Death of a visionary
Founder of Ann Arbor Film Festival dies at 82By JAMES SAOUD
Ann Arbor is a city fueled by arts and academics, a city where the movie theaters are treated like cathedrals and art galleries like candy stores.
George Manupelli, founder of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, was a visionary who represented all the things that made Ann Arbor “Ann Arbor.”
Manupelli died in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, where he lived, on Sunday, Sept. 14 at age 82.
He was a filmmaker, artist and professor at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design. He was also a member of the ONCE Group, an Ann Arbor art collective in the 1950s and ’60s.
“He was an amazingly generous spirit,” Leslie Raymond, executive director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival said.
Throughout the years, the film festival Manupelli founded became one of the largest and most acclaimed venues for avant-garde and experimental filmmaking in the world.
But Manupelli did far more than just create a stage for this specific breed of filmmaker, he was one of them himself.
“As a filmmaker, he was quite groundbreaking,” Raymond said. “He really explored the narrative form, almost as a pre-Altman figure.”
Perhaps his most well-known films, the “Dr. Chicago” trilogy, are acclaimed and respected in the world of avant-grade cinema.
“When it comes to artists, it kind of opens possibilities,” Raymond said of Manupelli’s films. “They take tools and use them in ways they were never intended.”
Though his films were not made for the masses, Manupelli still managed to achieve a cult following and fan base, which was partially due to his success as an artist.
He often used whatever he could find to creature sculptures, which, according to Raymond, may have not been too far off from how he made his films.
Instead of casting actors, he often casted fellow avant-garde artists and friends to act in his in films.
At next spring’s festival, Raymond plans to honor the late founder and filmmaker, though details are still developing.