TRAVERSE CITY — Deb Cannella may get to skip the line for at least one movie at this year's Traverse City Film Festival.
She and her family will be accompanied to the movie of her choice by none other than festival founder and filmmaker Michael Moore.
Cannella, of Bellaire, won five free movie passes and the special seatmate at a July fundraising auction for the Antrim County Democratic Party. The item — #304, valued at "priceless" — was donated by Moore, a well-known liberal who has a home in the county. It was one of dozens up for bid, including a Torch Lake vacation get-away, a pontoon ride on Six Mile Lake, a poetry performance and afternoon tea.
"There were quite a few people bidding on it," said Sally Hannert, auction co-organizer and corresponding secretary of Antrim Dems, as the group is casually known. "We had online and live auctions, but the really fancy items we saved for the live auction."
Cannella said she offered $325 to score the winning bid.
"I hoped to get it for under $500, but sometimes you get carried away in an auction," said the retired teacher, a film festival "Friend" and former volunteer.
The movie with Moore was a birthday present for Cannella's nephew, Adlai Stevenson, the grandson of another famous liberal: the late Senator Adlai Stevenson III. Cannella said she and her nephew traditionally spend film festival week together, attending as many as 10 or 11 movies.
"He's 18 and he's a real film buff," she said. "He can tell you who directed what movie and when, and what else they directed."
Stevenson, of Evanston, Ill., said he learned of the gift during a phone call from his aunt four days after his July 14 birthday.
"I was excited, to put it mildly," he said. "I was at a friend's house and I was pretty ecstatic. I love movies. They've been my main thing for as long as I can remember."
An incoming freshman at the University of Illinois, Champaign, where he'll study media, Stevenson wrote film reviews for his high school newspaper. He said he attends as many as two movies a week, from blockbusters at cineplexes to repertory screenings at vintage theaters.
"I love everything," he said. "I think everything's worth seeing. I think they all have special characteristics and qualities that are unique."
Cannella said the family attended Thursday's screening of "The Flat" at the State Theatre with Moore. Regardless of the setting, Stevenson said he's looking forward to an interesting conversation with the director about filmmaking.
"Michael Moore's filmmaking approaches will stick with you, but I don't know if I agree with them or his perspective all the time," he said. "As far as his importance for this generation of filmmakers, he's right up there."