First Time Ever for a Mainstream Film Festival: All Films in the US Official Selections Directed by Women

Orson Welles’ Daughter Speaks at 100th Birthday of Festival-Run Theater Restored by Michael Moore

Grand Prize Goes to “The Last Reel” from Cambodia

Over 123,000 Admissions to 227 films from 41 countries

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. (August 2, 2016) — In a bold move never before attempted by a mainstream, nationally-recognized film festival, Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival left an indelible impression as more than three dozen American women directors (and many more from other countries) took center stage to show some of the “absolute best films of the year” — films that were made in spite of a Hollywood system where only 4% of released films are directed by the majority gender.

As part of this historic initiative, all of the films in this year’s official US Fiction and Documentary sections were directed or co-directed by women. Many of these directors came to Traverse City to accompany their films and participated in panels and film school classes designed to help women break the celluloid and digital ceiling.

Additionally, all of the films that screened in the festival’s Open Space outdoor cinema were directed and/or written by women. 

(Moore’s open letter to festivalgoers about women in film can be read here. Moore also conceptualized the festival poster which was designed by the TCFF’s volunteer art director Francisco Inchauste.)

And, to kick off the festival, Moore did something festivals never do: selected a movie released more than a year prior as the Opening Night film, Maya Forbes’ “Infinitely Polar Bear.”

“‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ was, in my humble opinion, the best film of the year,” said Moore. “It received little notice, few awards, and, although Maya Forbes had one of the best indie distributors in the business, no one saw it. This absolutely floored me. If a woman is lucky enough to get a film made, gets a great distributor, and yet it’s just a tree falling in the forest, something is seriously wrong with our culture and it must be fixed.”

Moore’s comments on Opening Night were met with vigorous applause from the  audience of filmgoers in Traverse City.

The 12th annual festival, founded, programmed, and run by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Moore, screened 120 feature films and 107 shorts, welcomed over 123,000 admissions across the festival’s 12 different venues, and offered 12 film school classes, 10 “Cinema Salon” outdoor movie discussions, five free filmmaker panels, seven parties, a podcast with comedian Doug Benson, and a live interactive gaming and new media experience.

TCFF brought a record high 175 filmmakers and industry guests from around the world and across the country to Northern Michigan, to accompany their films and participate with audiences.

The festival also celebrated the Centennial of its crown jewel: the year-round movie palace, the historic State Theatre of Traverse City. 100 years of moviegoing on Front Street was celebrated with a special screening of “Citizen Kane,” with Orson Welles’ daughter Beatrice Welles in attendance.

A “Walk of Fame” was installed under the State’s sparkling marquee in honor of the Centennial, with handprints from Madonna, Judd Apatow, Kristen Bell, Susan Sarandon, Wim Wenders, and other film luminaries who have visited the festival. And this year, Amy Smart, Melissa Gilbert, Timothy Busfield, D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, and Tony Robbins all made their mark in cement. 

The festival also continued many of its popular the tradition like “Movies on a Boat” — a unique filmgoing excursion departing nightly on the largest commercially sailing catamaran on the Great Lakes.

The festival once again got things started early with Movies Around the Bay, bringing special advance screenings of festival films to scenic and historic theaters in Manistee, Frankfort, Elk Rapids, and Suttons Bay.

Our all-free-all-the-time venue The Buzz, dedicated to bringing some of the best and most exciting films of the year to the public completely free of charge, moved into plush new digs at Traverse City’s Central Grade School, just steps away from  Lars Hockstad Auditorum. The new venue was a huge hit with filmgoers.

And The Woz, our interactive media and gaming gallery showcasing media experiences and storytelling that goes beyond traditional screens, moved into the brand new Hotel Indigo in Traverse City’s warehouse district. Thanks to our partnership with Michigan State University, in addition to the new location, the lineup this year featured more new technology and games than ever before.

For the first time, thanks to a partnership with Taste the Local Difference, Tamarack Holdings, and Cherry Capital Foods, the festival became a certified local food event — 20 percent of all food at the festival came from our local community.

Moviegoers also enjoyed delightfully enhanced access to our bike-friendly city with bike valet parking running throughout the festival in Clinch Park, next to the Bijou by the Bay. Centrally located and TART Trail-adjacent, the bike valet offered a safe, secure way to bike and stroll to all nearby venues thanks to the sponsorship of Norte! Youth Cycling an Higher Grounds Coffee.

We also continued to highlight recent festival programming additions including #Tween, movies for the generation currently coming of age, and The Sidebar: Food on Film, which brings moviegoers the best in culinary cinema and features candid conversations between the stars of the Northern Michigan food scene, sample bites inspired by the films, and this year, a very special appearance by the legendary Chef Jeremiah Tower appearing with his film “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent.”

