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Traverse City Film Festival: Filmmaker Michael Moore’s Midwestern Film Festival

Published by Prince Nakanishi

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The Traverse City Film Festival, a nonprofit organization, operates under the simple motto of showing “Just Great Movies,” and is dedicated to saving one of America’s dying art forms – the cinema. It is held every year in the beautiful northern city on the bay, Traverse City, Michigan, and has become one of the largest film festivals in the Midwest.

Founder Michael Moore and Company

The film festival was founded by Academy Award winning filmmaker Michael Moore, well known for his political activism and biting commentary. Moore has made such films as Roger and Me, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Sicko. Michael Moore founded the film festival in collaboration with photographer John Robert Williams, and best-selling author Doug Stanton. The filmmakers, Larry Charles (“Borat”), and Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) joined the film festival board in 2006.

Respect and Emphasis

Along with being one of the largest film festivals in the Midwest, the Traverse City Film Festival is also one of the most respected. There are a number of American and world premier screenings that are attended by tens of thousands of people during the weekend it is held in the summer.

The Traverse City Film Festival places a special emphasis on foreign films, American independent films, documentaries, and films that have largely been overlooked by the film industry.

Film Festival Events and Theatre

Classic movies are presented free of charge during the film festival. These movies are shown on a huge, inflatable outdoor screen overlooking Grand Traverse Bay in the Open Space Park at sunset.

Many film festival screenings take place in the recently renovated State Theater, a year-round, community based art house movie theater that the film festival owns and operates. Michael Moore, pleased with the renovations, stated: “I kid you not when I tell you that no other place in America – short of the Academy Awards theater, AFI or Lincoln Center – has what we now have at the State [Theater].”

Also offered are daily panel discussions with writers, actors, directors and other members of the film industry.

The Changing Face of Michigan and Film

Michael Moore is putting Michigan on the map as a new filmmaking destination. The Traverse City Film Festival draws attention to the recent 40 percent tax credit incentives plan given to filmmakers making movies in Michigan.

Partly in response to Moore’s involvement with the city, the character of Traverse City, a resort town that is a popular summer destination, has started to change. Local residents and businesses are hoping to create an “Ann Arbor” of the north. The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is comparable to a smaller version of San Francisco, a liberal city located in California. Most business owners reference the comparison in response to the changes going on within the artistic and food scenes, rather than the political scene.

“We have a lot of ‘foodies’ and culturally astute people up here now,” said Spencer Stegenga, owner of Bowers Harbor Vineyards. His business has seen double-digit growth since 2004. He also adds that the number of wineries near Traverse City has more than doubled in the past 20 years.

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