BY LORAINE ANDERSON email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival was the “biggest and best festival” ever, breaking all records.
A total 123 of 188 screenings sold out. Admissions over the six-day festival totaled 119,000, up 28,000 from last year.
About 1,500 volunteers worked more than 20,000 hours, including 250 volunteer managers who worked full-time during festival week.
“This year we worked harder than ever to provide a fun and affordable festival for everyone, no matter their budget,” said Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmaker and festival founder. “We want everyone to be able to enjoy just great movies in one of the most beautiful areas of the country.”
The festival presented 102 feature films, 52 shorts in seven program 10 film school sessions, 10 cinema salon outdoor movie discussions, seven free industry panels, seven parties and a podcast with comedian Doug Benson. Ninety filmmakers from four continents also accompanied from four continents to northern Michigan.
More than 80 musicians from the United States, Israel, Argentina, Australia and Canada performed 250 different sets before screenings at theater venues, parties, and the new Clinch Park Music stage.
A combination on 150 American and foreign films, mostly sunny and moderate weather, helpful volunteers and BATA drivers, and the festival’s growing reputation made for a great week, according to film-goers Sunday as they stood in lines at downtown venues.
They had few suggestions when asked what they would do to improve the festival, even those who mentioned the ticket ordering process.
In fact, the question mostly generated praise for volunteers, the shuttle buses, and Moore and Deb Lake, the festival’s executive director.
“I’ve thought about it at times, but they do a such a good job of making it all work,” said David Manthei as he and wife Karen stood in line at the City Opera House. They had volunteered at the Filmmaker’s Party the night before.
“When you hear the filmmakers talk about Traverse City’s volunteers and how helpful they are, you know what they call this ‘the best little festival anywhere,’ “ Manthei added.
“Michael’s Surprise” noon screening at Lars Hockstad Auditorium was “Bowling for Columbine,” his 2002 documentary about the 1999 mass killing of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The film examined the massacre and how two students easily acquired four pieces of firearms, despite of having a history of arrests, juvenile detention, counseling sessions, and drug problems.”
“I had hoped that it would be irrelevant by now,” Moore told the more than 700 people at Lars Hockstad Auditorium Sunday afternoon.
Instead, it’s as pertinent today because of Congress’ failure this year to approve universal background checks and other gun control regulations in the wake of mass killings in Colorado movie theater in July 2012 and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, N.J., in December.
“Bowling for Columbine” explored the roots of American gun violence and its relationship to fear, bigotry, guns and violence. It received an Oscar for “Best Documentary” in 2003.
“The fact that it is still relevant is sad and sick,” Moore said, noting that many of the film’s critics countered with the phrase “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”
He suggested a wording change: “Guns don’t kill people; Americans kill people.”
“The rest of the world think we’re crazy for not figuring this out,” he said.
The outdoor filmmakers awards party Saturday night in the Century 21 parking lot near State and Park streets turned into mutual admiration fest as Moore handed out Founders awards, prizes and praise to filmmakers, Traverse City and is volunteers.
“I can’t tell you how much Michael Moore influenced my career,” said Paul Feig, this year’s winner of the festival’s Michigan Filmmaker award. Feig grew up in Mount Clemens.
English-born filmmaker Michael Apted, (British Up series) and several younger documentary makers thanked Moore for his courage, filmmaking, investigative reporting, leadership in making documentaries and advocating the importance of film.
The overall theme of this year’s festival was “One Good Movie Can Change Your Life.”
Paxto Telleria, screenwriter of the Spanish comedy “Bypass, which won a Founders Prize for best comedy, said he would take that idea home with him but add a word.