Award-Winners of the 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival announced

ANN ARBOR — The Ann Arbor Film Festival is proud to announce this year’s award-winning filmmakers selected by jurors Thorsten Fleisch, Lynn Loo, and Sheri Wills

The 2021 awards competition presents $22,500 to filmmakers through mostly cash and some in-kind awards such as film stock, film processing, and camera equipment.

An award from the AAFF confers prestige and financial support; it can also qualify filmmakers for an Oscar® nomination by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the short film category. Qualifying awards are the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, the Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film, and the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film.  Attendees can watch two programs of award-winning films: Awards 1 at 4:30pm and Awards 2 at 6:30pm today for the initial live stream. All the programs will be available for on-demand viewing until Wednesday, March 31.

The award-winners for the 59th AAFF:

Ken Burns for Best of the Festival

13 – Shinya Isobe

Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker

Iwianch, el Diablo Venado – José Cardoso

Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film

Sun Dog – Dorian Jespers

Best Experimental Film

Revolykus – Victor Orozco Ramirez

Kodak Cinematic Vision Award

Mt Albban the attrition of time – Ebrahim Mirmalek

Best Documentary Film

Instructions for Survival – Yana Ugrekhelidze

Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film

KKUM – Kang Min Kim

Gil Omenn Art & Science Award

Mad Mieter – M+M (Marc Weis, Martin de Mattia)

Prix DeVarti for Funniest Film (split)

Danni the Champion – Laura Cameron-Lewis AND Stunting Cunts – Gina Kamentsky

The Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for an Emerging Experimental Video Artist

-force- – Jennie MaryTai Liu, Simon Liu

The Eileen Maitland Award

Cause of Death – Jyoti Mistry

George Manupelli Founder’s Spirit Award

Primavera – Adrian Garcia Gomez

The No Violence Award

Just a Guy – Shoko Hara

Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award

Silver Femme – Nico Reano, Jimena Lucero

Best Experimental Animation Award

Displacement – Maxime Corbeil-Perron

Leon Speakers Award for Best Sound Design

Piz Regolith – Yannick Mosimann

Martin Contreras and Keith Orr \aut\ FILM Award for Best LGBTQ Film

Breath Control – Carson Parish

Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film

Valpi – Richard Tuohy, Dianna Barrie

Tíos Award for Best International Film

( ( ( ( /*\ ) ) ) ) ) aka echoes of the volcano – Charles Fairbanks, Saúl Kak​

UMCU Audience Award
First Light – Amy Lee Ketchum, Ellen Boscov

Best Michigan Filmmaker Award

I Dream of Emma and Tony – Natalia Rocafuerte

Jurors’ Awards (split)

BUTTERFLY BIRTH BED – Virginia Lee Montgomery

Circular – Páraic Mc Gloughlin

Daily Life of Human – Siavash Naghshbandi

Ici – Sylvie Denet

Just a Movement – Vincent Meessen

Night Reflection (IV) – Benjamín Ellenberger

One Image, Two Acts – Sanaz Sohrabi

Queen of Dots – Michael Lyons

Reminiscences of 15 musicians in Beirut attempting a re-imagination of the Egyptian classic Ya Garat Al Wadi – Charles-André Coderre

Self Portrait With Bag – Dianna Barrie

Ser Feliz No Vão / Happy In The Gap – Lucas H. Rossi dos Santos

uchronia, no.1 – Kamila Kuc

About the Awards

Ken Burns for Best of the Festival $3,000

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.

Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker $2,000

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.

Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film $2,000

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.

Best Experimental Film $1,500 

This award celebrates the film that most successfully showcases the use of experimental processes, forms, and topics.

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 16mm or 35mm color negative film stock).

Best Documentary Film  $1,000

This award recognizes the best nonfiction film in the festival program.

Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film $1,000

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 $1,000

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 $1,000

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 Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for an Emerging Experimental Video Artist $1,000

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 and whose work is distributed by the Video Data Bank.

The Eileen Maitland Award $750

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 $700

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.

The No Violence Award $512

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 $500

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 $500

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 in memory of Erik Alexander, an aficionado of the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Leon Speakers Award for Best Sound Design $500

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.

Martin Contreras and Keith Orr \aut\ FILM Award for Best LGBTQ Film $500

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, former owners of the locally known and loved \aut\ BAR, contribute this award to highlight the diversity of voices that achieve excellence in filmmaking. An \aut\ FILM Award Endowment Fund initiative is currently underway. Please contact should you wish to help ensure that Keith and Martin’s legacy of support lives on forever.

Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film $500

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.

Tíos Award for Best International Film $500

Granted to the film produced outside of the United States that most strongly wins over the jury, this award is provided by Tíos Mexican Café, serving Ann Arbor since 1986.

UMCU Audience Award $500

Sponsored by the University of Michigan Credit Union, this award—affectionately dubbed the Vox Populi Award – goes to the year’s most highly rated audience-selected film in competition.

Best Michigan Filmmaker Award $350 in kind

This award recognizes top Michigan talent. The winner will receive a one week rental, valued at $350, including one camera body and two lenses of any brand desired from CameraMall, Ann Arbor’s camera store & photo lab, dedicated to supporting the Great Lakes photo community in learning, renting gear, and printing their work.

Jurors’ Awards $2,188

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.