Archive for August, 2007

Moore’s northern Michigan film festival continues to grow
Associate Editor

MANISTEE — Regardless of how you feel about filmmaker Michael Moore, you cannot doubt his passion for film. “I’m concerned about film literacy in this country,” he told the audience Thursday at opening of one of the panels at the Traverse City Film Festival. “That’s why we’re here. To help save one of America’s few indigenous art forms — the cinema.”
And there’s a large following of people who must agree with the documentary filmmaker. Over 70,000 festivalgoers attended the Fest in 2006, and even more are projected for this year’s final tally. “We’ve almost doubled what we did our first year, and we’re only in our second day,” he said on Thursday. The festival ends on Sunday.
Also increasing this year, in order to keep up with the demand, is the number of screens, number of screenings, and types of movies.
“We’ve added a new venue, the Lars Hockstad auditorium,” said Moore. “And we’ve added midnight screenings, Friday and Saturday horror movies. And we have our first full-length animated feature we’re showing here, a Japanese animated film. We’ve got a number of new things like that this year.”
The other venues for the festival are the open space outdoor cinema, the historic State Theatre, the City Opera House, and the Old Town Playhouse.
The lineup of films and panels brought to northern Michigan this time around held something for any flavor of filmophile. Among the highlights are screening of children’s and Native American films, a selection of cult-favorite horror films playing at special midnight showings, a select screening of classic films, including a 40th anniversary celebration of “The Graduate,” and a screening of “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” in honor of its 50th anniversary. There is also the regular diet of independent films, documentaries, and other gems folks might have missed which the festival is showing to audiences who will surely appreciate them.
Guests of the festival include Doug Stanton, whose novel “In Harms Way,” is under development at Warner brothers, festival board director and also director of the film “Hotel Rwanda,” Terry George, Larry Charles, who worked on “Seinfeld,” “Mad About You,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Entourage, as well as last year’s most talked about film, “Borat,” director of the Michigan Film Office, Janet Lockwood, Moore’s wife and producer, Kathleen Glynn, Emmy award winning journalist John Laurence, Academy Award nominated director/producer Brett Morgen, film critics Chris Borelli and Tom Long of the Toledo Blade and Detroit News, independent film actress Gretchen Mol, and Oscar winning director/best supporting actress nominee, Christine Lahti, who the festival awarded this year’s Michigan Filmmaker Award.
Panel discussions with guests included talks on humor in dark times, a panel of film critics, discussions of the documentary form, a special panel on Moore’s film “Sicko,” and one entitled “Will it Play in Traverse City?”
The success of the festival and its growth seem to point to an answer of “yes” on that last question. The Traverse City Film Festival believes that people love to go to the movies, but the movies these days don’t seem to love the people, according to their mission statement. In addition to movies, Moore seems to love the people, too.
He sits in on the panels, and screenings, and asks his own questions. When people stop him on the street or talk to him after a panel discussion, he doesn’t have the Hollywood aloofness that so many other stars are afflicted with. He dresses like a regular guy, talks to you like a regular guy, and if you were from another planet and hadn’t ever heard of Moore, you would have no idea upon meeting him that he has single-handedly brought the form of documentary film into the mainstream, and is worth millions of dollars.
And more importantly over the past three years, he has brought what is becoming a growing film festival to his home state of Michigan, and included us among the Sundance, Telluride, and Cannes crowd — albeit on a slightly smaller scale.
But this smaller scale doesn’t detract from the importance of the film festival to northern Michigan. Their mission is just as important as that of any other festival, to show great movies that both entertain and enlighten the audience; movies that seek to enrich the human spirit and the art of filmmaking — not the bottom line of the studios which produce them.
Places like Traverse City, and Manistee for that matter, with neighborhood movie theaters, made going to the movies the most popular form of entertainment in the world — long before the age of the multiplex. But according to Moore, and the other architects of the TC Film Fest, something of that magic has been lost, and they are seeking to reclaim it.
That’s why they created the festival, and have the goal of giving the public “just great movies” for about a week every year in August.
And there’s no sign of the festival slowing down any time soon. “I think we may add a day or two next year,” said Moore. “Just to accomodate all the people who want to see movies. And I think we’ll have more and more filmmakers wanting to come here — from all over, and the midwest.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

Recently, my son was introduced to the most frustrating sport on the face of the earth — golf. I hesitated to let him learn, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to submit him to the pain and agony — mixed with periodic moments of glee — that only golf can bring.
But, my son is a true sports-lover, and an avid athlete, so I relented and let him go to golf camp. Unfortunately for him, he enjoyed the camp, and the sport.
So, after his two weeks of lessons, I took him to Manistee National to golf what they call the “short set.” Marked by gold stakes at around 150-220 yards, or shorter for the par 3’s, this is a fantastic way for young golfers to get acquainted with the game, without getting frustrated about shot distance.
But of course, there was some frustration on Reidar’s part, as he whiffed a few times, took a few big divots, or overshot the greens on his chip shots — just like the big boys do. Better that he start to experience the exasperating aspects of the sport early, so he knows what’s in for him, I figured.
The short set, while a good teaching tool, is also a stellar way for dads to lower their scores for nine holes and work on their short games. You can be sure that I put that score card on the fridge for everyone to see. Of course, I don’t let anyone know that I had the benefit of playing a distance roughly half of the fairway for the majority of the holes. It was dad and Reidar’s “little secret.”
As a father, it was a joy to teach my son the finer points of the game. No, I’m not talking about grip, stance, club selection, or any of that stuff. The golf pro taught him that in camp.
I’m talking about how to yell “fore” when you hit a wicked slice towards the tee box on the next fairway, where a foursome is getting ready to hit. Or how tipping the woman driving the beer cart will assure she’ll stop again to re-beer you when she comes back around.
There was also the lesson in how to improve a lie with your foot, by kicking the ball out of the woods or other identified “hazard.” My son particularly liked the method I taught him for getting out of the trap, with the patented “baseball throw” method.
And, as usual, there’s the sometimes creative scoring method. He picked up on that one quickly. It seems that shaving strokes is something golfers do almost inherently as part of their genetic code.
More serious lessons were part of that first round, though. Teaching how to tend the flag, let the person whose ball is away hit first, being quiet and courteous when other golfers were hitting, replacing ball marks and divots, and knowing where the cart can and cannot drive, for example.
The sport holds ancillary lessons, as well.
Golf, however much we sometimes hate it, is a lesson in discipline, manners, and gentlemanship. I’m not sure that last one’s a real word, but it fits what I’m trying to say. Etiquette is really the proper word.
The reason I like golf is simple. You hit 10 bad shots, then one good one. That one good one gives you such a thrill that you can then make it through the next 10 bad shots — albeit sometimes with the urge to throw your $200 driver into a water hazard.
But it must be an enjoyable experience overall, because I keep coming back.
Golf is also relaxing, often times peaceful and scenic, and a good opportunity for golf partners to just talk, far away from the hectic pace and frenetic activity of everyday life. I made sure to point out to the little man that the game wasn’t just about hitting a white ball around a course for a few hours.
So, yeah, I’m going to be a little corny here and say that my son Reidar and I did a little male bonding on the golf course on that sunny July day. But it’s a day I’ll never forget — our first round together — and I hope there will be hundreds more like it in the years to come.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: