TCFF Photo Contest!

State Theatre, Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photo by Elizabeth Tiffany

All of the amazing photos you see across the festival and online are taken by are taken by our incredibly talented, undeniably brilliant team of photographers. And get this…they’re all VOLUNTEERS! To tip our hat at this awesome group of people (and make things a little more interesting), this year we held our first ever TCFF Photography Contest!

The winners were chosen for their cumulative ability to produce quality images across the three categories: Verticals, Venues, and Details. Images were based on submissions posted submitted during the festival and posted on the TCFF Flickr Page. Photography managers were not eligible (so a special thanks to Michael Poehlman and Gary Howe). 

  • First Place: Elizabeth Tiffany, $100 Gift Certificate to the State and Bijou
  • Second Place: Shayne Wyatt, $50 Gift Certificate to the State and Bijou
  • Third Place: Alexa Hughes, $25 Gift Certificate to the State and Bijou

Representative images from our winning photographer are below. And you can check out all these images and so, so much more on our Flickr!  

TCFF 12 Day 2 By Shane Wyatt

Photo by Shane Wyatt

TCFF 12 Day 2 By Shane Wyatt

Photo by Shane Wyatt

State Theatre, Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photo by Elizabeth Tiffany

Bijou, Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photo by Elizabeth Tiffany

We Made History!


The 2016 Traverse City Film Festival is now one for the history books. We did something no mainstream festival has ever done in this country — have 100% of the films in the Official US Section of the festival (fiction and documentary) be from directors who happen to be women.28681775615_3f111d240f_o

This was not my original intent. I just wanted to try and even things out a bit, because only 4% of all the movies Hollywood makes are directed by women. This statistic blew my mind, so I made a commitment to myself to aggressively search for films women were making, films women were trying to make, and films women had made that were ignored. 

Once I widened the pool of possible films to consider to include as many films by women as men, I was confronted with a shocking discovery: women were making dozens and dozens of films under the radar, in spite of the system, often with little or no money — and those films were nothing short of outstanding! One after the other, over the past 12 months, I watched them and then I would sit there stunned, marveling at the beauty and intensity of these stories I knew I would never see at the multiplex.

By the end of my months of screening and selecting these films for you, I was a mixed bag of emotions: exhilarated by the genius works of art I was witnessing, sad that all of us have been cheated for so many years by being exposed only to the stories of white men, exhausted from viewing all or parts of over 500 films, and angry at the whole damn system that won’t let me see a masterpiece by a woman from Cambodia (“The Last Reel”) or by a black woman from Boston (“Infinitely Polar Bear”). But I’m lucky that I have the platform — this festival — to share these incredible films with someone. Like you. Thank you.

28593204592_9086f732b1_bI want every American to have the chance we all had this past week in Traverse City. Don’t you? Shouldn’t every town in America have a State Theatre? Shouldn’t every secretary and teacher and plumber have a chance to experience the wonderment and enchantment of the cinema as we do here, to see the batch of movies we all saw here this week? Why keep this as one of the country’s best kept secrets? Who wants to share our joy with others?

I do! And so that’s my mission, my takeaway from TCFF 2016. Bring TCFF to the world past Acme and Cedar and Fife Lake. And do it from right here in our little neck of the woods!

Soon I will be asking you to join with me and our board of directors in helping bring these great movies to our fellow Americans. In a time of such craziness amidst a national temperament of precious little civility, wouldn’t this be a nice thing for the nicest town I’ve ever lived in to do? If you agree, let me know. If you want to be part of this mission, I’d love a helping hand or two.

I have a few more things to ask you and tell you about, so I’ll do that in upcoming emails this month.

For now, hats off to everyone who made this such a great festival. I was moved by the many acts of kindness I witnessed. Most notably to me personally were the two separate business owners who walked out onto the sidewalk of the State Theatre after watching “Where To Invade Next” and decided to give their employees more weeks of paid vacation and extended paid maternity leave. When I heard this, I cried.

All my best,

Michael Moore

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 or call 231-392-1134.

Look Back on the Wonder of TCFF XII

The festival may be over, but it will live on in our hearts and in this video forever! Our incredible videography team led by the great Morgan Burke-Beyers edited this fantastic closing montage that makes clear just what a great time was had by all beautiful Downtown Traverse City. Check it out!

Music by the official band of TCFF All Nighters: Talking Heads “And She Was.”

TCFF12 Recap Montage from Traverse City Film Festival on Vimeo.

TCFF XII by the Numbers

12 years are in the books for the Traverse City Film Festival!


TCFF XII Bumper Winners

Thank you to all those that submitted bumpers this year! The Traverse City Film Festival and 12-year sponsor FIM Group proudly announce the winners of the 2016 Bumper Contest.


First Place
John Plough
Film Festival Finder 

Second Place
Brenda Smith and Tami Evans
Worth the Wait 

Third Place
Claire Holloway
A Movie House 



Find out what the film festival means with this sassy bumper produced by Lars Kelto with the help of some of this year’s class of incredible female filmmakers! 

World Premiere of “Sister Cities” and the Induction of Amy Smart into the TCFF Walk of Fame

Big things happened at the TCFF this year, one of them being the World Premiere of “Sister Cities” at Lars Hockstad Auditorium. The show was sold out, the line worked its way around the building, and anticipation and excitement hung in the air.

