DONATION WILL CREATE A SPECIAL FUND TO BRING INDEPENDENT, DOCUMENTARY, AND FOREIGN FILMS TO A LARGER NATIONWIDE AUDIENCE
“The idea is to take what we do in Traverse City and share it across the country.”
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Michael Moore’s groundbreaking, seminal film, “Roger & Me,” the board of directors of the Traverse City Film Festival announced tonight at the kick-off of its 10th annual film fest that Michael Moore has donated a quarter of a million dollars — an amount representing his final and remaining profits from “Roger & Me” — to the festival.
“I wanted to do something special, something big to honor all the good over the years that has resulted from my first film,” said Moore, the founder and president of the festival. “This donation will be used specifically to address the lack of access across most of the country for people who want to go to a movie theater and see a foreign film or a documentary. Unlike in past generations when it was not difficult if you lived in a place like Flint, Michigan, to see the latest movie from Ingmar Bergman or Francois Truffaut — or be able to watch, also in a theater, a documentary like ‘The Thin Blue Line’ or ‘Roger & Me’ — these days the public and the younger generation have little chance to see films like this, the way they are meant to be seen: in a theater, in the dark, up on a big screen, with dozens or hundreds of other moviegoers sharing the experience. I think I can help fix that.”
Moore’s idea on how to “fix that” is to create and curate a monthly movie night across America — tentatively titled “Mike’s Movie Night” — where independent films (American, foreign, and documentary) will be beamed to theaters across the United States and Canada. It will be set up in the same way movie theaters now show the Metropolitan Opera live from New York City. The monthly movie night will be hosted by Moore and other prominent filmmakers and actors. There will be a live Q&A at the end of each film with the films’ stars and director, and audience members across North America will be able to ask questions of the filmmakers.
According to Terry George, director of “Hotel Rwanda” and member of the film festival’s board of directors, Moore and the board “have learned something very special over these ten years of bringing indie, foreign, and documentary films to Traverse City, a small town of 15,000 in the woods of northern Michigan, quite removed from any major metropolitan area: that average, everyday people in these areas that are referred to in Hollywood as the ‘fly-over’ parts of America want to see a good movie, and it doesn’t matter if it’s from Burkina Faso or if it’s told through fiction or nonfiction. A good movie is a good movie and people everywhere will always line up for a good movie.”
Larry Charles, director of “Borat” and the film festival’s vice-president, points out that “Michael and the festival have now opened two — TWO — art house movie theaters in Traverse City dedicated to showing American independent and foreign movies 365 days of the year — and it’s been a huge hit. I have personally seen the effect this has had on the town, its economy, and how it has created a high level of ‘film literacy’ and knowledge amongst the populace. It’s an incredible example of using the arts to do some important community building.”
Deb Lake, the executive director of the film festival, estimates that “over 1.1 million people have come to see a movie at the State Theatre or the Bijou since they opened in 2007 and 2013, respectively. Many weeks we are one of the top-grossing theaters in the country amongst those theaters showing the movie we’re showing.”
The historic State Theatre in Traverse City will act as the “home base” for “Mike’s Movie Night.”
Moore’s foundation, established with the proceeds from the sale of “Roger & Me” to Warner Bros in 1989, has given out nearly one million dollars in grants and contributions to filmmakers, artists, alternative media, and those working to create a better world. This final $250,000 is the last of that “Roger & Me” money he set aside to give away.
Moore said that his quarter-million dollar donation to the Traverse City Film Festival will be overseen and administered by the festival board which would “like to bring a little bit of Traverse City to the rest of the world,” according to the board’s treasurer John Robert Williams.
Kathleen Glynn, Moore’s longtime producer, is also participating in the contribution.
Moore and Glynn hope that these efforts will help invigorate independent cinema and “make it fun to go see at least one great movie every month, no matter where you live.”