WELCOME TO THIS YEAR’S TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL!
The New York Times recently reported that in 2014 (as in most years), of the top 100 grossing films released by Hollywood, only 2 were directed by women.
That’s right, two.
It’s not that only two women tried to get their films made. It’s just that only two were able to make their way up through a tiny crack in the glass ceiling of Tinseltown.
I belong to one of the most “liberal” industries in the US—the movie-making business—and we have managed for all of our 100+ years to virtually shut out and shut up the 51% of the population who are women. It is not lost on me that I work for a hierarchy that benignly sees to it that the majority gender does not get to tell their stories.
Let me state an uncomfortable truth. While I acknowledge that I’ve been blessed with certain talents for making the movies I’ve made, I am well aware that, as a white male, I’ve also been able to succeed on an obscenely uneven playing field that makes it much easier for me to walk through the studio gates and into the offices of bankers and funders because of my gender and my race. That’s just a simple fact.
And this rigged system continues uninterrupted when those of us who benefit from our “white male privilege” do not acknowledge it openly, do not rock the boat that has served us so well, do not rail against the obvious and thus remain complicit through our obedient silence. This tidy little arrangement keeps women—and people of color—in their place: on the outside looking in, with only a rare token seat for them at the table. (That seat, by the way, is occasionally there thanks to the indie and documentary worlds, where “only” 75% of the films are directed by men.)
It’s no surprise to me that attendance in theaters continues to drop. Most of you, I’m guessing, have little interest in seeing the same old tired batch of derivative, dumbed-down, sequel-saturated retreads that open each Friday at the local multiplex. If it’s the same group of filmmakers that keeps telling the same group of stories over and over again, it’s bound to get pretty boring. Don’t you wonder what the movies might look like if we got to watch stories from the majority of the population? Are we ever better off locking out any group of people from any activity? Have you ever seen what a basketball game looked like when a certain race was prohibited from playing it? Go online and watch a clip from any NBA game of the 1950s and try not to laugh. It’s weird and it’s wrong.
Hollywood’s refusal to pass the camera (and the funding) over to women and people of color so that they can tell their stories is the reason your choices this summer at the cine-mall are between “Fast and Furious Transformers: The Apocalypse” and “Buddy Comedy Road Trip to the Gods of Egypt 6.” Don’t you want to do something about that?
In our 12 years, the Traverse City Film Festival has remade and revolutionized the concept of what a film festival could be. We’ve also built two movie palaces in TC that are unlike any others in this country (and we’ve helped other Michigan theaters follow our lead). We’ve done this right smack in the middle of “nowhere.” And people elsewhere have taken notice. Who would have thought that a place called Traverse City could impact our beloved American populist art form, the cinema? You—we—did this.
Will you join me in making history with our film festival this year, right here in our 21st century experiment of what a Midwestern town could look like if the artists and the open-minded were allowed to create something new?
Enjoy the following list of the most amazing films I discovered this year with the help of my incredible team. There’s no question, we had to look far and wide and leave the comfort zone of the status quo in our search—but we knew brilliant films by women and people of color existed, and what we found was a treasure trove! Hollywood could find it, too, if they bothered to look, or to care.
Happily, one thing remains unchanged this year here in Traverse City: as always, we are only bringing you JUST GREAT MOVIES. Enjoy!
President, Programmer, Founder