A Letter to Orson

Board Member and unrivaled cinephile Mark Cousins shares this personal letter to Orson Welles. Celebrate Orson Welles and the State Centennial with us at our screening of “Citizen Kane” featuring Orson Welles’ daughter Beatrice Welles on Wednesday, July 27 at 3 pm. 

The Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was named the most beautiful place in American by ABC News. (John L. Russell/Special to the Detroit News)Dear Orson Welles,

Can we go around the world together? You’re dead, of course, but that doesn’t stop me imagining us as a gruesome twosome, on the road. Maybe you will accept my offer because you were a mendicant friar. When Hollywood didn’t know what to do with you, you set off and out to Spain and France, Yugoslavia and Morocco, to ply your trade, to set up your baroque stall in souks and courts and on stages, between rages.
From where I’m sitting – about which, more in a moment – it looks like you couldn’t stop making films, Orson, from Citizen Kane onwards. You had a will to cinema, a longing for it, or maybe not quite a longing because that implies that it was outside you, far away, something to be reached for when, in fact, it’s better to say that it was inside you. You embodied movies. It’s hard to write to you and not use the word embody, Orson. Your body was like an echo-chamber, like the belly of Ahab’s whale; it produced that voice of yours that rumbled, and all those kings you played.

Orson-Welles-1945So can we go on this travelogue, Orson? We could see it, also, as an epilogue. An epilogue to your life, which was so baroque that it is begging for one. I wish this letter could be a dialogue, Orson. For me it is a kind of dialogue. Shall we make it a decalogue? Shall we visit ten places around the world, with cinema on our mind the way Diego Rivera had Frida on his mind, in that great picture he did of himself? To mention Frida and Diego is to think of Mexico, of course. Can we travel the world together without going to Mexico? Without thinking of Sergei Eisenstein’s time there? Without nodding our caps now to the fact that part of the reason for travelling, the compulsion to travel, the propulsion of travel, is what Eisenstein called “exstasis”: the desire to get out of yourself, the rapture of self-loss, the hope that, if we are fleet of foot, we might be able to outwit ourselves, leave them behind, reverse the polarity of self and other?

Indulge me, Orson. Let’s strike out together on this travelogue, epilogue, dialogue, Decalogue. Let’s travel the world and, as we do, ask a simple question. What are the movies? Years ago, when I was in my twenties (and as close to handsome as I was ever going to get), I went to Naples to film a grand lady in her 60s, Flora Pinto d’Albavilla mariata Capaldo. As her name suggests, she was from aristocratic stock. Just as the years of Garibaldi were long gone, so was her money but, somehow, she managed to ignore this fact and live in a small apartment gussied up with chandeliers and French furniture. One evening, after filming, she told me that she’d like to take me to “la plus belle balcon du monde.” We drove for an hour in her fancy car, arrived in Ravello, from where she took me to a balcony overlooking the bay of Naples, the Costa Amalfitana. The moon was full and twinned with its reflection in the sea. As we stood on the balcony, Flora told me that Greta Garbo took Leopold Stokowski there. It was indeed, for me, a working class Belfast boy, the most beautiful balcony in the world. As we stood there, so said to me: “Travel the world with me. I have not long to go, but we could visit the great art galleries together. I would pay for everything. All I’d ask for in return is your company and, occasionally, for you to wear swimming trunks”. Did Tennessee Williams write her lines that night? Did he write this scene, Orson? Did you? I mention it here, of course, because her invitation – “travel the world with me” – seemed to me then, and still does, one of the most risky and beautiful things that one person can say to another. And so I say it to you, Orson.

1

Can we start our journey here, where I am now? I’m in Cannes, France. I’m sitting in a cheap restaurant called La Frigate. It’s lunchtime. The sky is grey – the Magritte colours are only here in the sunshine, as you well know – and, just to further dispel the glamour, I can tell you that I smell of sweat (I’ve been schlepping around town today) and vin blanc provencal. I’m away from the numbers, as someone called Paul Weller once wrote, beyond the Cannes film festival bubble; it’s where I want to be. There’s a quietude in this small restaurant. Nobody’s talking about the film business.

