Traverse City Film Festival a box office smash before it even opens
The excitement was as palpable as a scene from “Jaws“ last Friday as the first tickets went on sale for Michael Moore‘s Traverse City Film Festival.
With a line out the door of Interlochen‘s Bravo! shop located next to the State Theatre and Moore himself selling tickets inside, the advance word and expectations on the festival set for July 27-31 is up there with the stars themselves, some of whom may be attending the premiere event.
Moore and festival co-founders author Doug Stanton and photographer John Robert Williams are bringing 31 independent films to Traverse City in an attempt to duplicate similar events at Sundance, Toronto and Telluride. Moore has personally screened and selected each film for the event.
“These are the absolute best independent films made in the last year or two,“ said the Oscar-winning filmmaker at a press conference outside the State Theatre.
He predicted that some of the films could attain the significance of such cultural icons as “The Graduate,“ “A Clockwork Orange“ and “Blazing Saddles.“ “We think that when you walk out of these movies you‘ll regain that sense of some of the great films you saw as a kid.“
The biggest film in the lineup is “Broken Flowers,“ starring Bill Murray as an “addled Don Juan on a journey through his love life“ that leads back to Sharon Stone. Other standouts include Sean Penn‘s “Assassination of Richard Nixon,“ “Grizzly Man“ by director Werner Herzog, “Gunner Palace,“ which explores life under fire in Iraq, and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.“ The 31 films will be aired a total of 50 times, with some shown twice.
Films will be shown at the State Theatre, which has been the scene of a volunteer fix-up over the past week, and at the Traverse City Opera House. A free “On the Waterfront“ series will also be held each night at 10 p.m. at the Open Space on West Bay, with screenings of “Jaws,“ “The Princess Bride,“ “Ferris Beuller‘s Day Off“ and “Casablanca“ projected on a 50-foot screen.
As at other festivals, the films shown in Traverse City will be judged by attendees as well as by the festival‘s organizers for the awarding of prizes. The winning film will be shown on Sunday night to close out the festival.
While Moore is renowned for the political stance he took with “Fahrenheit 9/11,“ there is no particular agenda at the festival, which includes some date flick offerings such as “Summer of Love“ and “Balzac.“ The festival doesn‘t shy from topical subjects, however: Several films examine problems of the post 9/11 world, including “The Ax“ and “Time Out“ on unemployment; “Mondovino,“ a wine industry film about globalization; and “Enron,“ about corporate greed.
Tickets at $7 per film are on sale now at the Interlochen Box Office and the Bravo! store downtown.
-- by Robert Downes