The festival’s Centerpiece Screening brought the world’s most famous self-help master, Tony Robbins, to Traverse City with his film “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru,” which were followed by unforgettable mini-seminars following the screenings. The festival closed with “Concerto: A Beethoven Journey” featuring a special appearance by master concert pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

The Founders Grand Prize for Best Film went to “The Last Reel” by Kulikar Sotho, who traveled from Cambodia to present her film. The festival’s awards ceremony was live streamed, and you can find the complete list of award winners here.

Over 175 filmmakers and industry guests visited with their films and participated in free panel discussions, Q&A discussions, and film school classes. See the list here

And the fascinating subjects behind many films joined us in Traverse City including rescue dog Cherry (“The Champions”), Civil Rights activist Judge Damon J. Keith (“Walk with Me: The Trials of Judge Damon J. Keith”), viral singing sensation Samantha Montgomery (“Presenting Princess Shaw”), and former enemy Israeli and Palestinian combatants Sulaiman Khatib and Chen Alon (“Disturbing the Peace”).

The festival would not be possible without the 2,000 volunteers who donated over 25,000 hours of time to the festival, including 350 volunteer managers who donate far more than 40 hours per week for the past few weeks.

Our improved green, free, and easy festival shuttle loop, fueled by the Bay Area Transportation Authority, gave nearly 10,000 free rides to festivalgoers — reducing the festival’s impact. 

The festival welcomed 37 new sponsors this year, and saw an increase in sponsor dollar support — over 350 film and event sponsors and 200 in kind donors. This year also featured a notable increase in “Friends of the Film Festival” memberships. Friend memberships are available at half price through September 1, 2016.

Next year, the Traverse City Film Festival will take place July 25-30, 2017. For more information, visit or call 231-392-1134.


The Traverse City Film Festival is a charitable, educational, nonprofit organization committed to the idea that “One Great Movie Can Change You: Just Great Movies” and to helping save one of America’s few indigenous art forms – the cinema. The festival brings films and filmmakers from around the world to northern Michigan for the annual film festival in late July to early August.

It was instrumental in renovating a shuttered historic downtown movie house, the State Theatre, which it continues to own and operate as a year-round, community-based, and volunteer-staffed art house movie theater. The festival also renovated the historic Con Foster Museum building in Clinch Park and turned it into a sister screen for the State Theatre, the Bijou by the Bay.

The festival was founded by Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore who makes his home here, runs the festival, and serves as president of the board of directors. Other board members are filmmakers Rod Birleson (producer, “Capitalism: A Love Story”), Larry Charles (director, “Borat”), Terry George (director, “Hotel Rwanda”), Jeff Daniels (actor, “The Newsroom”), Tom Morello (musician, Rage Against the Machine), Christine Lahti (actor, “Running on Empty”), Mark Cousins (director, “The Story of Film: An Odyssey”), Tia Lessin (director, “Trouble the Water”), as well as Traverse City residents photographer John Robert Williams and former Walt Disney Co. marketing executive Penny Milliken.


The festival was honored by the presence of many renowned and up and coming filmmakers and guests, including Hannes Holm (“A Man Called Ove”);Rachel Tunnard (“Adult Life Skills”); Nancy Buirski (“By Sidney Lumet”); Kirsten Johnson (“Cameraperson”); Sue Williams and Victoria Wang (“Death by Design”); Craig Atkinson and Laura Hartrick (“Do Not Resist”); Doug Benson and Geoff Tate (“Doug Loves Movies”); Kamala Lopez (“Equal Means Equal”); Maris Curran (“Five Nights in Maine”); Andrea Scott (“Florence, Arizona”); Jeff Grace, Ryland Aldrich (“Folk Hero & Funny Guy”); Cheryl Miller Houser (“Generation Startup”); Nanfu Wang (“Hooligan Sparrow”); Mark Cousins (“I Am Belfast”); Benjamin Ree (“Mangus”); Bob Apisa (“Men of Sparta”); Heidi Ewing (“Norman Lear”); Deborah Draper (“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice”); Timothy Busfield and Melissa Gilbert (“One Smart Fellow”); Logan Kibens, Christine Lahti, and Sharon Greene (“Operator”); Brent Hodge (“Pistol Shrimps”); Aviva Kempner (“Rosenwald”); Elite Zexter (“Sand Storm”); Sean Hanish, Amy Smart, Collette Freedman, Eleonore Dailly,  Paul Jaconi-Bieryn (“Sister Cities”); Kristi Jacobson (“Solitary”); Meghan O’Hara (“The C Word”); Simone Wendel (“Kings of Kallstadt”); Dawn Porter (“Trapped”); Ferne Pearlstein (“The Last Laugh”); Kulikar Sotho (“The Last Reel”); Noah Buschel (“The Phenom”); Joe Berlinger(“Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru”); Dava Whisenant, Benjamin Hedin, and Sam Pollard (“Two Trains Runnin'”);D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (“Unlocking the Cage”); Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman (“Weiner”).