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Traverse City Film Festival 2012

As with last year, I am going to tell you that you will have the vacation of your life if you make the festival a destination next year. This years’ festival ran for six days, featured a free movie on the world’s largest outdoor screen every night, and ran two hundred documentary, feature, shorts, and foreign language films. There were also free panels with filmmakers, parties, free music, free transportation from one movie house to another, student films and a film school. Celebrities such as Susan Sarandon (this year’s Lifetime Achievement Winner), Wim Wenders (this year’s Visionary Film Maker), Kristen Bell (introducing her new film HIT AN RUN) and a multitude of over 100 filmmakers and film actors were also on hand. The only difficulty is in choosing which of the 200 films to see. And aside from the films, which run at seven theaters throughout the day, you are in Michigan wine country, on the Great Lakes, with charming villages to take in. The festival is run by Michael Moore and hundreds of volunteers that want nothing more than for you to have a good time. Dozens of terrific restaurants await to feed you. This is a dream destination for any movie lover. Michael Moore’s festival has taken off with plans to add another venue next year. 91,000 tickets were sold with a 15% increase in paid ticket sales. Local sponsorship continues to grow.

Among the many awards conferred at the end of the festival were:

Best Picture: 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (a Palestinian film). Special Founders Prize: MARGARET (Kenneth Lonergan), Jury Prize for Best Foreign Film, THE WORLD BEFORE HER; Jury Prize for Best American Film, BIDDER 70. Audience awards went to DON’T STOP BELIEVING: EVERMAN’S JOURNEY, ETHEL and BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS.

Here is what my husband and I managed to fit in. None of these films won a prize, which makes me wonder what we missed.

LIBERAL ARTS (U.S.)-A charming film that actually discusses issues like reading and an education. It talks about making moral choices. Josh Radnor (HOW I MARRIED YOUR MOTHER) directed and stars in the story of a college admissions’ officer who returns to his undergraduate institution to celebrate his mentor’s retirement (Richard Jenkins) and falls in love with a sophomore, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). This was a real crowd pleaser with lots of well-earned laughs. A dissection (and the eventual defense) of TWILIGHT is part of its charm.

FIRST WINTER (U.S.)-A group of new-age hipsters have holed up in a farmhouse where yoga, health food, sex, and drugs occupy their days until their true dependence on technology is tested. The director, Benjamin Dickinson and actor Lindsay Burdge were on hand to discuss this provocative film.

FREEDOM (French) examines the lives of a group of Romas during WW2. On their annual trip to a village to harvest the grapes, the travelers get caught up in the Nazis’ attempt to annihilate them. We have heard a lot about the horrific plight of Jews, but this film details another group’s predicament .Well worth seeing despite an over-reliance on the “clown” of the group for comic relief. It had an old-fashioned feel to it, which made a nice change.

OSLO, NORWAY, AUGUST 31ST. (Norwegian) This was a sad, but very effective, story of a young man with a history of drug addiction who is determined to commit suicide. The film offers up moments when things could have gone differently for him, but is most persuasive in why they did not. Beautifully made despite it’s depiction of a Norway with little charm.

TURN ME ON, DAMMIT! (Norwegian) Fifteen year old, Alma is horny. And her attempts to alleviate this condition go awry. This is a very funny film that could never have been made in the U.S given the current climate. When she finds a boy who might share her desires, things only grow worse. This manages to turn every cliché on its ear. A small town in Norway that also lacks charm. It seems like we are seeing another Norway in both these films.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS (France-Belgium) Okay crime lovers, this is a non-stop thriller. When a dirty cop is caught with his hand in the till by his underworld connections, his teenage son is kidnapped. In order to rescue his son, he must return the drugs he has siphoned off. This is an absolutely non-stop action movie. You will be out of breath long before its startling conclusion. A restaurant kitchen has never been used more creatively. Terrific.

Over the four days, we spent in Traverse City, we met scores of people who were uniformly delighted to be able to attend this festival. It is low-keyed, casual, without pretension. Anyone who loves films will love this yearly event. I know all of you will love SLEEPLESS NIGHTS especially so watch for it.

Be sure to stop by http://www.pattinase.blogspot.com/ to check out Forgotten Books every Friday as well as other thoughts, comments and reviews. A collection of her stories, Monkey Justice (Snubnose Press) can be found on Amazon