connection to the town’s film culture alive in part through his support of this festival award. The distinction goes to the narrative film that makes the best use of film’s unique ability to convey striking and original stories.

Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker
Tom Berman was a student of AAFF founder George Manupelli at the University of Michigan, as well as an early festival supporter and close friend to many in the festival community. To honor his memory, this award – contributed by the Berman family – supports an emerging filmmaker who the jury believes will make a significant contribution to the art of film.

Kodak Cinematic Vision Award
$1,500 in film stock
This award goes to the film that demonstrates the highest excellence and creativity in cinematography. The recipient will receive $1,500 in film stock from Kodak. (This includes complimentary processing should the recipient select 16 or 35mm color negative film stock).

Susan Dise Best Experimental Film
Supported by longtime AAFF volunteer Sue Dise, this award celebrates the film that most successfully showcases the use of experimental processes, forms, and topics.

Best Documentary Film
This award recognizes the best nonfiction film in the festival program.

Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film
Chris Frayne was a key participant in the festival’s early years whose approach to life called to mind his colorful cartoon characters. This award honors the spirit of Chris by recognizing the animated film that delivers the best style, creativity, and content. Support for the award comes from several dedicated AAFF enthusiasts.

Gil Omenn Art & Science Award
Provided by Gil Omenn, who seeks to encourage a positive exchange between the arts and sciences, this award honors the filmmaker whose work best uses the art of film and video to explore scientific concepts, research natural phenomena, or embrace real-world experimentation.

Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film
Supported by an endowment fund established by the DeVarti Family, this award goes to the film likely to create the most laughs in the festival. The prize recognizes the 57-year friendship between Dominick’s pub and the AAFF and honors the memory of Dominick and Alice DeVarti.

The Terri Schwartz Film Award for Parody and Satire
This award goes to the film that best effectively turns familiar images, music, and assumptions on their heads— and perhaps uses gentle or barbed humor— to offer pointed insights about injustice. It honors Terri P. Schwartz (1952–-2021), a University. of Michigan alumna employed as a graphic designer in the Netherlands. Favorite films of hers included "Jojo Rabbit" (Taika Waititi, 2019), a Nazi-mocking satire; "Settlers of Brooklyn" (Above Average Productions, 2015), a parody of gentrifying hipsters; and "Pull My Daisy" (Robert Frank, 1959), a parody of the Beat Generation.

The Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for an Emerging Experimental Video Artist
This award provides support to the year’s most promising early-career video artist. The award was conceived by the Aronofsky family to honor the late Barbara Aronofsky Latham, a Chicago-based experimental video artist who passed away in 1984 whose work is distributed by the Video Data Bank.

The Eileen Maitland Award
Supported by several local AAFF fans, this award is given to the film that best addresses women’s issues and elevates female voices. It was created to honor the spirit and memory of Eileen Maitland, who was a dear friend and longtime supporter of the festival, as well as a patron and practitioner of the arts.

George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award
With lead support from brothers Dave and Rich DeVarti, this award recognizes the filmmaker who best captures the bold and iconoclastic spirit of the Ann Arbor Film Festival founder, the late George Manupelli, whose vision for the festival continues to this day.

CameraMall Best Michigan Filmmaker Award
$515 in kind
This award recognizes top Michigan talent. The winner will receive a $50 gift card and a one-week rental for a camera body and two lenses, valued at $465, from CameraMall, Ann Arbor’s camera store and photo lab, dedicated to supporting the Great Lakes photo community in learning, renting gear, and printing their work.

Graff/Lawther No Violence Award
In a culture that relies on images of violence to entertain, this prize is awarded to the film that best engages or informs audiences and explores or celebrates life while also rising to the narrative challenge of “No Violence Depicted.” The award is provided by Ann Arbor residents Matthew Graff and Leslie Lawther.

Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award
Barbara Hammer was a filmmaker with a profound commitment to expressing a feminist point of view in her work. In 2020, filmmaker Lynne Sachs received the Oberhausen Film Festival Grand Prize for a film she made with and for Hammer. With funds from the prize, Lynne created this Ann Arbor Film Festival award for a work that best conveys Hammer’s passion for celebrating and examining the experiences of women. Qualifying work by artists of any gender will be considered.

Best Experimental Animation Award
This award recognizes the best experimental animated film that most successfully showcases the use of experimental processes, forms, and topics. Established by Deanna Morse, the award is endowed and in memory of Erik Alexander, an aficionado of the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

The No. 1 African Film Award
This award honors the film that best speaks to the historical and contemporary experience of living and dreaming in Africa. It is provided by the generous endowment of filmmaker Amy J. Moore, long term resident of southern Africa and producer of Botswana’s The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. “It is only the story… that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather, it is the story that owns us.” - Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah.

