TICKETS + LINEUP
Freep Film Festival's 2019 lineup is here!
“Always in Season” explores the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans and connects this form of historic racial terrorism to racial violence today. The film centers on the case of Lennon Lacy, an African American teen who was found hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, North Carolina, in 2014. Officials quickly ruled Lennon’s death a suicide, but his mother, Claudia, believes Lennon was lynched and moves from paralyzing grief to leading the fight for justice for her son. Michigan premiere.
In this unscripted Starz documentary series (from which the festival will air two episodes), Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself”) examines racial, economic and class issues in contemporary American education by spending an academic year at a diverse, progressive public school in Chicago.
In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
Much of metro Detroit music composer Dan Yessian’s career was built upon his ability to create catchy commercial jingles – think Detroit TV classics like his tune for a Dittrich Furs advertisement. But his life takes a dramatic turn when Yessian is asked to write a classical composition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenian citizens were murdered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1915. The film follows Yessian’s creative path and the piece’s triumphant debut by the Amenian National Philharmonic Orchestra in Yessian’s ancestral homeland of Armenia. World premiere.
This double feature will pair a 60th anniversary screening of the courtroom classic that was filmed in the Upper Peninsula with a making-of documentary that explores the film’s deep Michigan roots and the culture clash that resulted when a huge Hollywood crew landed in tiny Ishpeming. Metro Detroit premiere for the doc.
This charming, slyly humorous documentary follows one man’s journey into the bizarre, hidden world of industrial musicals — Broadway-style shows produced by companies such as General Electric, McDonald’s, Ford, DuPont and Xerox to motivate their employees, but never intended for public consumption. Metro Detroit premiere.
The phrase “Flat Earthers” might bring to mind tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists who are seriously out of touch with reality. But “Behind the Curve” introduces us to real Flat Earthers, a small but growing contingent of people who firmly believe in a conspiracy to suppress the truth that the Earth is flat. A vice.com story about the film said it “makes a case for empathy instead of ridicule.”
Jeffrey Wolf’s documentary illuminates the remarkable life of self-taught artist Bill Traylor — which spanned slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Great Migration and a short spell in Detroit — and examines the significant legacy of his work, the largest known body of drawn and painted images by an artist born into slavery. Michigan premiere.
Area 51 wasn’t on the map until Bob Lazar put it there. The former government physicist went public in 1989 with his account of alien spacecraft at the top-secret Air Force test facility in the Nevada desert. Lazar, who now runs a business in Michigan, went silent for three decades until filmmaker Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell tracked him down.
Capturing the messy upheaval of the ’70s just as rock was re-inventing itself, Scott Crawford’s film explores Creem magazine’s humble beginnings in post-riot Detroit and follows its upward trajectory from underground paper to national powerhouse. Michigan premiere.
French filmmaker Nicolas Drolc wanted to make a film about contemporary American roots, folk and gospel music. So he invited favorite musicians to visit him, play in a local dive bar and subject themselves to improvised questioning and field recordings the next morning at Drolc’s dwellings. Among the participants are Danny Kroha of the legendary Detroit group the Gories.
Erik Nelson’s film takes an inside look at the daily life of men of the Eighth Air Force, who flew deadly missions during World War II, featuring newly restored 4K footage shot by filmmaker William Wyler in 1943 along with narration from some of the last surviving B-17 pilots.
Filmmaker Judith Helfand uses the deadly 1995 Chicago heat disaster to explore the links between extreme weather, extreme disparity and the politics of disaster, offering a provocative investigation into the disasters we’re willing to see and prepare for, the unnatural ones we’re not and the growth industry of disaster preparedness.
Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA) incubates quality and compelling stories that shift the dominant narratives about Detroit towards liberation and justice, in collaboration with an ecosystem of community members, storytellers, media makers and organizers. DNA curated this Freep Film Festival-partnered program of short documentaries by Detroit area filmmakers, sharing seven glimpses into movement-forward, multi-dimensional stories about community, culture and legacy. FREE EVENT
Detroit continued to burn long after the fires of the ’67 rebellion were extinguished. Black Detroiters continued to suffer the effects of economic disenfranchisement and fought to survive under the oppressive thumb of racist policing practices disguised as law enforcement, the most egregious of which was the Detroit Police Department’s brutal decoy unit S.T.R.E.S.S.: Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets. Ken Cockrel, a radical Marxist attorney, led a group of activists and community leaders to abolish the unit and restore justice. This is the story of a heroic struggle in a city that was far too willing to trample the rights of its black citizens. Michigan premiere.