I don’t need to describe Cannes to you, of course, because you were here often. In 1948, you lived in the exclusive Eden Roc hotel at the Cap d’Antibes, near hear, didn’t you? And in that year Rita Hayworth visited you at the Cap, to try to reconcile your relationship. Two years later, you took a taxi from Italy to the hotel, at a cost of $500, to try to convince producer Darryl Zanuck to fund your film of Shakespeare’s Othello. You dropped to your knees and begged him. The place went silent. Perhaps to bring the moment to an end, and out of embarrassment, he offered you $100,000 to play a part in Prince of Foxes. You accepted. The money helped fund your film. You charged him for the taxi. Two years later, in 1952, Othello won the Palme d’or here. And, then, in 1966, you were given a prize here for your contribution to world cinema. Jean Cocteau’s lover Jean Marais made the announcement. Raquel Welsh, whose beauty then brought tears to our eyes, took you to the stage. Behind you stood Mademoiselle Presidente du Jury, Sophia Loren, who was from Naples and who, therefore, had probably stood on la plus belle balcon du monde. So I don’t need to tell you about this place. Unlike me, you’ve seen its inner sanctum, its upper echelons, its holiest of holies, its tracking shots, its foleys.

But what does Cannes tell us about the movies, Orson? As I sit in this restaurant, ten metres from the sea, with scooters buzzing by like wasps, I notice what I’ve always noticed about this place. There’s no smell of the sea. I’ve heard, several times – can this be true? – that before the Cannes film festival starts, they comb the sea to remove the seaweed. If they do do this, why? To make the water look cleaner, clearer? Seaweed gives the sea its smell so, removing it, makes the water more like an ideal but, also, more distant, because it isn’t confirmed by smell. Is it the wine that makes me see, in this, a metaphor for the movies? What we see in a film is there and not there, isn’t it Orson? Just like you’re here and not here now. Movies are over-available to some senses and completely unavailable to others. Read more

Piper’s Picks!

Woof—Piper, K-9 Wildlife Control team member, is quite the movie lover and has some great insight into this year’s festival of Just Great Treats (or as we humans like to call them, Movies)! So if you’re not quite sure of what to see, or looking to add another film to your schedule, here are some Piper-inspired picks that guarantee you’ll have a doggone good time at this year’s fest.Piper-101-2

The Champions
State Theatre | Sat, Jul 30 3 pm
Lars Hockstad Auditorium | Sun, Jul 31 9 amChampions

This heartfelt documentary tells the story of the human heroes that stepped up to help “deadly” pit bull friends who were abused in NFL-star Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring. The second chance they were given at life proves that you sure can teach an old dog new tricks. Meet the film’s director, Darcy Dennett along with the Fiaccone family — including rescue dog Cherry!

Oddball
Lars Hockstad Auditorium Sat, Jul 30 9:30 amOddball

The adorable sheepdog Oddball can’t seem to do anything right. He’s always causing trouble when he’s supposed to be protecting the farmer’s land. But when the town’s penguin sanctuary threatens to close, Oddball steps up to be the hero nobody expected. Fun for the whole family and only $1, you won’t want to miss this true story!

Unlocking the Cage
City Opera House | Sat, Jul 30 9 pmunlocking_the_cage_3
Sun, Jul 31 3pm

Piper’s got a job, now how about getting Piper some basic rights? “Unlocking the Cage” explores how humans treat animals and what could happen if we gave intelligent animals human rights. The directors, legends of the documentary world Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, will be there in person to discuss!

Walk With MeWalk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith
Milliken at the Dennos Museum | Sat, Jul 30 3 pm
Lars Hockstad Auditorium | Sun, Jul 31 3:30 pm

Piper loves walks and Damon J. Keith has has been on one long civil rights journey. Meet Judge Keith, and learn the story of how in his 94 years he has gone from a Detroit-born janitor to a preeminent Federal Judge.

Piper-107Make a point to see these inspiring picks and fetch ya later!

 

TCFF Welcomes Indiewire’s Anne Thompson!

Who better to lead a panel of strong, talented women than a strong, talented woman! Indiewire journalist Anne Thompson will be joining the TCFF team and moderating our Friday panel “Who Let the Women In?” where women filmmakers will discuss the struggles and triumphs of creating movies. Click here to read Anne’s article about TCFF 12 and the role women will play in this year’s festival.

 

PANEL!!!

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Calling all Pokemon trainers, the Traverse City Film Festival is the perfect chance for you to catch ‘em all. We have 14 poke stops and 11 gyms for you to become the very best. Here’s a list of all the venues and their closest poke stops and gyms!

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Catch a pokémon by one of the venues and hashtag #tcffgo!

The Sidebar: Food on Film is Back – with Great Guests!

