The visionary leader behind one of America’s longest running unique independent film festivals will be at Edge Hill University to talk about its future.

Executive Director Donald Harrison, a media artist and entrepreneur, is making a rare appearance in the UK for the free public lecture at the Ormskirk campus on 25th April.

His talk The Next New: Ann Arbor Film Festival after 50 Years looks at the history of the event and how its reputation has grown, as well as its role in engaging audiences and shaping film culture. He will also discuss the funding crisis sparked in 2006 by the censorship controversy, and how the successful litigation against the State of Michigan in 2007 has affected the event.

Owen Evans, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television and Co-Founding Director of the European Cinema Research Forum (ECRF), invited Donald to the campus after forging new links with the festival.

He said: “This festival is one of the key festivals dedicated to film as an art form and is renowned for championing very experimental films and for showing independent filmmakers. We are delighted that Donald has chosen to visit the UK as he has so much experience to pass on to our students. When he became involved with the AAFF in 2007, it was in dire need of support to recover from the financial crisis. Yet he rose to these challenges and after being heavily involved in the ‘Endangered Campaign’ to save the festival, which first drew my attention to the event, the organisation made changes and took creative risks. Through his vision, it has built an impressive reputation as it heads towards its 50th anniversary, and he has pioneered the expansion the annual AAFF tour, which, of course, we hosted here in the Rose Theatre in February this year.

“It is an exciting opportunity for Edge Hill University to have Donald here and to be a part of this experience because we are the first overseas hosts of the tour for a considerable length of time. I hope we can set up a lasting relationship with the festival in the years to come as it allows us to engage audiences and students with remarkable cinematic experiences. The festival is committed to celebrating and supporting bold and visionary filmmaking. It is an ethos that chimes with our Media Department’s own mission and builds on our already strong links within the film festival industry.”

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is internationally recognised as a premiere showcase for films that are cutting-edge, experimental, bold, and beyond the mainstream. As the longest-running film festival of its kind in North America, the AAFF is steeped in a rich tradition of ground-breaking cinema. Thousands of influential filmmakers have showcased early work at the AAFF, including luminaries such as Kenneth Anger, Agnes Varda, Andy Warhohl, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Barbara Hammer, Lawrence Kasdan, and George Lucas. The AAFF is committed to supporting visionary filmmakers, promoting the art of film, and providing its audience with new films that challenge, inspire, innovate and give voice to diverse perspectives.

Donald first joined the Festival’s efforts in 2007 and became Executive Director in 2008. Prior to his move to Michigan, he served as Director of Membership for Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco, where he began working in 2003.  A native of Detroit and graduate of the University of Michigan, Donald began studying documentary and experimental cinema at the Film Arts Foundation in 2001. He has produced short experimental documentaries, several festival DVD collections, and many film-related events. Donald currently serves on the board of the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor, the Detroit Film Centre and the advisory board of the Aurora Picture Show in Houston, TX.

The event is free to attend and can be booked online at Arrival is from 5pm with refreshments, ready for a 6pm start with networking at refreshments afterwards, followed by a screening of Ann Arbor films at 8pm.