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?

Eight Things to Know About Slippery Rock University’s Big House Battle in Ann Arbor

Today, guest blogger Laura Berarducci from Visit Ann Arbor shares eight fun facts about Slippery Rock University’s Big House Battle versus Mercyhurst University on October 18, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

The voices of many football fans will echo throughout The Big House this year—and not just during University of Michigan games. Fan favorites Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania will play its conference rival Mercyhurst University at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, October 18 in the Big House Battle. Below are some fun facts and inside information about this legendary event!

1. The University of Michigan football public address announcer, Steve Filipiak, started a 55-year tradition (and counting) when he announced the Slippery Rock score during the 1959 Wolverine football game. The score has been read at every home football game since.

2. Slippery Rock’s school colors are green and white. Mercyhurst colors are green and blue. Special apparel celebrating the event will be for sale at the game.

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

Photo courtesy of Slippery Rock Athletics

3. This will be the third visit by Slippery Rock to the Big House. The first visit was in 1979 against Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. The second was in 1981 versus Wayne State. The Rock lost both games.

4. The Slippery Rock football attendance record was set during the 1979 game: 61,143.

5. Rocky, The Pride of the Rock, is the school’s unofficial mascot. His appearance resembles a lion, but with a mossy green mane. This will be Rocky’s second visit to the Big House after being introduced to fans in 2010 during a halftime ceremony honoring Slippery Rock.

Slippery Rock's Mascot, Rocky - Photo by Steve Wiseman and 104.3 WOMC

Slippery Rock’s Mascot, Rocky – Photo by Steve Wiseman and 104.3 WOMC

6. Slippery Rock University (also known as “The Rock”), located north of Pittsburgh and 265 miles east of Ann Arbor, is a NCAA Division II school and part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Michigan Division II schools include Wayne State University and Northern Michigan University.

7. Fans wishing to purchase individual tickets can do so online through the U-M ticket office. Individual tickets are $20; groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets at $5 each; a family package that includes four tickets, four hot dogs and four soft drinks is available for $50.

8. All students at Slippery Rock, Mercyhurst and Michigan will be admitted to the game for free.

Laura Berarducci is the Director of Marketing for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and has been an Ann Arbor resident for more than 30 years. Even though she graduated from Indiana University, her heart bleeds Maize and Blue — except for on October 18 when she’ll wear green in the Big House to cheer on The Rock. For more information about Ann Arbor and festive fall activities, check out www.VisitAnnArbor.org