The First-Timer’s Guide to Attending the 53rd Ann Arbor Film Festival

The internationally recognized Ann Arbor Film Festival kicks off March 24th. The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 20 countries of all lengths and genres. Guest blogger Ryan Levin shares some tips and tricks if you’re planning to attend for the first time. 

Michigan Theater

Photo courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

So you’ve never been to the Ann Arbor Film FestivalWell, this is a great year to attend your first. The 53rd AAFF is a six-day international showcase of experimental, avant garde, animation and documentary cinema at the historic Michigan Theater. And sure, stepping into the festival for the first time can be a daunting experience.

Where do you begin? What must you see? How do you pick between talks, presentations, screenings and performances? And what if you’ve never seen an experimental film before…?

Not to worry! Here are some survival tips if you should happen upon an experimental film in the dark.

1. Stay calm; it’s just a movie

Most of us are well accustomed to the popular cinema. These movies have a stake in being understood, using standardized story cues, recognizable characters, and familiar structures to help the viewer follow along. You filled the seat. Hollywood wants to meet you halfway. The avant garde does away with an easily recognizable format in order to free the medium for the full range of human expression.

So if you don’t get it (or don’t think you do), don’t worry. Some of these films are meant to be vague. Some evocative and strange. Some are meant to be experienced in the moment, and may not solidify into meaning until weeks later.

2. Read the title; skip the synopsis

Pick up a program guide and pay close attention to the slides between screenings. A film’s title is often the first clue to what the filmmaker is trying to convey. Re-read the title before viewing. But skip the synopsis! The AAFF’s movies are meant to first be experienced on the screen.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Photo courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

3. Watch actively, question and categorize

Every movie is a collection of a thousand choices, careful selections and thoughtful omissions. Assume everything you see on screen is there for a reason, then figure out why. Why this color? Why that sound? By understanding the pieces you can better grasp what the work means as a whole.

4. Talk, brainstorm, guess and share

Don’t let bewilderment set in! In between movies, talk. Seriously. Use the pause between films to lean over to your neighbor and discuss with them what you’ve just seen. Sometimes the best way to parse a film’s meaning is by talking about it. You might just stumble upon the perfect interpretation as you’re trying to put it into words.

5. If all else fails…

Read the artist’s synopsis. Some movies are experiments in artistic form, some will have esoteric contexts that will require a summary to clarify. There will be that occasional film that’s so totally baffling only the filmmaker’s description can help you decode what it is you’ve just seen.

But you’ll only get to see it if you’re in Ann Arbor March 24 – 29. Check out VisitAnnArbor.org for more details and don’t forget the hotel package available at Weber’s Inn if you need a place to stay.

See you there!

Do you have any tried and true tips for attending a new festival for the first time? 

Ryan Levin is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Screen Arts and Cultures program and a guest blogger for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. A version of this blog originally appeared in the Ann Arbor News on March 25, 2012.

Knock the Snow from Your Boots with Unique Winter Events in Ann Arbor

From January through March, there are a number of special events in the Ann Arbor area perfect for a wintry weekend getaway! No need to hibernate this year. Check out these exciting opportunities.

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week (January 18-23)

Bar

John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Winter can be very sweet on its own, especially when you can explore Ann Arbor’s overabundance of foodie goodness during Restaurant Week! This celebration of dining includes 45 restaurants featuring one-price menus — $15 for lunch and $28 for dinner — or save even more with two-for-one specials at select restaurants! The newest restaurant to join the ranks is the delicious Mezzevino .  While you’re there, be sure to ask for a small bowl of the crispy chickpeas!

U-M Ice Carving Extravaganza (January 23-25)

Join us for a weekend of chainsaws, ice picks and flame throwers! Stand back while the University of Michigan Ice Carving team members display their talents and masterpieces along Main Street with custom designs inspired by the city, its shops and restaurants, and more!

38th Annual Folk Festival (January 30-31)

Wait! This isn’t your parents’ folk music … Or maybe it is! The appealing element of folk music, and it’s a philosophy so perfectly embodied by the festival, is that there are as many styles as there are artists! Join us for the two-night event and show your support for one of the top music clubs in the world — The Ark — celebrating 50 years of presenting, preserving and encouraging folk, roots and ethnic music and related arts. This year’s festival features Amos Lee, Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell. Get ready to find your folk!