Combining interview footage with kamishibai-inspired animation, Michigan native Keith Reimink tells the story of three Japanese fishermen who were inadvertently irradiated in the U.S. military’s 1954 Castle Bravo test in the Pacific Ocean, a hydrogen bomb that exploded with the force of 1,000 atomic bombs. Metro Detroit premiere.
In the Arab-American neighborhood outside Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for more than a decade. Boundaoui uncovers one of the largest counterterrorism investigations in U.S. history and explores its impact on her community.
Tom Sturgal’s rollicking film is the first serious documentary to tackle the history and personalities behind the electrifying and revolutionary free jazz movement that began in the late 1950s as a more emotional, experimental and politically urgent counterpart to commercial jazz. Michigan premiere.
In the behind-the-scenes documentary “Making the Five Heartbeats,” filmmaker Robert Townsend takes a well-deserved victory lap in revisiting his 1991 cult favorite “The Five Heartbeats,” a Motown-flavored musical drama about the rise and fall of an African-American vocal group in the 1960s. It will be paired with a screening of the original film.
Brent Hodge’s affectionate portrait of the beloved, short-lived, Michigan-set high-school dramedy “Freaks and Geeks,” features interviews with the show’s stars and creators and argues for the enduring significance of “Freaks and Geeks” in a TV landscape it helped shape.
The film – presented here in rough-cut, uncompleted form – tells the story behind one of Detroit’s great contributions to world culture: techno, the electronic-music phenomenon created by black artists in the 1980s that exploded across Europe, transformed dance music and blossomed into a multibillion-dollar industry. FREE EVENT
Penny Lane’s devilishly entertaining film traces the rise of The Satanic Temple, one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. The Temple and its enigmatic leader Lucien Greaves are calling for a Satanic revolution to save the nation’s soul. But are they for real? The organization’s Detroit outpost plays a big role in the film’s exploration. Michigan premiere.
Filmed over the course of one agricultural year in California’s Napa Valley, “Harvest Season” introduces viewers to people who are often background characters in other narratives about wine, providing an immersive look at the difficult, dramatic process of making some of the world’s most celebrated wines. Michigan premiere.
It takes a brazen personality to excel in the competitive and male-dominated world of professional cooking. A woman can only ascend the ranks if she can take the heat. Meet seven women chefs at the forefront of a revolution in the restaurant industry. Metro Detroit premiere.
A new documentary about Richard Pryor is paired with a classic Detroit-set film that co-starred the legendary comedian. “I Am Richard Pryor” examines the life of the mercurial actor-comic through interviews with Pryor‘s family, those who worked with him and the comedians he influenced. In the 1978 crime drama “Blue Collar,” Pryor plays one of three Detroit auto plant workers who decide to steal from the safe of their union local. Michigan theatrical premiere for the documentary.
Gabe Polsky’s probing and inspiring film explores the role of creativity in the careers of the world’s greatest athletes. Featuring interviews with iconic sports figures such as Wayne Gretzky, Pele and Jerry Rice, “In Search of Greatness” adds fascinating layers to the nature-nurture equation that shapes all of us. Michigan premiere.
Instant film production ceased after Polaroid shut down in 2008, but a group of engineers are trying to recreate the lost formula behind instant film. The documentary follows three people with a deep love for Polaroid and along with archival footage delves into the chemistry, artistry and history behind the magic. Metro Detroit premiere.
Kenny Sailors introduced the modern-day jump shot to basketball in the early 1940s, but retreated into the Alaskan wilderness after a short career in the league now known as the NBA. The film follows his humble reemergence and his supporters’ efforts to get him recognition for his influence on the game. Michigan premiere.
These two classic documentaries are paired in a program that explores the community impacts when an auto plant arrives – and when it leaves. The award-wining 1983 film “Poletown Lives!” looks at the controversial bulldozing of the Detroit neighborhood to make room for a General Motors plant, while “The Last Truck” (2009) details the shuttering of a GM factory in Ohio.
Detroit rocker Alice Cooper first parted ways with his original band in 1975. Superfan and Dallas-based Good Records store owner Chris convinced the surviving members to reunite on the tiny, pink turf-covered stage at his store for a secret performance. Michigan premiere.
Navigating Mexico City’s chaotic streets, the Ochoa family operate a private ambulance, competing with other for-profit EMTs for patients in need of urgent help. As the Ochoas try to make a living in this cutthroat industry, they struggle to keep their financial needs from compromising the people in their care. Michigan premiere. This film is presented in partnership with Cinema Lamont.
