The 2016 Traverse City Film Festival is now one for the history books. We did something no mainstream festival has ever done in this country — have 100% of the films in the Official US Section of the festival (fiction and documentary) be from directors who happen to be women.
This was not my original intent. I just wanted to try and even things out a bit, because only 4% of all the movies Hollywood makes are directed by women. This statistic blew my mind, so I made a commitment to myself to aggressively search for films women were making, films women were trying to make, and films women had made that were ignored.
Once I widened the pool of possible films to consider to include as many films by women as men, I was confronted with a shocking discovery: women were making dozens and dozens of films under the radar, in spite of the system, often with little or no money — and those films were nothing short of outstanding! One after the other, over the past 12 months, I watched them and then I would sit there stunned, marveling at the beauty and intensity of these stories I knew I would never see at the multiplex.
By the end of my months of screening and selecting these films for you, I was a mixed bag of emotions: exhilarated by the genius works of art I was witnessing, sad that all of us have been cheated for so many years by being exposed only to the stories of white men, exhausted from viewing all or parts of over 500 films, and angry at the whole damn system that won’t let me see a masterpiece by a woman from Cambodia (“The Last Reel”) or by a black woman from Boston (“Infinitely Polar Bear”). But I’m lucky that I have the platform — this festival — to share these incredible films with someone. Like you. Thank you.
I want every American to have the chance we all had this past week in Traverse City. Don’t you? Shouldn’t every town in America have a State Theatre? Shouldn’t every secretary and teacher and plumber have a chance to experience the wonderment and enchantment of the cinema as we do here, to see the batch of movies we all saw here this week? Why keep this as one of the country’s best kept secrets? Who wants to share our joy with others?
I do! And so that’s my mission, my takeaway from TCFF 2016. Bring TCFF to the world past Acme and Cedar and Fife Lake. And do it from right here in our little neck of the woods!
Soon I will be asking you to join with me and our board of directors in helping bring these great movies to our fellow Americans. In a time of such craziness amidst a national temperament of precious little civility, wouldn’t this be a nice thing for the nicest town I’ve ever lived in to do? If you agree, let me know. If you want to be part of this mission, I’d love a helping hand or two.
I have a few more things to ask you and tell you about, so I’ll do that in upcoming emails this month.
For now, hats off to everyone who made this such a great festival. I was moved by the many acts of kindness I witnessed. Most notably to me personally were the two separate business owners who walked out onto the sidewalk of the State Theatre after watching “Where To Invade Next” and decided to give their employees more weeks of paid vacation and extended paid maternity leave. When I heard this, I cried.
All my best,
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