Director Sean Hanish and leading lady Amy Smart walked the red carpet and stopped for a quick photo-op and toast before entering the auditorium, settling into their seats, watching the finished project, and seeing all of their hard work come to life on the big screen.

Walking the red carpet wasn’t the only thing Amy participated in last night, she also left her mark on TCFF by adding a new set of hands to our Walk of Fame. Joining the likes of Michael Moore, Madonna, and Judd Apatow, Amy’s handprints will be part of the TCFF family and will soon be a permanent fixture outside of the State Theatre. Congrats to Amy and the cast and crew of “Sister Cities” for one heck of a premiere!


TCFF XII Instagram Roundup 7/30

Twas another successful day of Just Great Movies, music, and fun! Congratulations to all of the films in the festival and to the ones we recognized last night!

Tigers are bad for horses #tcff #beatsbythebay

A video posted by Britney Bouchey (@rebel_pilot14) on

#tcff #traversecitymichigan #traversecity #summertimeinnorthernmichigan #michaelmoore #puremichigan #starlifter #starlifterrocks

A video posted by Laurie Powers Mackowiak (@lauriemack1) on

Downtown #tcff party! #msutcff

A photo posted by Erin Jeannine (@erinjcullen) on

where’s the snacks ???????? #TCFF #traversecity

A photo posted by inthesebones (@inthesebones) on

#sunsetchallenge2016 #tcff2016 #tcff #moviesonaboat

A photo posted by Stephanie Mathewson (@small_phanie) on

Gotta love Thunderclap at the #TCFF #statetheater #traversecityfilmfestival

A video posted by Carolyn Gammicchia (@4autism) on

Alex Zanin and Sara Baumann enjoy the #tcff Filmmaker Party as Harold Kranick (#charliechaplin) silently moves into the picture.

A photo posted by Northern Express (@northernexpressmi) on

TCFF XII Award Winners

For those of you who couldn’t be with us for the festival’s awards ceremony, you can check it out online or by reading the list of winners below. Congrats to yet another incredibly talented group of films and filmmakers!



Festival Executive Director Deb Lake congratulates Elite Zexer

Stuart J. Hollander Prize for Best Kids Film
Oddball” Directed by Stuart McDonald

Buzz Wilson Prize for Best Avant Garde Film
Elephant’s Dream” Directed by Kristof Bilsen

Roger Ebert Prize for Best FOREIGN DOCUMENTARY Film by a First Time Filmmaker
Kings of Kallstadt” Directed by Simone Wendel

Roger Ebert Prize for Best FOREIGN FICTION Film by a First Time Filmmaker
Sand Storm” Directed by Elite Zexer

Roger Ebert Prize for Best US DOCUMENTARY Film by a First Time Filmmaker
The C Word” Directed by Meghan O’Hara

Roger Ebert Prize for Best US FICTION Film by a First Time Filmmaker
Operator” Directed by Logan Kibens

Jeff Grace, Director of “Folk Hero & Funny Guy
Noah Buschel, Director of “The Phenom
Brent Hodge, Director of “The Pistol Shrimps
Sam Pollard, Director of “Two Trains Runnin‘”

Stanley Kubrick Award for Bold and Innovative Filmmaking
I Am Belfast” Directed by Mark Cousins

Trapped” Directed by Dawn Porter
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Taxi” Directed by Jafar Panahi

Disturbing the Peace” Directed by Steve Apkon and Andrew Young


Founder Michael Moore holds the mic for Kulikar Sotho who received the Founders Grand Prize for Best Film

El Clasico” Directed by Halkawt Nustafa

Cameraperson” Directed by Kirsten Johnson
Unlocking the Cage” Directed by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus 

Maggie’s Plan” Directed by Rebecca Miller

Founders Grand Prize Best Film
The Last Reel” Directed by Kulikar Sotho


My Blind Brother” Directed by Sophie Goodhart

Equal Means Equal” Directed by Kamala Lopez

A Man Called Ove” Directed by Hannes Holm

Disturbing the Peace” Directed by Stephen Apkon & Andrew Young

One Smart Fellow” Directed by Timothy Busfield & Tommy Lohmann

Pickle” Directed by Amy Nicholson

Taking Flight” Directed by Brandon Oldenburg


Snails” Directed by Grzegorz Szczepaniak

Pearl” Directed by Patrick Osborne

Speaking is Difficult” Directed by A. J. Schnack

Over” Directed by Jorn Threlfall


First Place
All Access Pass for two to the State and Bijou for one year and two tickets to the 2016 Filmmaker Party
Cherry RepublicIMG_4061
FullSizeRender 2FullSizeRenderSecond Place
$25 Gift Card & 12 Tickets to State and Bijou
Becky Thatcher Designs

Third Place
TCFF Merchandise
Great Lakes Bath & Body



Dunk a City Commissioner at the Closing Night Bash!

27974333723_9dc8765492_bCan you believe it’s already almost time for the closing night bash?! We’ve got some pretty cool activities to checkout Sunday night at the Open Space from 7 pm – 9:45 pm including a dunk tank that will plummet City Commissioners into icy waters, live music you can sing and dance to, interactive games, an icy photo booth, Arendelle’s own bounce castle, reindeer treats, and more! This magical night will surely put all in attendance in good spirits—plus, it’s FREE! We hope all of Traverse City’s royal patrons, snowmen, and ice minors out on the bay because wind never bothered us anyway!