Last year’s TCFF series The Sidebar: Food on Film was a resounding success, and we’re bringing back this tasty program for film fans and foodies to enjoy alike. Food on Film presents screenings of mouthwatering documentaries that encourage you to munch on more than the movie popcorn. Stay after the films to listen in on candid conversations between stars of the Michigan food scene, and enjoy delectable bites prepared by the chefs and inspired by the films.

With a fantastic lineup of chefs, including talent from excellent Michigan establishments like Trattoria Stella, Selden Standard, Alliance, and The Cooks’ House, the conversations are not to be missed. As a fantastic last-minute addition, the legendary subject of “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” Jeremiah Tower himself, will be here in person.

This year’s Food on Film offerings are:

toweweb“Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent”Fri 3 pm City Opera House

The influence of Jeremiah Tower in the culinary world can’t be overstated. One of the earliest to gain the status of “celebrity chef,” the internationally-renowned Chef Tower opened his first restaurant in 1984, the world-famous Stars, and most recently led the kitchen at New York City’s Tavern on the Green. In this documentary, everyone’s favorite culinary commentator Anthony Bourdain examines the peaks and valleys of Chef Tower’s career and seeks to restore his reputation as a king of the cooking scene.

Featuring:

Chef Jeremiah Tower
Director Lydia Tenaglia

“Cooking Up a Tribute”Sat 6 pm City Opera House

If you’ve recently out-staged one of the most famous restaurants off all time to be placed on the top of the list of Restaurant magazine’s “Best Restaurant in the World,” the last thing you would think of doing would be to close up your business for five weeks and take your show on the road, worldwide. But after watching the incredible story of Spanish Eatery El Celler de Can Roca and the three Roca brothers who run it, this great documentary might make you want to reconsider.

Featuring:

Simon JosephwebPete Petersonweb
Myles Anton, Trattoria StellaSimon Joseph, Harvest/GaijinPete Peterson, Tapawingo/Alliance

“Noma: My Perfect Storm”Sun 6 pm City Opera House

Trust us when we say this tasty and thought-provoking film is one you won’t want to watch on an empty stomach. After winning the title of “Best Restaurant in the World” three years in a row, this follows the story of famed Copenhagen restaurant Noma’s star chef Rene Redzepi’s journey as he attempts to reclaim the throne. Filled with imagery of what can only be defined as edible art, this drool-worthy documentary is a can’t-miss.

Featuring:

James BloomfieldwebAndy HollydaywebEric Pattersonweb
James Bloomfield, AllianceAndy Hollyday, Selden StandardEric Patterson, The Cooks' House

For the first year, we’re also worked with Taste the Local Difference and Cherry Capital Foods to become a certified local food event! All those tasty bites you’ll enjoy following the film will be sourced locally! Learn more about this here.

The Perfect Week for YOU!

Whether you love to laugh, want to reminisce about days gone by, want to be inspired to change the world, looking for thrills, or are looking to celebrate the awesome women of the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival and beyond, we have the perfect program for you.

The Perfect Four Days for the Adventure Seeker

Do you love a good adventure? Love to get your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping? Love yourself a good thrill? Then this is the TCFF XII schedule for you!

Thursday

The Woz at The Buzz12 noon – 9 pm: Head over to The Woz at Hotel Indigo to check out some great virtual reality and games, and explore the future of storytelling in an interactive environment. We recommend “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” where you and your team of friends work together to defuse a bomb — a virtual one, of course — all free.

Refuel with a cup at Higher Grounds Coffee in the Grand Traverse Commons and sip your beverage of choice while exploring the beautiful grounds and trails around the area.

3:30 pm: Watch a subversive, slyly political, utterly unbelievable and very funny docudrama – an account of a Guantanamo prisoner set to be extradited from the US to Switzerland in Confusion” at The Buzz. For free! 

7 pm: Head to Movies on Tap at the Little Fleet and talk with our volunteers, audiences, and visiting filmmakers to share stories about your day at the festival.

12 midnight: Relive all the thrill of sneaking out at night with Shorts: Breaking Curfew at the State Theatre.

Friday BIKES FOR POST
Get up nice and early and head over to McLain Cycle and Fitness. Rent a bike, get out there, and explore TC. Don’t forget to park your bike at Norte’s bike valet in front of the Bijou!   

12 noon: Learn about something new and head over to NMC’s Scholars Hall and give Acting For the Camera 5.0 a try at our Film School.

3 pm: Witness the visual memoir collage that raises complicated questions about the nature and ethics of documentary filmmaking in “Cameraperson” at the Bijou by the Bay. Check out the Cinema Salon discussion after the show with director Kirsten Johnson.

