Ann Arbor Film Festival director takes on additional role as festival programmer

For the first time in her five years as Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) director, Leslie Raymond will also serve as programmer of this year's festival, set for March 26-31 at the Michigan Theater and other local venues.


Raymond says technology's impact on society, fierce women, and black voices are strong themes in this year's selections. While she was responsible for the final sign-offs on this year's program, support from a strong staff and volunteers were crucial in her expanded role.


"I relied on the input of many others from round one all the way to the end," she says. "It was really a collaborative community effort, which goes back to the ethos of the founding of the festival."


Raymond and her team started with 3,000 submissions, which were whittled down to 240 for the programming round.


Input, comments, and scoring from the festival's team of film screeners went into Raymond's final decision-making process. Raymond describes her role at that point as akin to someone putting the pieces of a puzzle together.


She took pains to make sure that each program has a good range of films that complement and balance each other while also providing contrast.


With the festival just weeks away, Raymond is excited.


"I feel confident that people will enjoy the event, but the proof will have to be in the pudding," she says.


She adds, "I trust my instincts – instincts that have been cultivated as an artist and that give me that gut feeling about what is right and what is going to work."


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently in based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at


Photo by Doug Coombe.