Traverse City Film Festival & Michael Moore

Well I am back from the wilds of Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) ~ Michael Moore’s visionary creation – only 5 years old and now considered one of the top fests this side of Cannes. Gary, my mom and I made the great trek this year. Gary is from Michigan and has lived in Traverse City. One of his closest friends still lives here, so we have been coming to this area off and on for the last 10 years.

Traverse City is in the heart of a vacation region located in northern Michigan surrounded by the great lakes and quaint seaside villages. Traverse City is the “Cherry Capital of the World,” holding an annual week-long Cherry Festival the first full week in July to celebrate. Besides cherries, the surrounding Tuscany-like countryside produces grapes, and is one of the centers of wine production in the Midwest.

Traverse has a historic downtown with great shops, cafes and world class dining.




Michael has moved his entire film team right here – to live and work full time – he is currently producing his next documentary about the economic meltdown titled CAPITALISM, A Love Story. “It’s got it all — lust, passion, romance and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day.” – Michael Moore | ‘The Perfect Date Movie’ | ‘A Relationship Movie’ | ‘A Forbidden Love’ Michael is a real life hero in Traverse City, as he has transformed the entire city both economically and culturally with the festival.

I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time this year. Sipping matcha mango iced tea green tea at the Serenity Tea cafe directly across from the State Theatre – when we noticed Michael Moore crossing the street to go to the State Theatre.




We decided to see what was up. It was the first day of this 6 day festival and we were excited to find they were showing a surprise screening of WOODSTOCK (by popular demand) at high noon – the director’s cut 40th anniversary – and the first film of the festival, hosted by Country Joe McDonald and Michael introducing this mind altering 4 hour documentary. A real life time machine back to one of the most amazing, controversial cultural turnings in modern history and on a big screen, this film catapults you back to the people, music and movement at this climax of the 60’s.

Every morning Michael and fellow filmmakers and community organizers host a FREE panel at the old Opera House on Front Street. If you can get up at early enough and go down town these panels are a gift from the gods – Paul Mazursky (TCFF’s honored filmmaker this year – Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice, An Unmarried Woman…) and comedian Jeff Garlin (Curb your Enthusiasm) and joined by this year comic film makers – had the most hilarious discussion about the value of comedy in our crazy world…My mother a ripe 78 and a very liberal woman who loves humor more than anything, said she would have paid $100 to see these guys.

So what was the best film at the festival this year? For me, eco-doc maker that I am, the best documentary was THE COVE, a stunning, jaw dropping eco-thriller, that had me on the edge of my seat for the whole movie. This high end documentary, skillfully crafted, employs brilliant espionage tactics, James Bond style – with the help of Industrial Light and Magic special effects experts, they build special cameras hidden in fake rocks and bird nests, you can’t believe what passion and tenacity the film’s hero, Ric OBarry has, as he takes us on this emotional roller coaster quest to save the 23,000 dolphins that are slaughtered every year in this tiny village in Japan. I fell in love with the heroes of the film, an Ocean’s Eleven team of activists and deep sea divers who take us behind the scenes of one of the most horrific secrets revealed to us in the course of the film made me want to dedicate my life to supporting their cause of saving dolphins. THE COVE should be seen by every human being on the planet.

MORE GREAT FILMS: CRUDE – Three years in the making, this cinéma-vérité feature from acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet. An inside look at the infamous $27 billion “Amazon Chernobyl” case, Crude is a real-life high stakes legal drama set against a backdrop of the environmental movement, global politics, celebrity activism, human rights advocacy, the media, multinational corporate power, and rapidly-disappearing indigenous cultures. Presenting a complex situation from multiple viewpoints, the film subverts the conventions of advocacy filmmaking as it examines a complicated situation from all angles while bringing an important story of environmental peril and human suffering into focus.

FOOD INC. Eating can be one dangerous business. Don’t take another bite till you see Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc., an essential, indelible documentary that is scarier than anything in the last five Saw horror shows. Decepticons have nothing on ears of corn when it comes to transforming into mutant killers. Kenner keeps his film bouncing with humor, music and graphics. Just like the ads that shove junk food down our faces. The message he’s delivering with the help of nutrition activists, including Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), is an eye-opener. High-fructose corn syrup and its friend the E.coli virus are declaring war on national health, and federal agencies, lobbied by Big Agriculture, ain’t doing a thing to stop it. Reason? Profits. The movie offers solid alternatives. If the way to an audience’s heart is through its stomach, Food, Inc. is a movie you’re going to love.

Back to Sir Michael Moore. I am convinced that he has the Midus touch! Everything he does, envisions and touches turns to gold. Michael and the TCFF folk figured that this would be a difficult year for the festival, given the economic melt down – but in fact they had a 37% increase in sponsors and the festival was almost sold out. The showing of Roger & Me (the 20th anniversary special screening) and Michael’s Q&A with Larry Charles (lead Seinfeld writer) lay bare Michael’s impossible journey from an average mid-west kid attending sisters of St. Joseph’s school to world renown documentary filmmaker. Not only did he reveal that he never reads reviews about his work, but that he is an introvert, shy person, who doesn’t believe the myth of himself that has grown out of his movies. He has created a film festival in a place no one really knows about and brought the best films of the year for us all to view – in a vacation haven, that is not only beautiful place to hang out but also filled with spirited and generous people who have the great fortune to live here, even in the snow.

Good move Michael!

Viva la Traverse City Film Festival!

Here is a link to my very first iPhone “movie” – a snippet from the festival on YouTube

And another YouTube short about how great the festival is with Larry Charles and Jeff Garlin

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