Our Decision about the Film Festival and Our Hopes for the Future

Dear Friends,

After nearly 20 years of presenting one of the best film festivals in the country, bringing the top filmmakers in the world here to our wonderful little town by the bay, sharing all of this with incredible audiences, volunteers and donors, surviving the pandemic when many local businesses couldn’t —and then having one of our best festivals ever last summer where we finally broke even for the first time in years — we’ve decided, after much heartfelt discussion, that it’s best to close this era of the film fest now while we’re ahead, no longer in debt, and go out on top with many years of fond memories that we will all collectively cherish for the rest of our lives.

So, with that assessment, and a hopeful eye to the future, as each of us move on to other urgent projects that are necessary for the times we find ourselves in, we now echo the words of the great George Harrison that “all things must pass,” and bid a loving and fond farewell to the Traverse City Film Festival of old that we all knew and loved so well and move forward to our next phase. We have voted unanimously to bring this incredible, moving and exhilarating endeavor to a sweet and graceful conclusion for now — the end of an era and the beginning of a new mission.

First up of course is our #1 cinematic priority which is our two historic downtown movie houses that we restored and rebuilt — the 107-year old State Theatre and the 1934 FDR gift to Traverse City that we saved from ruin and re-opened as the Bijou by the Bay. We will redouble our efforts and focus our attention on building back a post-pandemic audience and continue to provide great movies at these beautiful venues 365 days a year — creating, in essence, a permanent “year-round TCFF.” We reaffirm to you our belief, as always, that one great movie can change your life, and that powerful films can help change the world.

We are well aware that we all live now in a different time, where much of what we hold dear — democracy, choice, facts, books, art, critical thinking, a fair shake and a decent living — hangs in the balance.

Personally, I’ve decided to continue working on my next film and to spend my time fighting to restore Roe v Wade, ending the mass gun slaughters and preventing the racist, misogynist crime boss from re-entering the White House. But you probably already knew that.

I love Traverse City. I love the people here. The majority of our Board, including yours truly, was born in Flint — yet we all chose to live here. We probably each brought a bit of hardscrabble Flint with us — a sense of union, solidarity, equality, inventiveness, a search for the perfect Coney Island and always trying to do work for the greater good. We are honored to have had the opportunity to help save and turn around downtown TC, to be part of a new social and political majority in this city, to have inspired other art and cultural projects that have found large audiences here, and for the chance we’ve had to give the young people of the area some exposure to a world outside of the narrow-minded view one gets from a lack of diversity, where the wealthy are in charge and one race with its privileges is all you see.

Yes, we show movies, but our mission has always been to be good citizens first. When our local Planned Parenthood was under attack, we stepped in to help. When our school system refused to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we convinced them to change their minds. We stood with the local LGBTQ+ community when many others were afraid to, and I was honored to be asked to officiate one of the first same-sex weddings in TC on the stage of the State Theatre on the opening night of our 2015 film festival (right after the Supreme Court made it legal). Each year we’ve done over 100 free screenings and events for students and schools throughout the area. Those who serve here on the Coast Guard base are never charged for a movie ticket. No one is ever turned away who can’t afford a ticket. I guess that’s what I mean by “Flint.” We were raised to be different, to fix things, to better our community — and so because Traverse City and its kind-hearted people shared the same ethos, well, it was a perfect fit and I thank all of you for giving me this opportunity to do what feels like a blessing and a life’s-worth of shared joy, more than any of us could have hoped for.

So, we all move forward. It is a new time in need of a new TCFF. The film fest that we knew and loved is now a piece of wonderful history. It is time for us to invent something new, something bold that is progressive and sustainable and based in the belief that those who work in this city should be able to afford to live in this city. We will keep showing great movies at the State and the Bijou. And together we’ll keep trying to make this world a better place.

My sincerest, deepest thanks to all who’ve been on this journey with me — and I with you. We’re not leaving. We’re not done. We’re just excited about what lies ahead.

With much love and friendship,

Michael Moore