July 27--A decade ago, few could have predicted that maverick Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore would become a civic icon of scenic northern Michigan.
But Moore's Traverse City Film Festival, which runs Tuesday through Aug. 3, has united the community and filmmakers in ways that few cinematic gatherings do. It's run with the help of more than 1,000 local volunteers and features creative content and special guests from across the globe.
To celebrate the 10th birthday of Moore's movie magic, here are 10 highlights of the 2014 event.
1. "Life of Crime": Director-writer Daniel Schechter is coming to Traverse City for the U.S. debut of his adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1978 novel "The Switch." The crime caper, screening Friday and Saturday, stars Jennifer Aniston and is about the unexpected complications that arise from the kidnapping of a suburban Detroit wife.
2. "Life Itself": This extraordinary documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, scheduled for Thursday and Aug. 3, details his enthusiastic career as a reviewer as well as his brave battle with cancer. Fittingly, the movie has been getting two thumbs up from critics. Chaz Ebert, his widow, will appear at the festival.
3. Free movies at the Buzz: Named for late TCFF supporter Harold (Buzz) Wilson, this new venue allows people to enjoy movies without having to pay. Located at the InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City, the site will screen nearly 20 films, including documentaries like "Fishtail," a saga of modern cowboys narrated by Harry Dean Stanton.
4. "Love Is Strange": This tender tale concerns a longtime gay couple who finally make it official under New York's same-sex marriage law but later face discrimination that threatens their livelihood and ability to reside together. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow star. The film, which screens Wednesday and Saturday, currently has a 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
5. Michael Moore's birthday party: The feisty young whippersnapper who took on General Motors 25 years ago with "Roger & Me" turned 60 this year. As a fund-raiser for the TCFF, visitors can attend what's being called Michael's Super Sweet 60th on Friday for the price of a $100 ticket. Expect to see balloons, food trucks and a number of directors inspired by his example.
6. "Divide in Concord": The festival is known for booking documentaries that look at political and environmental issues, and this film, which screens Saturday, is a prime example. It's about the efforts of an octogenarian activist to ban the sale of bottled water in the Massachusetts town that played a key role in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War.
7. "Manos Sucias.": The schedule's international reach is highlighted by this drama set for Thursday and Friday. Executive-produced by Spike Lee, it looks at Colombia's deadly drug business from the perspective of estranged brothers Jacobo, a veteran of the trade, and Delio, a newcomer who wants to be a rap star.
8. Michigan State University shorts: TCFF has previously hosted short films by University of Michigan students. Now MSU gets a chance to show off the talents of cinematic Spartans (whose past alums include director Sam Raimi). The lineup on Wednesday includes shorts like "In conclusive," which explores electroshock therapy, and "Every Two Minutes," which examines sexual assault in America.
9. Movies on a boat: The willingness to try something new and innovative is embodied in the opportunity to to set sail each night with a projector and fellow movie buffs to enjoy a film on Grand Traverse Bay. The idea was so popular that the festival held a drawing for the chance to buy tickets.
10. "Rubber Soul": On Friday and Aug. 3, the pored-over legacy of the Beatles will be viewed through a fresh lens in this fascinating work that uses actors and dialogue from interviews that John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave Rolling Stone and Playboy to trace the couple's personal and creative journey.
Contact Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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