News Column

1st Freep Film Festival, coming in March, will feature Detroit issues

October 6, 2013


Oct. 06--In films like "Detropia," the Oscar-winning "Searching for Sugar Man" and dozens more, Detroit has emerged as a star subject for documentaries.

The first Freep Film Festival, a new event announced today by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit Media Partnership, will be devoted to real-life cinematic stories tied to the Motor City.

The festival debuts March 20 and will consist of about a dozen screenings over four days at two popular Detroit venues: The Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Fillmore Detroit.

More than a year in the making, the Freep Film Festival will feature documentaries that address the difficult issues that impact life here now. There also will be a focus on works that celebrate the special nature of the city, region and state.

The new showcase for documentaries arrives at a time when metro Detroit has been in the news both as a shooting location for high-profile movies such as the upcoming Superman-Batman movie and as a place where journalists and filmmakers are coming from around the world to chronicle the city's bankruptcy woes.

-- Related: Launch party for Freep Film Fest will feature premiere of beer flick

"There's been such an influx of filmmakers and creative people, I don't think you can probably throw a stone without hitting somebody walking down the street with a tripod and a camera -- from more elaborate productions down to independent filmmakers who just get an idea in their head and want to do a film about it," said Detroit Free Press director of photography and video Kathy Kieliszewski, who is the festival's artistic director.

What will make this festival unique is its mission of getting people involved in the challenges that Detroit faces by encouraging conversation among the people most affected by them, according to Kieliszewski.

"A big part of why we're doing it is to engage the community in the way the newspaper does day to day, but in a new format. ... We intend on having not only the films and the filmmakers present, but also people who are stakeholders in the community that these issues touch on and address."

Using the Free Press documentary "Packard: The Last Shift" as an example, Kieliszweski said its premiere at the festival will be a chance to reach out to a wide range of voices.

-- Special report: The Packard Plant: Why it has to go

"We want to bring people in, professors and people who live in that community, and people who live in the city who have a vision for it or just want the thing torn down, and firefighters who actually have to go there and battle fires. We want to bring all those people in to talk about the issues that films like that raise and what we can do to move the dialogue forward about the city."

Venue representatives said they're looking forward to the fest.

"We are absolutely delighted to be moving ahead with this," said Elliot Wilhelm. director of the Detroit Film Theatre. "It's an idea whose time certainly has come, in terms of having a large showcase of Detroit-centric films."

"We're very excited about the opportunity to be part of the festival," said Fillmore Detroit general manager Ben Doughty, pointing to the historic venue's roots as a movie theater.

-- Related: Freep Film Fest will be at 2 venues: DFT at the DIA, Fillmore Detroit

-- Related: Notable Michigan film festivals from all over the state

"I really think it's an opportunity to feature the venue for the purpose for which it was built. We've been talking about it for a year. To see it finally come together, it's really exciting for me and my team."

The festival's full schedule will be announced beginning later this year.

Get in touch with the festival -- or find out more

On the Web:

On Faceboook:

On Twitter: @freep_film_fest


The Michigan Beer Film Trailer from Rhino Media Productions on Vimeo.


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