Dinner: Head to the Franklin for dinner and drinks (try the AMAZING Olivia de Havilland cocktail).

Saturday  TOP OF THE PARK
3 pm: Take a culinary adventure with a legendary rule-breaker, “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” at the City Opera House.

7 pm: Ride the elevator to the top of the historic Park Place Hotel for drinks at the Top of the Park. With a great view of downtown Traverse City and even better cocktails, it can’t be beat.

Dusk: Travel to distant lands with the visually stunning blockbuster sequel to one of cinema’s most beloved franchises. Bring a blanket and catch Jurassic World at the Open Space.

Sunday  14791092522_963a5fb83f_m
12 noon: Get out of the classroom and set sail on the Inland Seas with Michigan filmmaker Rich Brauer for the Dos and Do Knots of filming in challenging environments. 

3 pm: Buy a ticket to our 3 pm show and head to the Dennos Museum (free for all filmgoers with a TCFF ticket from July 27 – 31) to explore “Unwoven Light,” the museums latest must-see instillation. Then walk to Milliken Auditorium inside the Dennos Museum to get an inside look at an amazing Chinese activist in the triumph of guerrilla journalism, Hooligan Sparrow.

7 pm: A different kind of adventure, but an adventure nonetheless — witness throngs of families and children descending on the Open Space for the TCFF Closing Night Bash in anticipation of the evening screening of “Frozen.” With live music, interactive games, an icy photo booth and more, it’s a thrill not to be missed. 

 

The Perfect  Three Days for a Bad A** Female

Are you a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man/woman/or gender neutral individual? Do you like to celebrate your fellow females bad ass-ery while simultaneously feeling empowered yourself? Then this is the perfect TCFF schedule for you!

Thursday GT PIE
Breakfast: Treat yo’ self and get a yummy pastry at Grand Traverse Pie Company. Seriously, you won’t regret it.

12 noon: Women can do anything men can do. Except make equal wages, be frequent victims of workplace harassment, and have an exclusive say in their own reproductive rights. Delve into the issue with “Equal Means Equal” at the Bijou followed by a special cinema salon with director Kamala Lopez.

6 pm: Females are the true wolves of Wall Street in the highly anticipated “Equity,” directed, written, and produced by women at the Lars Hockstad Auditorium. 

9 pm: Witness history in the making at the Hillary Clinton Presidential Acceptance Speech at The Buzz. 

Friday AMICAL
9:30 am: Head out to the Who Let the Women In? film panel at the City Opera House and featuring visiting female filmmakers.

Lunch: Enjoy libations and delicious goodies on the patio of Amical, a few doors down from the State Theatre.

6 pm: One woman’s unbelievable story of love and survival, watch the great foreign selection 3000 Nights at the Bijou by the Bay.

Dusk: See a free screening of Shrek at the Open Space! This year all of the films at the Open Space are written and/or directed by women. 

Saturday CHERRY REPUBLIC
Head downtown on Front Street a bit early to get some shopping in, and don’t forget to stop by Cherry Republic for some cherry salsa and wine AND FREE SAMPLES!

12 noon: Watch the latest masterpiece from Kelly Reichardt, one of America’s most talented female auteurs. From the writer and director of “Old Joy” and “Wendy and Lucy” comes “Certain Women” at the City Opera House.

6 pm:  What’s the cost of upgrading to the newest iPhone every year? Discover the heartbreaking truth in”Death by Design” at The Buzz (for free).

12 midnight: Our bad ass heroine survives the zombie apocalypse during “Here Alone” at the State Theatre.

Read more

Sold Out Films Added, and Public Ticketing Starts for the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival

Friends,

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the big day for members of the public who are waiting to buy their tickets for this year’s film festival. At 10 am, tickets will be available at the box office and at 6 pm online for the 250 great films in this year’s selection. Party time!

As is the case every year at this time, word on the street — and considering we have like, three main streets here, I’m always a bit baffled by this — is that there are only a few tickets left for the public. But nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, a number of screenings have sold out and are now available only for people in the standby line, but tickets remain for the vast majority of the festival’s 250 screenings. 

And while one screening may have no more availability, chances are there is another screening of the same film with tickets still available. (See the list of films with a sold out screening that still have availability here.) 