“Midnight in Paris” follows a small group of Flint teenagers in the lead-up to their senior prom — an event that has transcended the typical black-tie affair and become a rare communal opportunity to celebrate the achievements of its youth. The film looks at the significance of the dance in the lives of the children of Flint, the preparation and effort involved in participating, and the precarious juncture between expectation and reality. Michigan premiere.
Director Stanley Nelson’s epic biopic collects the strands of a creative life and weaves them together for us to understand one of the great modern American artists like never before. Using words from Miles Davis’ autobiography, newly released archival material, alongside interviews with pre-eminent historians and personal friends like Quincy Jones, the film illustrates a man of intensity and devotion to his craft. Michigan premiere.
“Minding the Gap” returns for an encore Freep Film Festival screening after an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. Three young men bond through their love of skateboarding, while escaping volatile family lives in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship. FREE EVENT
With his legendary variety show “Soul!,” Ellis Haizlip’s idea was that the revolution WOULD be televised. “Mr. Soul!” is a lively tribute to a visionary figure who created an indispensable platform for giants and rising figures of black American culture on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. Michigan premiere.
Scott Matzka was in peak physical condition — a member of the University of Michigan’s 1998 NCAA champion hockey team and a 13-year professional player for teams like the Grand Rapids Griffins and Kalamazoo Wings. After receiving a devastating ALS diagnosis at the age of 36, Scott grapples with plans for the remainder of his life while relentlessly advocating to find a cure for the terminal disease. Metro Detroit theatrical premiere.
Visit any strip mall in the United States, and there’s bound to be a Vietnamese nail salon. But few Americans know the history behind the salons and the 20 Vietnamese refugee women who in 1975 sparked a multibillion–dollar industry. Weaving powerful personal stories with insightful interviews, “Nailed It!” captures the steady hold Vietnamese Americans have on today’s multiethnic $8 billion dollar nail economy. Michigan premiere.
Maria Irene Fornes is among America’s greatest unknown playwrights. When she stops writing due to dementia, a friendship with filmmaker (and Detroit native) Michelle Memran reignites her visionary creative spirit, triggering a film collaboration that picks up where the pen left off. Metro Detroit premiere.
Rock promoters get little credit but are essential to the music industry as we know it. Frank Barsalona — who helped skyrocket the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Bon Jovi into superstardom — is among the colorful figures featured in this fascinating history of an overlooked part of the music industry. Michigan premiere.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Motown Records, so there’s no better time to revisit this 2002 documentary about the crackerjack players who made up Motown’s house band during the Detroit label’s Hitsville heyday. The film tells their stories and puts players like Johnny Griffith, Richard (Pistol) Allen and Benny Benjamin in the spotlight as they play the tunes they helped make famous accompanied by modern-day stars.
The influential mockumentary classic takes things to 11 for a special 35th anniversary screening. David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls and a series of ill-fated drummers make bad music and even worse choices in this hilarious takedown of rock ‘n’ roll excess and intra-band squabbling.
In this groundbreaking live documentary event at the DIA, filmmaker and Michigan native Sam Green will narrate onstage while the Kronos Quartet performs the score, and a rich blend of archival footage, photos and interviews with members of the quartet and longtime collaborators unspools on screen. Michigan premiere.
Geordie Day’s film adds heartbreaking complexity to the Red Wings enforcer and all-time penalty leader, who died in 2010 of heart failure. Off the ice, Probert emerges as a kind, flawed soul who loved his wife and kids while battling the demons of addiction and neurodegenerative disease. U.S. premiere.
Co-directed by Upper Peninsula native Heather Courtney, “The Unafraid” follows three immigrant students in Georgia, a state that has banned them and other recipients of DACA from attending its top state universities and charges them international tuition at any other public college. Metro Detroit premiere.
What begins as a documentary following the final tour of a dying magician/comedian, the Detroit-born Amazing Johnathan, becomes an unexpected and increasingly bizarre journey as filmmaker Ben Berman struggles to separate truth from illusion. Michigan premiere.
Pauline Kael was likely the most powerful, and personal, movie critic of the 20th Century. She ruthlessly pursued what made a movie or an actor’s performance work — or not — and why. This film pursues the question of what made Kael’s work so influential. Michigan premiere.
Filmmaker Jawad Rhalib uses dance as a lens to document diverse creative voices in the Muslim world and explore complex contradictions and conflicts that define Arab life in the 21st Century, as a new generation seeks to free itself from bonds of stereotypes and repression. Michigan premiere. This screening is being co-presented with Cinema Lamont.
In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back. This clandestine group vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with pen and paper. They defied their murderous enemy with the ultimate weapon – the truth – and risked everything so that their archive would survive the war, even if they did not.