Historic 2016 Traverse City Film Festival Wraps

28662836526_b09c34b223_kFirst 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

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. 

28593204592_9086f732b1_b(Moore’s open letter to festivalgoers about women in film can be read here. And you can also see his festival poster here.)

And, to kick off the festival, Moore did something festivals never do: Have as his opening night film a movie that was released over a year ago in 2015 — Maya Forbes’ “Infinitely Polar Bear.” “This was, in my humble opinion, the best film of the year,” said Moore. “It received little notice, no  awards from the Hollywood community, and, although she had one of the best indie distributors in the business, essentially 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 is 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, offered a slew of classes in its TCFF Film School, and held panels, parties and podcasts throughout a week that saw a record high of 175 filmmakers bring their films from around the world and across the country to Northern Michigan.

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, J27999388473_e45051a5ff_kudd Apatow, Kristen Bell, Susan Sarandon, Wim Wenders, and other film luminaries who have visited the festival over the years.

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.

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 everyone who attended the free films there.

And “The Woz,” our interactive media and gaming gallery showcasing media experiences and storytelling that go 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, 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.

28025840534_8551c8ccf5_kWe 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 featured candid conversations between the stars of the Northern Michigan food scene, sample bites inspired by the films, and 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 Joe Berlinger’s film “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru”. The screenings came compete with unforgettable raucous  mini seminars following the screening. The festival closed with “Concerto: A Beethoven Journey” featuring a special appearance by master 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.


The festival would not be possible without the 2,000 volunteers who donate countless hours to the community to ensure the success of TCFF.

The festival welcomed 37 new sponsors this year, and saw a 6% increase in sponsor dollar support — over 350 film and event sponsors and 200 inkind 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 tcff.org or call 231-392-1134.