Picking Films for a Festival: Meet Leslie Raymond of the Ann Arbor Film Festival (Podcast)

Mia Quagliarello / February 22, 2022

“Film curators definitely have the challenge of [their medium’s] temporal nature. With two dimensional objects, you can easily look at them at once and figure out [how to] arrange them. But when it comes to working with a time-based medium, you really have to watch it…and maybe multiple times to understand how the piece works.” — Leslie Raymond, Ann Arbor Film Festival  

At nearly 60 years old, the Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. Its director, Leslie Raymond, doesn’t just think about curating the best selection of experimental films each year. She also considers how the films fit into the festival’s rich legacy and Ann Arbor’s own cultural standing. (It’s been called the “Berkeley of the East.”)

It was exciting to learn about the ways film curation differs from other forms of curation and how the AAFF team turns 2,700 submissions into a tight, six-day lineup that surprises and delights audiences. 

Highlights, inspiration and key learnings:

  • What’s so cool about AAFF
  • The Ann Arbor scene and techno 
  • What does avant-garde film even mean these days
  • How they decide what makes it into the festival
  • How filmmakers can get a curator’s attention
  • Conversation and dialogue as part of the curatorial process
  • What’s unique about film curators
  • How roles as an artist and educator intersect with being a curator
  • Why it’s sometimes taboo for a curator to put their voice in the mix
  • How the films fit together as a body of work
  • What AAFF teaches new film reviewers
  • Whether Leslie still watches movies for fun
  • Leslie’s culture picks

Browse the companion Storyboard to get the episode, plus Leslie’s movie, TV and podcast recommendations. 

You can find “The Art of Curation” podcast on Flipboard as well as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc. Please subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode, and if you like what you hear rate, review and share. 

— Mia Quagliarello, head of creator community and newsletters, is curating the curators in “The Art of Curation” podcast