03/27/2012 12:14 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2012

Ann Arbor Film Festival 2012: Oldest U.S. Experimental Film Fest Celebrates 50th Year (VIDEO)

The circus is coming to town!

That is, if by circus you mean film festival, and by town you mean Michigan's little-big city, Ann Arbor. The six-day Ann Arbor Film Festival kicking off Tuesday won't have any elephants or tightrope-walkers (that we know of), but with more than 230 films, it will certainly have plenty to captivate cinephiles with its own version of the greatest show on earth.


Marking its 50th year, the Ann Arbor event is the oldest continually operating experimental film festival in the country. It's made it through censorship controversy and funding cuts, and according to the Detroit Free Press, the festival has screened more than 5,000 films. Over the years, it's played host to filmmakers both critically lauded and widely adored, such as George Lucas, Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono.

To honor the anniversary, this year's fest will take a look back at the work shown there since '63. But don't expect a whole week of nostalgia and rehashing. The festival's executive director, Donald Harrison, told the Detroit News that rather than limit the number of new films to make room for the old, organizers expanded the festival instead, with 50 more events this year than last year.

"Along with all the new films, contemporary works and competition films, we're going to be playing a lot of historic, rare and archival films from throughout the festival's history," Harrison said. "So people are going to get a chance to see what has changed, what is different."

The festival will screen an incredible range of work, including a retrospective of one of LGBTQ cinema's founders, Japanese avant-garde shorts from the 1970s, music videos in competition, a collection of work from the Arab world and student films from across the region. For a full list of the events taking over the Michigan Theater and downtown Ann Arbor, including features, documentaries and shorts, as well as artists talks, panels and parties, see the Ann Arbor Film Festival's website.

But if you're too budget-conscious to shell out $95 for the full six-day pass, or just need to decide what's worth making the trek from out of town, HuffPost compiled a list -- with the help of a couple experts -- of some of the most notable and not-to-miss events from this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival. Let us know in the comments what you're planning to see!

Ann Arbor Film Festival 2012: Top Picks