PLUS — good news! — we’re adding more screenings of the sold out films! We are pleased to announce that tonight we have added additional screenings of some of our most in-demand films:

Heart of a Dog” – Sat 9 am Dutmers
The Event” – Sun 9 am Dutmers
Obit” – Sun 12 noon Old Town Playhouse
My Blind Brother” – Sun 9 pm State Theatre
A Man Called Ove” – Sun 9 pm Lars Hockstad
Adult Life Skills” – Sun 9 pm The Buzz 

Tickets to these films are available starting now for our Friends of the Film Festival, so the Friends can still get first crack at the tickets.

And then public gets their chance to purchase tickets to these screenings, along with all the other great films of the festival, tomorrow (Saturday) morning, July 16, starting at 10 am in person at the box office and at 6 pm online at tcff.org

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements regarding the special guests and filmmakers who will be joining us here in Traverse City for a glorious week of filmgoing unlike any other. 

So check out trailers for TCFF films and watch the blog for our other helpful hints at finding the best movies for you. Fill your movie card, and I’ll see you downtown! 

Yours, 

Michael Moore

Sold Out Screening? Here’s Your Second Chance

A few of our movies sold out quickly this past weekend during Friends Ticketing. But fear not! Most of those movies have a second screening with tickets still available. Plus, we just added extra screenings of the festival’s hottest sellers. Everyone can get their tickets to these, and all our other great films starting at 10 am tomorrow at the box office and at 6 pm online! Check the list out below.

Who are the Directors?

Have you tried naming all the Best Picture directors on our poster yet? Check here for the answers to the men that are stumping you! Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy, many directors are on here more than once! Click the poster image to view a high-res version.
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  1. D.W. Griffith (“The Birth of a Nation”)
  2. D.W. Griffith (“Intolerance”)
  3. Maurice Tourneur (“The Poor Little Rich Girl”)
  4. Marshall Neilan (“Stella Maris”)
  5. Erich Von Stroheim (“Blind Husbands”)
  6. Frank Borzage (“Humoresque”)
  7. Charles Chaplin (“The Kid”)
  8. Allan Dwan (“Robin Hood”)
  9. James Cruze (“The Covered Wagon”)
  10. Raoul Walsh (“The Thief of Baghdad”)
  11. King Vidor (“The Big Parade”)
  12. Herbert Brenon (“Beau Geste”)
  13. William A. Wellman (“Wings”)
  14. Harry Beaumont (“The Broadway Melody”)
  15. Lewis Milestone (“All Quiet on the Western Front”)
  16. Wesley Ruggles (“Cimarron”)
  17. Edmund Goulding (“Grand Hotel”)
  18. Frank Lloyd (“Cavalcade”)
  19. Frank Capra (“It Happened One Night”)
  20. Frank Lloyd (“Mutiny on the Bounty”)
  21. Robert Z. Leonard (“The Great Ziegfeld”)
  22. William Dieterle (“The Life of Emile Zola”)
  23. Frank Capra (“You Can’t Take It With You”)
  24. Victor Fleming (“Gone With The Wind”)
  25. Alfred Hitchcock (“Rebecca”)
  26. John Ford (“How Green Was My Valley”)
  27. William Wyler (“Mrs. Miniver”)
  28. Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”)
  29. Leo McCarey (“Going My Way”)
  30. Billy Wilder (“The Lost Weekend”)
  31. William Wyler (“The Best Years of Our Lives”)
  32. Elia Kazan (“Gentleman’s Agreement”)
  33. Laurence Olivier (“Hamlet”)
  34. Robert Rossen (“All the King’s Men”)
  35. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”)
  36. Vincente Minnelli (“An American In Paris”)
  37. Cecil B. DeMille (“The Greatest Show on Earth”)
  38. Fred Zinnemann (“From Here to Eternity”)
  39. Elia Kazan (“On The Waterfront”)
  40. Delbert Mann (“Marty”)
  41. Michael Anderson (“Around the World in 80 Days”)
  42. David Lean (“The Bridge On The River Kwai”)
  43. Vincente Minnelli (“Gigi”)
  44. William Wyler (“Ben-Hur”)
  45. Billy Wilder (“The Apartment”)
  46. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (“West Side Story”)
  47. David Lean (“Lawrence of Arabia”)
  48. Tony Richardson (“Tom Jones”)
  49. George Cukor (“My Fairy Lady”)
  50. Robert Wise (“The Sound of Music”)
  51. Fred Zinnemann (“A Man for All Seasons”)
  52. Norman Jewison (“In the Head of the Night”)
  53. Carol Reed (“Oliver!”)
  54. John Schlesinger (“Midnight Cowboy”)
  55. Franklin J. Schaffner (“Patton”)
  56. William Friedkin (“The French Connection”)
  57. Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”)
  58. George Roy Hill (“The Sting”)
  59. Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather Part II”)
  60. Milos Forman (“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”)
  61. John G. Avildsen (“Rocky”)
  62. Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”)
  63. Michael Cimino (“The Deer Hunter”)
  64. Robert Benton (“Kramer vs. Kramer”)
  65. Robert Redford (“Ordinary People”)
  66. Hugh Hudson (“Chariots of Fire”)
  67. Richard Attenborough (“Gandhi”)
  68. James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment”)
  69. Milos Forman (“Amadeus”)
  70. Sydney Pollack (“Out of Africa”)
  71. Oliver Stone (“Platoon”)
  72. Bernardo Bertolucci (“The Last Emperor”)
  73. Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”)
  74. Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”)
  75. Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves”)
  76. Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”)
  77. Clint Eastwood (“Unforgiven”)
  78. Steven Spielberg (“Schindler’s List”)
  79. Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”)
  80. Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”)
  81. Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”)
  82. James Cameron (“Titanic”)
  83. John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”)
  84. Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”)
  85. Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”)
  86. Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”)
  87. Rob Marshall (“Chicago”)
  88. Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”)
  89. Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”)
  90. Paul Haggis (“Crash”)
  91. Martin Scorsese (“The Departed”)
  92. Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”)
  93. Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionare”)
  94. Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)
  95. Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”)
  96. Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”)
  97. Ben Affleck (“Argo”)
  98. Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
  99. Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman”)
  100. Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”)

