Traverse City Film Festival, founded and led by esteemed documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine) and now in its eleventh successful year, is passing the baton to women filmmakers this time—each of the official 32 U.S. selections for 2016’s festival is either directed or co-directed by a woman. Instead of sidelining female filmmakers and limiting them to a spotlight or special category, as so many other festivals are wont to do, Moore has given them the credit they deserve by exclusively selecting female-directed American movies to feature in Traverse City this year.
In a satirical twist on the tokenism usually extended towards women during film festivals and award shows, Moore has also created a sidebar to feature a small handful of American films produced by men, amusingly called “Men Make Movies – The Struggle Continues.” Men will still be represented in the “foreign” and “classic” categories of the festival, but the official selection is reserved for women.
Moore admits to having to search a little harder to find the hidden gems being featured in this year’s TCFF, emphasizing his commitment to shining a light on underappreciated and obscure female filmmakers who are continually cheated by the patriarchal status quo, but the hard work paid off: this year’s selection of films is among the finest in the history of the festival. Highlights include features from Sundance, SXSW and Toronto film festivals, like Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan, Logan Kibens’ Operator, Marielle Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl, Meera Menon’s Equity, Maris Curran’s Five Nights in Maine and many more.
By way of explanation for his decision, Moore stated in the introductory letter to the festival:
I belong to one of the most “liberal” industries in the US—the movie-making business—and we have managed for all of our 100+ years to virtually shut out and shut up the 51% of the population who are women. It is not lost on me that I work for a hierarchy that benignly sees to it that the majority gender does not get to tell their stories. [...] This rigged system continues uninterrupted when those of us who benefit from our “white male privilege” do not acknowledge it openly, do not rock the boat that has served us so well, do not rail against the obvious and thus remain complicit through our obedient silence. This tidy little arrangement keeps women—and people of color—in their place: on the outside looking in, with only a rare token seat for them at the table. (That seat, by the way, is occasionally there thanks to the indie and documentary worlds, where “only” 75% of the films are directed by men.)
Read the rest of Moore’s letter here and check out the full list of 2016’s Traverse City Film Festival picks here.