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‘A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks’

Known for widening the view of Black American life through his photography and the helming of films such as the original “Shaft,” Gordon Parks was one of America’s most trailblazing artists. “A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks” explores the power of images in advancing racial, economic, and social equality — and the generation of young photographers, filmmakers and activists Parks inspired. Michigan premiere.

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‘Alumination’

In 1929, entrepreneur, traveler, and dreamer Wally Byam built the first Airstream travel trailer in the backyard of his California home. The film examines the history and evolution of the silver trailer whose name evokes the idea of escape, communion with nature and the romance of free-spirited living. World premiere.

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‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” features Al Gore and the scientific argument for global warming and makes a social argument that its effects can be minimized if political action is taken and personal habits altered. This is a 15-year anniversary screening of the environmental clarion call.

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‘Awaken’

A documentary film shot over 5 years in more than 30 countries, “Awaken” takes viewers around the globe in immersive 4K UHD, showcasing our planet’s natural wonders – and some manmade wonders, too. With breathtaking cinematography and a swelling score, it foregoes traditional story structure in favor of intense cinematic beauty. From executive producer Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”) and narrated by Liv Tyler. Michigan theatrical premiere.

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‘Becoming Cousteau’

“Becoming Cousteau” examines the epic life of Jacques Yves Cousteau, the ocean explorer who spanned the globe with a misfit crew of divers and filmmakers, under the lifelong creed, “Il faut aller voir”: “We must go and see for ourselves.” The Frenchman whose desire to go deeper and further led him to inventions that would forever change the way we see and know the undersea world.

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‘Boblo Boats:
A Detroit Ferry Tale’

Boblo Island, one of America’s earliest amusement parks, sparked the imaginations of Detroiters for decades, with passengers by the thousands reaching the island by way of two steamships, SS Columbia and Ste. Claire. In 1993 Boblo Island shut down, and the boats were left to ruin. Mirroring Detroit’s decline and efforts at resurgence, two teams of people doggedly attempt to restore these iconic vessels and save them from the scrapyard. World premiere.

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‘Company Town’

The workers at General Motors in Oshawa are in for the fight of their lives when the company announces it is closing operations after 100 years of building automobiles. “Company Town” takes viewers behind closed doors during the union’s desperate battle to save the plant and 5,000 jobs. U.S. premiere.

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‘Detroit Remember When: Rockin’ Robin Seymour’

If you grew up in Detroit, chances are Robin Seymour narrated your musical memories as one of the city’s most popular DJs, whose career stretched back to the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. He made his name at radio stations like WXYZ and WKNR along with hosting “Swingin’ Time Dance Party” on CKLW-TV in the ’60s while helping propel the careers of many Motown acts and likes of Bob Seger and Mitch Ryder.

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‘Digging For Weldon Irvine’

“Digging for Weldon Irvine” explores the life and legacy of the prolific musician, poet, composer and playwright Weldon Irvine, a prominent figure in the 1970s Black Arts Movement whose influence far exceeds his commercial success or popular renown, including into contemporary hip-hop. Metro Detroit premiere.

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‘El Father Plays Himself’

A father and son return to the Amazon jungle to shoot a deeply personal film. Fiction and reality clash as the father plays himself. Directed by Michigan native Mo Scarpelli.

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‘Flint: Who Can You Trust?’

A breakdown in public trust and institutional racism are at the forefront of this definitive and chilling examination of one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters in American history. Filmed over 5 years and long after the story was front page news, the film is full of new twists and turns. Michigan premiere.

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‘Hamtramck, USA’

Hamtramck has always been a city of remarkable diversity, but its robust multiculturalism does not always result in harmonious politics, as the filmmakers discover when following the 2017 municipal elections, in which in which the city’s first female mayor, Karen Majewski, ran for her fourth term against candidates representing a variety of ethnic communities. Michigan theatrical premiere.

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‘Madonna: Truth or Dare’

In this 30th anniversary screening, we look back at the documentary that found Madonna staring down superstardom and that helped set the stage for the legion of winking, behind-the-scenes celebrity docs that arrived in its wake.

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‘North By Current’

Lyrically assembled images, decades of home movies and ethereal narration form an idiosyncratic and poetic undertow as filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his rural Michigan hometown to make a film about police persecution. Instead, his story dives headfirst into the challenges of creating identity, the agony of growing up and the ever-fickle nuances of family. Michigan premiere.

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Real Fresh: Showcase and Competition

The new Real Fresh showcase and competition is spotlighting the work of student documentary filmmakers from Michigan State University, Oakland University, University of Michigan, University of Windsor and Wayne State University. Faculty representatives from each of the five schools nominated a total of 26 student films. From that group, a Freep Film Festival jury chose 10 shorts as representing some of the best documentary work from our region’s colleges.

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‘Shorts Program #1: Community Snapshots’

Three very different angles on Michigan communities come packaged together in this program. Featuring an intimate verité portrait of Iraqi ritual shot in Detroit, a legal battle highlighting the legacy of historical racism in Eastpointe and a breakdown of Bay City’s fraught relationship with its very own material girl, Madonna, these films offer a richness of views on collective identity.

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‘Shorts Program #2: Land and Sea’

Environment takes the foreground in this eclectic collection of short films — from the traditions and traumas of the Atlantic Ocean to inland America’s political fissures to an Amazonian rainforest town founded by Henry Ford.

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‘Shorts Program #3: True Stories’

This program pairs two Motor City-made films that sidestep a purist documentary approach, instead employing narrative devices to tell true Detroit stories.

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‘Since I Been Down’

In America’s backyard, a community held captive by policies targeting gangs and drugs, sacrifices their youth for a false sense of justice, and safety. Nearly forty years later, a true path to justice and healing is led from inside prison walls.

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‘Storm Lake’

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Art Cullen and his family fight to unite and inform their rural Iowan farming community through their biweekly newspaper, the Storm Lake Times, even as the paper hangs on by a thread. Twice a week, they work as civic watchdogs to protect their hometown and the legacy of credible journalism, at large — come hell or pandemic.

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‘The First Step’

In a divided America, political commentator and author Van Jones controversially works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to the addiction crisis. Michigan premiere.

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‘The Passing On’

Renowned embalmer James Bryant hopes a promising mortuary student will overlook his feelings of rejection within the African-American community to continue within the disappearing tradition of the Black funeral home. Michigan premiere. 

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‘This Might Hurt’

“This Might Hurt” follows three chronic pain patients who have spent years searching for answers to their chronic pain. Desperate for relief, they enter a new medical program that focuses on uncovering hidden causes of pain — and retraining their brains to switch the pain off.

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‘When We Were Kings’

The Oscar-winning documentary “When We Were Kings” focused on the famous “Rumble in the Jungle,” the 1974 heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. This is a 25-year anniversary screening of the wildly entertaining film.

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‘Who You Gonna Call? The Ray Parker Jr. Story’

Ray Parker Jr. is best known for “Ghostbusters,” the theme song for the 1980s blockbuster. But before topping the charts, Parker escaped the segregated streets of his native Detroit to perform with Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones and countless others. You know the hit; now meet the singular man behind it. U.S. premiere.

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Works-In-Progress

Freep Film Festival is hosting a variety of free events geared toward the local filmmaking community as part of this year’s festival.  

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