News Column

Documentaries inspire and provoke at Traverse City fest

August 3, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 03--TRAVERSE CITY -- Last year, "Searching for Sugar Man" and "Detropia" were Traverse City Film Festival highlights. Late Friday afternoon, people were lining up an hour early for "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," a documentary about the Broadway star and one-woman dynamo as she faces the challenges of being in her 80s.

Documentaries have always been a strong presence at the festival, founded by doc star Michael Moore, but not all of them are feature-length like the critical darlings above.

The Friday program of documentary shorts at the festival packed eight very different and compelling films into a 100-minute program that was an emotional roller coaster.

The one with a metro Detroit tie, "We Will Live Again," takes a close and sometimes jaw-dropping look at the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, a resting place for people who believe in a future medical answer to mortality.

The film, by Myles Kane and Joshua Koury from Brooklyn Underground Films, offers glimpses of the facilities and the day-to-day operations (one of the employees says he stays overnight on weeknights) and the ordinariness, in a way, of the process of transferring a body to deep-freeze storage.

There were two crowd favorites among the lineup. "The Rider and the Storm," by David Darg and Bryn Mooser, centers on an iron worker on the new Freedom Tower in Manhattan who finds pain and healing in the ocean after Hurricane Sandy leads to a fire that destroys his family's home.

"Jujitsu-ing Reality" follows screenwriter Scott Lew as he deals with ALS with courage and humor and relies on technology and a personal assistant to continue writing a movie. (It stars Seth Green, who's shown in the film and narrates Lew's words). Although he can't move, Lew's determination is extremely powerful.

Filmmaker Chetin Chabuk spoke to the audience afterward about his initial e-mail interviews with Lew, who is as spirited and wry as ever inside his still exterior. They had several exchanges on the Web, then "after my last set of questions, he was, "Hey, you know, Chet, this is taking a lot of my time and I have a script to finish. Can we move this along?' "

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