For the first time since 2019, the Traverse City Film Festival will be back in action this summer.
Originally founded in 2005 by filmmaker Michael Moore, the festival ran annually until COVID forced it to be shelved for two years. Now it’s back again July 26-31, with about 40 films currently programmed and more expected to be added to the lineup.
“There are a number of films screening at the Tribeca Film Festival that we are still scouting, and we also are yet to announce our short film programs,” says Director Johanna Evans.
Ticketed movies will be shown at several venues in the city including the festival-owned State Theatre and nearby Bijou by the Bay downtown. As in the past, free films will be shown at Traverse City’s waterfront Open Space park nightly.
One of the highlights of the 2022 festival includes the opening night’s “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” Evans says. It’s a documentary made by filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney, great-niece of Walt Disney. She took inspiration from the struggle by Disneyland employees to make ends meet to study America’s economy and why the American dream may work for the wealthy, but not for those born with less.
Evans cites “Bo Burnham: Inside” as another top attraction this year.
“This is one of the most incredibly creative pieces of art to emerge during the pandemic,” she says.
The comedian recorded the program at his Los Angeles home during the pandemic and it features songs and sketches about his day-to-day life while addressing other issues.
Evans is also excited about “God’s Country,” featuring Thandiwe Newton as a Black professor in a remote college town whose confrontation with two hunters trespassing on her land escalates when she refuses to back down. The film’s director, Julian Higgins, and writer, Shaye Ogbonna, will be on hand to discuss the movie and answer questions.
Several classics will be presented, including a 100th anniversary screening of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” with live accompaniment and “Inherit the Wind.” Among the free Open Space films are “The Wizard of Oz,” “Dr. Strangelove,” and a 70th Anniversary screening of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“We are also showing a number of ‘missed masterpieces’ from the pandemic era, which Michael believed deserved a second look on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience,” Evans says. Her personal favorites in this group include “Stray,” a documentary following three dogs wandering the streets of Istanbul, and “Breaking Surface,” a race against the clock for two sisters scuba diving in Norway when one gets trapped under water.
The festival is also featuring several movies in a series titled “Women Will Not Be Ruled.” “Happening” and “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” explore issues around women’s autonomy over their own bodies and destinies. The series includes portraits of inspiring women activists, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” and “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” among them.
Evans says fans have been expressing anticipation over the festival's revival, even as 2022 remains a time for rebuilding after two years off.
“Everyone is really excited to see the festival come back,” she says. “This is a transition year, though, as festivals around the country are not yet seeing their audiences return in full force.
“We have programmed fewer films in fewer venues, and we are being careful with our budget this year so that next year we can bring TCFF back in its full glory.”
To purchase tickets or find out more, visit www.traversecityfilmfest.org.