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Film fest scores victory in First Amendment fight
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday December 7, 2007

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A premier independent film festival has won a court fight meant to ensure states are unable to censor artistic events by withholding federal funds meant to promote creative endeavors.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival -- a showcase of "artistically inspired independent and experimental films" --claimed in a federal lawsuit that Michigan lawmakers "unconstitutionally" withheld federal grants because they found some of the festival's content "objectionable."

The film festival filed its case against the state of Michigan along with the ACLU. The state has since agreed to lift all content restrictions on federal funds, and the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit.

"This decision isn't only a victory for artistic freedom of expression, but a reminder to stand up and ensure that our government is held accountable for the power they wield,” said Christen McArdle, AAFF Executive Director told Film Threat. “We are pleased that arbitrary guidelines will no longer be used to deny artists their creative rights.”

The state banned funding for art that contained "depictions of flag desecration, or "displays of sex acts," and some state legislators accused the festival of showing "pornographic" films, a charge festival officials vehemently deny.

Under the terms of the lawsuit settlement, Michigan's policies on arts funding will mirror those of the National Endowment for the Arts, which have been evaluated by the US Supreme Court.

The festival has launched a fundraising campaign aimed at recouping money it lost in refusing all state funds while the old policy was in place. The 46th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival will be held March 25-30, 2008, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Among the banned films is "Boobie Girl," directed by Brooke Keesling, a lighthearted animated tale of a young girl experiencing the changes of puberty.