Amy Smart Talks TCFF 2016’s “Sister Cities,” Film to Television and Back, and Loving Life in Northern Michigan

The Traverse City Film Festival is thrilled to be hosting the World Premiere of “Sister Cities,” a tale of four disparate siblings reunited by the surprising death of their eccentric mother, Mary. A gripping film with an all-star cast, the audience follows the sisters as they work together to discover Mary’s the meaning behind Mary’s final moments.

amy-smartWe were able to chat with the prolific “Sister Cities” star Amy Smart. You might recognize her from roles in films like “Varsity Blues,” “Outside Providence,” and “Just Friends;” and guest appearanceson the television shows “Felicity,” “Scrubs,” “Robot Chicken,” “Justified,” and “Shameless.”

Amy divides her time working in Los Angeles and living here in Traverse City, where she spends time at the gorgeous Bonobo Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula.

 You can catch “Sister Cities” on Friday July 29, at 6 pm at Lars Hockstad Auditorium. 

Playing the young version of Mary in flashback sequences, you have quite a unique part in the film in that you’re the only one who shares no screen time with any of the sisters in the present. Was this role challenging, knowing that you were responsible for weaving together the emotional pieces that resonate with the present-day Mary and her daughters?

Flashbacks can be tricky because you immediately are taken out of the reality of the situation and made to extend your belief that I was Jacki Weaver but younger. The Mary character in her younger years was very vicious, flirtatious and moved on a whim to follow each new lover in her life. I felt like there was enough time between our versions that you could believe she was this way younger, but I did talk with Jacki and watched some scenes she had already shot to get the most accurate accent and inflections.  

You and Academy Award-nominee Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “Animal Kingdom”) play Mary at very different times in her life. How closely did the two of you work together to develop the character?

Jacki was so down to earth and personable and I was incredibly excited to work on this character with her. She started filming before I did, so I let her take the lead as far as who Mary was and then I also added more to her for her younger years. She was a professional dancer and really knew how to use her body to express herself. 

What was it that initially drew you to this project, and how did you become involved?

I read the script and really loved the story of these sisters coming together over the tragedy of their mother. I also liked the controversial issue they are dealing with and getting a firsthand insight into the debilitating disease of ALS. 

SmartWhereToInvade“Sister Cities” is a film that oscillates tonally – at times warm, funny, heartbreaking, and even eerie. How much of that came across to you when you first read the script, versus what the audience sees in the finished movie? Did knowing at which points in the film your flashback scenes are placed impact your performance?

Reading the script, I felt the shift back and forth between the heavy subject matter and the humor of each sister playing off their personalities. I was so impressed with all the actors who played the sisters because it definitely felt stronger and deeper than I remember reading. The flashback scenes were meant to really uplift and bring more levity to this film when there was drama and heavy-heartedness. I really loved working with Sean [Hanish, director] because he directed me in bringing Mary to life with much viciousness and a feeling of being carefree. Read more