It has become an annual tradition at Detroit Public Television (DPTV) to cover the Freep Film Festival and this year is no exception, as several Detroit-focused films will take center stage starting on Thursday, March 30th, with the opening night film, 12th and Clairmount. The film looks at Detroit in the summer of 1967 – before, during, and after the riots – and is sure to ignite a powerful conversation about the city’s future.
DPTV will also play a role at the festival with the screening of the documentary, The Ethanol Effect – which investigates the human, environmental and political costs of growing and refining corn for ethanol in America. (Attendees can see The Ethanol Effect at Emagine Novi on Friday, March 31st at 6:00 P.M.) Also on this year’s slate of movies is Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future, which aired on DPTV in December, and Making Waves: Battle for the Great Lakes, which will air on DPTV on April 20 beginning at 9:00 P.M. ET.
In addition to these exciting films, I will be attending the festival and reporting about the various featured films. On my list this year, aside from the films already listed, are the four different shorts programs, each of which are organized around a particular theme.
From Detroit With Love: Shorts Program #1
Promised Land?: A Sudanese family is given a new home in Detroit. But how do you survive in a land you don’t understand?
Change in the City: The conversation about Detroit and change can mean different things to different people. Traveling chef and writer Tunde Wey visits three cities – Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans – to talk to people on the front lines of urban change, and find out what’s going on in their communities.
A Poem of Glass and Steel: Detroit filmmaker Ryan Clancy explores the largest collection of Mies van der Rohe-designed homes in the world, Detroit’s Lafayette Park.
Pedal to Porch: This film looks at a program where community members are encouraged to ride bikes around to meet their neighbors and learn about the history of their neighborhoods.
American Prophet: Directed by Detroit filmmaker Jasmine Rivera, this narrative, historic docudrama set in 1968 tells the story of real-life Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who as a young man is suddenly appointed to a position of great authority – and whose leadership must guide a community in a time of great upheaval and social change.
Spaces And Places: Shorts Program #2
Rabbit Island: Nestled in the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior sits Rabbit Island: 91 acres of rocks, earth, trees and wild habitat. This film is a brief study of an island located in majestic Lake Superior, and the artists who gather there for inspiration.
Being Hear: Head into the forest with Emmy-Award winning nature sound recordist and acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who works to protect the few remaining quiet places on Earth from noise pollution. “Being Hear” highlights his quest to preserve silence and the importance of listening to the world around us.
Shipping Home: One year, $100,000 – and a dream to build a home out of a shipping container. The film was co-directed by Calvin College associate professor Samuel Smartt.
Great Lakes, Bad Lines: Enbridge Line 5, a Canadian-owned oil pipeline that stretches across more than 500 miles and through Michigan’s Great Lakes is 60 years old. Experts say it needs repair to avoid a potential environmental catastrophe.
Paulding Light: For half a century, the legend of the Paulding Light – a mysterious glow that appears in the woods in the Upper Peninsula – beckons curiosity seekers, believers and skeptics to the tiny town of Paulding.
A Closer Look At Flint: Shorts Program #3
From Flint: Voices from a Poisoned City: Winner of a national Student Academy Award, this documentary by Michigan State University student Elise Conklin tells the story of the Flint Water Crisis from the perspectives of those who lived it.
Flint: An American Nightmare: The ongoing Flint water crisis has taken a toll on residents of this iconic Michigan city, who have been living with lead-tainted tap water. The film about living in Flint, where many residents still can’t drink the water, is directed by Detroit Free Press videographer Brian Kaufman in collaboration with Detroit Free Press photographer Ryan Garza.
Flint is a Place: This series of short films is part of a cross-platform episodic documentary series about Flint created by the director of “T-Rex,” Zackary Canepari. Three shorts within the program include the story of Claressa Shields’ sister, Briana; a look at the water crisis; and a post “T-Rex” follow-up on Claressa Shields. A related multimedia exhibit will be housed in the Crystal Gallery at the DIA throughout the festival weekend.
Connections And Identity: Shorts Program #4
Palisades: John met Julie in Palisades Park, Michigan. After seeing her reaction to a personal loss, he realized he loved her.
Off Season: Detroit Tiger pitcher Daniel Norris spends the off season with Shaggy, his 1978 VW van. The film is directed by Michigan native Ben Moon.
Another Ride: Iustin Stafie, a 24- year-old car collector, and his 82-year-old grandfather take their 43-year-old Romanian-made Dacia 1300 to a retro car parade instead of the scrapyard, where most old cars of its kind go to die.
Hijabi World: In a time of escalating Islamophobia, a group of young women are pushing back, demanding that we look past their head coverings to understand who they really are.
A Continuing Series of Small Indignities: 59-year-old Rodney Harris recounts his personal history dealing with a lifetime of racism. The film is directed by Michigan filmmaker Michael Pfaendtner, co-director of the “The Goat Yard,” which premiered at the 2016 Freep Film Festival.
Denali: Michigan native Ben Moon and his dog, Denali, have shared plenty of good times, but the short film looks at Ben’s battle with cancer, a dog’s unwavering loyalty and a final goodbye to man’s best friend.
For a complete list of the films and screening times, visit the Freep Film Festival website, and be sure to let us know what movies you plan to see at the festival in the comments below or on our social media pages. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with all of you and, as Roger Ebert once said, “I’ll see you at the movies.”