This week marks the 49th year of one of the most renowned exhibitions of experimental film in the country. The Ann Arbor Film Festival has featured many notable contributors through the years, ranging from artists like Andy Warhol to seasoned filmmakers like Gus Van Sant. Today through Sunday, the festival will continue in its tradition of promoting film as an aesthetic medium.

Established in 1963 by University professor George Manupelli, the festival is the oldest experimental film festival and third-oldest film festival in the country. It quickly grew from a fledgling dream overseen by the University, showing films exclusively in 16mm format, into an independent showcase with high-quality digital media and thousands of entries from international filmmakers.

To kick off a presentation of 188 films and other performances, this year’s festival will feature the world premiere of “The Florestine Collection” tonight at 8:15 p.m. in the Michigan Theater. Started by the late experimental animator Helen Hill as a film about a dressmaker in New Orleans, “The Florestine Collection” was completed by Hill’s husband after she passed away.

The following days of the festival will feature screenings with an established theme. One is “Always Elsewhere,” a collection of five films showing on Thursday night. Another is the “Safe As Milk” collection slated for Saturday morning, which will offer showings that are suitable for younger viewers.

Unlike Sundance and Cannes, the AAFF is a unique opportunity to delight in avant garde works that may never be seen by a national audience. The first showing on Tuesday will follow an introductory reception with a DJ, an open bar and appetizers from local eateries. The reception costs $30 and includes admission to the screening.

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