Michigan Theater with Couple2

53rd Ann Arbor Film Festival (March 24-29)

Visit Ann Arbor and the historic Michigan Theater to experience the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. Internationally recognized as a premiere forum for independent filmmakers and artists, the Ann Arbor Film Festival engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences. The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 20 countries of all lengths and genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction, and performance-based works.

FoolMoon and FestiFools (April 10-April 12)

FestiFools

Night time revelry and larger-than-life puppets make up this weekend of foolish amusement.  Friday night kicks things off with FoolMoon— an after dark extravaganza of lightshows, music and a delicious event-inspired microbrew from our friends at Grizzly Peak. On Sunday, watch as magnificent and bizarre human-powered papier-mache puppets amble along Main Street to the sound of beating drums, brassy horns, and the cheers of our Foolish friends! Go from being a spectator to participant by building your creations and joining in the fun!

What is your favorite thing to do in the Ann Arbor area?

The 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair: 1,100 Artists, 1,100 Stories, and One Big Michigan Tradition

For more than 50 years artists with amazing talents and unsurpassed skills have come to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor to exhibit at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. This year, artists will display their latest work and engage the imaginations of more than 500,000 annual fairgoers from July 17 – 20. 

Daniel Cherrin who works with the team behind this award-winning event is here to fill us in on what to expect this year. Read from him below and learn more about The Ann Arbor Art Fair by visiting michigan.org.

Tradition is important in Michigan and some will even tell you that tradition began in Ann Arbor. In fact, every July 1,100 artists from all over the world submit their artwork to a jury of their peers waiting for the honor and privilege of exhibiting in The Ann Arbor Art Fair.  The Ann Arbor Art Fair is not just one fair – it is four major art fairs in one big event.

For four days, from July 17-20, 2013, art collectors, people watchers and those that just enjoy being a part of tradition will come to Ann Arbor to walk the 30 city blocks of pop-up retail before these artisans pack up their crafts and move on to other locations.  It is the time of year when friends meet up and where parents take a day off of work to spend it with their children.

Every year brings new artists and brand new art. Whether it is experimenting with a new medium – from mixed media to digital media, from wood to metal, jewelry to fiber and fabric – The Ann Arbor Art Fair has something for everyone, making it one of the top art fairs in the nation.

Every artist has a story to tell, and in Ann Arbor you will have the chance to hear their stories and then the opportunity to re-tell it when you share their art with friends and family.

For example, talk to celebrities such as Barbara Lazaroff or Dustin Hoffman and they will tell you about their private collection of works by Sondra Wampler, a California surfer turn photographic artist, whose works also appear in the corporate collections of the Four Seasons, Scottsdale Quarter, Kaiser Permanente and others.

Work from Darrin Hoover

Speaking of celebrities, have you seen artist Ayala Naphtali’s works on NBC’s Parenthood or how about the works of Armando Pedroso on Chicago Fire or Cougar Town?

Most artists have interesting stories to tell about how they became an artist.  Take Darrin Hoover, always known as “the kid that could draw,” is now a well-known artist who has created a unique style of aging new wood to create something we can all connect to.

So this July, come to Ann Arbor to celebrate, collaborate and create with our 1,100 artists, spanning over 30 city blocks, from 38 states and four countries, for the 54th Annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, July 17-20, 2013.,Each one has a story to tell and it is your opportunity to develop new relationships, build on old ones and enjoy a right of summer, one of Michigan’s best traditions and an event that is Pure Michigan. It’s a great time to also take part in the many art demonstrations, children’s activities, musical entertainment, shopping and to enjoy all the wonderful restaurants Ann Arbor has to offer. For more information, please visit TheAnnArborArtFair.com.

Will you be heading to Ann Arbor for the art fair? Share with us below!


Daniel Cherrin is an attorney practicing public relations, crisis management and public affairs. He is the former Communications Director for the City of Detroit and Press Secretary to the Mayor of Detroit. He is a co-founder of M10 Marketing, an integrated brand + advertising + marketing + agency, providing organizations the opportunity to expand and build their brand. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is an M10 client.