A fascinating journey into the DIY spirit of a highly influential film community
Ann Arbor, long known for its political and cultural activism, has an equally compelling history of engagement with film and media. In their quest to show art and independent films and in their efforts to raise money in the name of artistic freedom, local and campus societies pushed the boundaries of conformity. Delving into almost one hundred years of rarely glimpsed history, Cinema Ann Arbor melds interviews, deep archival research, and over four hundred images into a vivid history of film in one extraordinary town. These stories, told with urgency and exquisite detail, are firsthand accounts of the unforgettable people who created Ann Arbor’s magnificent twentieth-century film scene.
Featuring interviews with filmmaker Ken Burns, Oscar-nominated editor Jay Cassidy, producer John Sloss, and more, this masterpiece provides insights into how a Midwestern college town developed a robust underground art film community that inspired those across the country. Variety’s Owen Glieberman says, “Frank Uhle has captured the moment when cinema became, for a new generation, a kind of religion, with its own rituals and sacred texts and a spirit of exploratory mystery that has all but vanished from the culture.”
This is a must-have book for cinema and media aficionados, film archivists, and anyone interested in the cultural history of Ann Arbor.
This book was published in collaboration with Fifth Avenue Press at Ann Arbor District Library. Learn more about their publishing program here. You can also see their collection, including vintage flyers, photos, film schedules, here.
Cultural historian Frank Uhle writes about the fascinating people and stories behind beloved film and music projects, with an emphasis on his adopted hometown of Ann Arbor. A projectionist since the early 1980s, Uhle’s devotion to film was catalyzed when he joined one of the University of Michigan’s student film societies as an undergraduate. Membership in Cinema II provided a rigorous education in the movies and a warm, robust, and lasting community of fellow film lovers whose stories take shape across the pages of Cinema Ann Arbor. Uhle has shown films for various campus film societies, the University Drive-In, the Michigan and State theaters, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and along the way made experimental 8 mm films, helped archive the papers of Orson Welles, and served as proofreader for Psychotronic Video magazine. He’s also the host of a long-running radio program on WCBN that highlights Michigan music, and a frequent contributor to Pulp, Ugly Things, and more where he writes about film, music, business, history, and culture.
“Frank Uhle’s Cinema Ann Arbor is a whopping big gift—to historians, archivists, and film lovers of every shape. Mind-bogglingly comprehensive, it is also deeply emotional for all the lucky folks, like me, who wandered through Ann Arbor’s magical portal into a life in the movies. Priceless, delightful, and necessary.”- Lawrence Kasdan
—Lawrence Kasdan, writer, producer, and filmmaker
“An invaluable and brilliantly detailed history of a unique regional film culture that touched the world, continuing to influence the lives of those who’ve been a part of it in any way. An absolute joy to read.”- Elliot Wilhelm
—Elliot Wilhelm, Curator of Film, Detroit Institute of Arts
“Peek inside the robust legacy of student-powered cinema groups that enriched the cultural scene both on campus and off. This enthralling saga recounts the dynamic moxie, gutsy programming, lucrative operations, and many colorful characters that sustained Ann Arbor’s incredibly rich cinema culture for nearly a century.”- Leslie Raymond
—Leslie Raymond, director, the Ann Arbor Film Festival
“Frank Uhle’s deeply researched and spectacularly informative book is an essential read for all movie lovers. Seeing thought-provoking art films on the U of M campus before the advent of videotapes, DVDs, and streaming was always a special event for me, and Cinema Ann Arbor perfectly captures the pioneering spirit of film presenters who kept me spellbound in the dark.”- Martin Bandyke
—Martin Bandyke, morning drive host on Ann Arbor’s 107one
“If you love movies, history, campus life, or just a good, original yarn, you’ll love Cinema Ann Arbor.”
—John U. Bacon, best-selling author, The Great Halifax Explosion- John U. Bacon
“Longtime Ann Arborite and confirmed cinephile Frank Uhle leaves no stone unturned in this impressively researched and seemingly comprehensive local history. Copiously illustrated with page after page of rare documents and never-before-seen photographs, Cinema Ann Arbor is the culmination of years of research and numerous interviews with participants. An enjoyable read with cameos by Robert Altman, Ken Burns, Frank Capra, Maya Deren, Sam Fuller, Molly Haskell, Pauline Kael, Harold Lloyd, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, and a number of others you might not have guessed played roles in the rich and varied history of film culture in Ann Arbor, Michigan.”- Matthew Solomon
—Matthew Solomon, author of Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century
"[A] historical account of student-run film societies that combines the thoroughness of a PBS documentary with the passion and drama of an underground indie flick."- Julie Hinds
—Detroit Free Press
Watch: Ann Arbor Film Festival Panel | March 24, 2023 | Link
Listen: Author Interview on WEMU | March 21, 2023 | Link
Listen: Author Interview on WDET's Culture Shift | April 19, 2023 | Link
Listen: Author Interview on WCNB's Living Writers | June 14, 2023 | Link
Listen & Read: Author Interview on Michigan Today | June 2, 2023 | Link
Read: Article in Detroit Free Press | June 18, 2023 | Link
Read: Article in Current | May 13, 2023 | Link
Read: Author Interview with Concentrate | March 29, 2023 | Link
Read: Author Interview with Pulp | March 14, 2023 | Link