The Terri Schwartz Asian Film Award
Given to the film that best speaks to the cultures and experiences of Asians or Asian Americans, this award is a tribute to Terri P. Schwartz (1952–-2021), a University. of Michigan alumna employed as a graphic designer in the Netherlands. From Europe she passionately pursued interests in film, music, and Asian people and culture, including travels and stays in nine Asian nations. She was also sensitive to the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

UMCU Audience Award
Sponsored by the University of Michigan Credit Union, with additional longtime support from an anonymous friend of the festival, this award – affectionately dubbed the Vox Populi Award – goes to the year’s most highly rated audience-selected film in competition.

George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award
With lead support from brothers Dave and Rich DeVarti, this award recognizes the filmmaker who best captures the bold and iconoclastic spirit of the Ann Arbor Film Festival founder, the late George Manupelli, whose vision for the festival continues to this day.

Leon Speakers Award for Best Sound Design
This award for excellence and originality in sound design is provided by Leon Speakers, which has been installing custom-built high-fidelity speakers in home theaters throughout Ann Arbor since 1995.

Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film
Peter Wilde was a long-time projectionist for the festival and a master of special effects. This award honors his creativity and pursuit of new techniques by recognizing the film that displays the most pioneering technical innovations. Generous donors to the Peter Wilde Award Endowment Fund include Bernard Coakley, Constance Crump and Jay Simrod, Bill Davis, IATSE Local 395, the LaBour Foundation for Non-Institutional Living, John Nelson and Deb Gaydos, Glenda Pittman, Woody Sempliner, Kevin Smith, and Robert Ziebell and Elizabeth Ward. Additional support was provided by Peter Wilde’s sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Jim Warner, in loving memory of Peter and Susan’s brother, the late Alan C. Wilde.

Martin Contreras and Keith Orr FILM Award for Best LGBTQ Film
This award honors the film that best addresses and gives voice to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer issues. Longtime festival supporters Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, owners of the locally known and loved \aut\ BAR, contribute this award to highlight the diversity of voices that achieve excellence in filmmaking.

Award for Best Music Video
Designed to recognize excellence in the art of music video—which stems from the special collaborative relationship between a musician and a film or video maker.

Jury Awards
Provided by friends of the festival and distributed at the discretion of the jurors, the remaining prize monies confer special recognition for films of distinction and artistic accomplishment.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is open to experimental films as well as films that demonstrate a high regard for the moving image as an experimental art form, no matter the genre. Each year the AAFF selects 100-145 shorts and features for exhibition in the awards competition portion of the festival. Films previously submitted (and not selected) may be re-entered only if there has been a significant change to the edit. Short and feature-length entries are accepted. Short films run no longer than 59 minutes. Feature films run 60 minutes or more. Entries not in English should have English subtitles. Works in progress may be submitted, but are juried in the same pool as all other submissions. Later versions of a film may be reviewed and/or selected at the programmer's discretion. Work must be contemporary (completed within the last three years). Entry fees are per film entered, and must accompany the entry form for confirmation. Entry fees are non-refundable.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival does not give waivers or discounts.

Entries are accepted via secure online screening and 16mm only. We do not accept DVD, VHS or video data files for screening purposes.

If you would like the festival to preview a 16mm print of your film, please contact the festival directly at to make arrangements.

Please review the following postmark deadlines carefully.

Early Deadline - July 31, 2023

Official Deadline - August 31, 2023

Late Deadline - September 30, 2023

Overall Rating
  • Chu-Chieh Lee

    Thank you, Ann Arbor Film Festival, for selecting my short film and awarding it. It's a great honour, and I won't forget this precious experience. :)

    April 2024
  • Ann Arbor is a legacy festival that lives up to its reputation. I was really grateful I traveled for it. I've never screened in a more beautiful theater, and every screening I attended was packed! Great work to Leslie and the team for hosting a fantastic festival.

    April 2024
  • Eugenia Bakurin

    The Ann Arbor Film Festival was an incredible experience! I am deeply grateful for the invitation to participate in this legendary event. The diversity and quality of the films were impressive, and the atmosphere was simply magical. I met so many inspiring artists and feel privileged to be part of this unique community. Many thanks to the entire team for the excellent organization and hospitality! I look forward to being back next year.

    April 2024
  • In few words: the best screening of my career so far


    The festival curatorial team, the audience, the astonishing Mitchigan Theater, the projectionists + other team / volunteers, the organ playing before the screenings, the quality of the work selected, the great gathering of experimental artists... oh and the pizza at Casa Dominick!! It doesn't get better than this!
    Leslie, Missy, the other programmers + the local community are stellar!

    I would return to Ann Arbor even if I didn't have my film selected - just as a volunteer to experience this magic all over again!

    April 2024
  • Gargantua Film Distribution

    Thank you for giving space to our films! It was very nice to be there with you!

    April 2024