Michael Moore Opens 15th Annual Traverse City Film Festival: 'Amazing Offering of Exhilarating, Intense, Beautiful, Hilarious, and Provocative Movies'
Festival along Lake Michigan boasts over 200 movies and events, including world premiere of environmental-themed documentary Planet of the Humans
The 15th annual Traverse City Film Festival is underway after a rousing opening night that featured a screening of Paul Downs Colaizzo's directorial debut, Brittany Runs a Marathon.
Festival founder and programmer Michael Moore emceed the festivities Tuesday night at the State Theatre, TCFF's prime venue, beginning with an acknowledgement of the crystal anniversary.
"We made it to 15 years!" Moore told the capacity crowd. "Give yourselves a round of applause for that."
I'm not paid a dime; I always pay my own expenses.
Before Moore brought out Colaizzo to introduce the opening night film, there was business to attend to, including some fundraising. But not all of that was intended for the festival's coffers. During his remarks Moore mentioned a young violinist, Amelia Burke, who earlier had warmed up the crowd at the theater. He said she'd told him backstage about her goal of attending Michigan State University in the fall and the obstacle she faced of coming up with the $29,000 for the first year's tuition and expenses.
That prompted someone in the crowd to shout, "Pass the hat!," a suggestion Moore acted on with gusto. He invited Burke back on stage, and as Moore recited some of the top moments in TCFF's 15-year history, Burke accompanied him on violin. In the meantime, the "hat" (in the form of a popcorn bucket) was passed, and members of the audience filled it with more than $1,000.
That was not the limit of Moore's appeals for support from the opening night crowd. Several audience members, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, pledged tens of thousands of dollars after Moore called for donations to rewire the State Theatre marquee and address a flooding problem in the theater basement. He can be very persuasive.
TFCC board member and filmmaker Tia Lessin expanded on that theme, revealing Moore had personally intervened to convince Amazon Studios to allow the festival to show Brittany Runs a Marathon before its theatrical release.
"[Amazon Studios] didn't want to let us have this film. They certainly didn't want us to do two screenings on opening night," Lessin commented. "They have five other films that they've given us because Michael's able to get on the phone with his old friend [Jennifer Salke] who runs Amazon Studios. Not only did they give us the films, but they sent the filmmakers at their expense."
The festival, which runs July 30-August 4, features a lineup of more than 200 films and events. TCFF promises "an amazing offering of exhilarating, intense, beautiful, hilarious, and provocative movies."
Among documentaries, TFCC will showcase One Child Nation, directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, a film about the grim manner in which China enforced its "one child" policy over a period of decades. It won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at Sundance.
Another Sundance prize winner, American Factory, directed by Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, is likewise playing in the festival. TFCC is honoring Reichert with a special tribute, and will screen two of her previous documentaries, Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists (1983) and Growing Up Female (1971).
The festival will host the world premiere of the documentary Planet of the Humans, directed by Jeff Gibs.
"Perhaps the most provocative film we've shown in our 15 years," the TCFF program guide notes, adding, "Planet of the Humans dares to say what no one will - that we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road - selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America."
The TCFF documentary slate also includes The Great Hack, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim; Ask Dr. Ruth, directed by Ryan White; Gay Chorus Deep South by David Charles Rodrigues; Rachel Mason's Circus of Books; Cold Case Hammarskjöld from director Mads Brügger; Framing John DeLorean from directors Don Argott and Sheena Joyce; After Parkland by Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi; David Crosby: Remember My Name by A.J. Eaton, and 17 Blocks, the documentary by Davy Rothbart that was recently acquired by MTV's documentary film division under Sheila Nevins.
For the complete lineup of films, both nonfiction and fiction, check out the Traverse City Film Festival website.
Nonfictionfilm.com will be reporting from the festival through Sunday's closing night. Watch this space for more TFCC coverage, including the announcement of prize winners.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.