By Vanessa McCray
TRAVERSE CITY —
The biggest surprise at "Mike's Surprise" — a Traverse City Film Festival tradition in which Founder Michael Moore screens a mystery movie — occurred when Moore led the crowd out of their seats and around the block.
A trail of fans, film buffs and festival-goers followed Moore from Lars Hockstad to Central Neighborhood's tree-lined streets on Sunday afternoon. The walk served as an on-foot finale for "Mike's Surprise," a special event held on the festival's last day.
Like many journeys, the jaunt has a back story.
Moore began walking daily 20 weeks ago after reading that more Americans take anti-depressants than go to the movies. He mentioned that on Twitter, and someone suggested everyone should just go for a walk. Moore thought it was a good idea. Since then, he's walked daily and invited his 1 million-plus Twitter followers to join him virtually from wherever they were.
The tweeting and walking took off from there.
"I haven't gone on my walk yet today. So I would like to conclude 'Mike's Surprise' by inviting you to go on my walk with me right now," Moore said.
The audience left Lars, walked down Seventh Street and continued around the block as Moore snapped photos to post on Twitter.
The routine is simply about walking--not weight loss or a political cause--said Moore, though he has dropped pounds.
Moore did talk politics during "Mike's Surprise." Instead of screening a film, he shared his five most-pressing political topics and introduced and interviewed several of the festival's board members.
His current top five items are: Getting money out of politics, the health of oceans, children's nutrition, the need for an electrical grid back-up in the event of a destructive solar storm and being kind to one-another.
"Mike's Surprise" is always a popular pick among festival-goers, who packed the auditorium despite not knowing what to expect. Ellen Gribbell, of Traverse City, waited in line after scoring tickets to the event for the first time. She's attended the festival for multiple years and said it's a chance to learn about movies she might not know about.
"It just keeps getting better every year," Gribbell said.
The numbers back her up. Festival Executive Director Deb Lake said the box office increased about 15 percent from last year. Organizers want to add another downtown venue, possibly a tent, Lake said.
The festival welcomed German filmmaker Wim Wenders to a Sunday morning panel at the City Opera House. Wenders, whose films include "Paris, Texas" and "The American Friend," spoke to Moore about growing up after World War II and discovering his love for cinema.
It took Wenders several films to find his voice.
"I realized that I had finally become a director," he said. "When I checked into hotels, I wrote 'director.'"
The festival's last day included screenings at a half-dozen venues around Traverse City. And, the spectacle of the Sunday stroll around a city block likely will be another lasting memory from this year's event.
"It was cool," said Traverse City's Debra Fouch, whose festival schedule included 15 films. "I'm sure the neighborhood is like, 'What's going on?'"