In 1969 a bankrupt Detroit pizzeria owner, Richard Davis, invented the modern-day bulletproof vest. Charming and brash — even shooting himself 192 times — Davis directed sensational marketing films, earning him celebrity status among police and gun owners across the country. But the death of a police officer wearing a Second Chance vest catalyzed his fall, and revealed a man full of contradictions cultivated over decades of reckless behavior. Michigan premiere.
‘The Art of Making It’
Focusing on a diverse group of compelling young artists, including Detroit-based Gisela McDaniel, “The Art of Making It” explores the forces that thrust some into the art-world stratosphere while leaving others struggling to survive. The film is both a cautionary tale about what America stands to lose if we don’t rethink what we value and why, and a love letter to those who persevere in their artistic practice. Michigan premiere.
SPECIAL FOOD-AND-FILM EVENT
An Asian-American family in rural Michigan fights to keep its restaurant and the American dream alive in the face of a pandemic and more. This real-time portrait of 2020 unfolds in the small town of the title in Michigan’s Thumb as the family behind Rachel’s restaurant struggles with COVID-19, Neo-Nazis and generational scars from the Cambodian killing fields. Michigan premiere.
“Breaking Bread” is a documentary that explores the A-Sham Festival, a groundbreaking food festival where Arab and Jewish chefs work in tandem to create mouthwatering dishes in order to foster social change. A treat for the senses, this delectable showcase of culinary heritage gives hope to the idea that collaboration in the kitchen could be a bridge to mutual understanding and, perhaps, a first step toward a lasting peace.
‘Come Back Anytime’
SPECIAL FOOD-AND-FILM EVENT
Self-taught ramen master Masamoto Ueda and his wife Kazuko have run their Tokyo ramen shop, Bizentei, for more than 40 years. An intimate portrait of Japan’s culture of food, community, and work, “Come Back Anytime” features gorgeous scenery, mouth-watering dishes, and a delightful cast of regular customers. Michigan premiere.
‘The Erie Situation’
As climate, politics, and agricultural interests collide, the health of Lake Erie – and that of humans and wildlife – hang in the balance. “The Erie Situation” adeptly shows us how a local community is dealing with the personal and economic impact of toxic algae blooms. Michigan premiere.
‘Gradually, Then Suddenly: The Bankruptcy of Detroit’
“Gradually, Then Suddenly” tells the dramatic story of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy, framing the city’s dire financial situation as a canary in the coal mine for municipalities nationwide. From the controversial appointing of an emergency manager to the enactment of the so-called Grand Bargain — which helped protect the imperiled collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts and preserve city pensions — the film offers new insights and behind-the-scenes details of the critical juncture in the city’s history.
“Grain” explores the stories of those committed to using film in modern day photography. Whether it’s a fashion house seeking to bring a new edge to their creative work, an amateur perusing eBay for the perfect vintage Polaroid, or an influencer attempting to capture a comforting retro aesthetic on social media, analog photography has piqued the interest of people everywhere. Michigan premiere.
‘How to Survive a Pandemic’
From Academy Award-nominated director David France (“How to Survive a Plague,” “Welcome to Chechnya”) comes a definitive and eye-opening documentary about the massive global undertaking to research, develop, regulate and roll out COVID-19 vaccines in the war against the worldwide pandemic.
Jazmine Faries, a 32-year-old woman with Down syndrome, is obsessed with soap operas, Barbie dolls, and Matthew McConaughey. For the past five summers, her family has performed her original stage plays for a small audience in their town of Iron River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The film follows the preparation for the sixth season and Jazmine’s personal struggle for independence while demonstrating how a single spark of creativity can spread joy throughout a community. Metro Detroit premiere.
‘Let the Little Light Shine’
When a thriving, top-ranked Chicago African-American elementary school is threatened to be closed and replaced by a new high school that favors the community’s wealthier residents, parents, students and educators fight for the elementary school’s survival. Directed by Michigan State University alum Kevin Shaw. Michigan premiere.
“Luminous” tells the story of the first astronomer in history to publicly predict the near-future explosion of a star. The film follows Calvin College astronomy professor Larry Molnar’s five-year journey to test his unprecedented prediction, knowing that its success or failure will unfold squarely in the international spotlight. Michigan premiere.
“Musher” reveals the bond that four women have with their dogs and their devotion to the world of sled-dog racing. Set largely in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula amidst the annual CopperDog 150 race, the film provides intimate insight into the mushing community and demonstrates how women influence the sport. Michigan premiere.
Networking & Education Events
The ninth annual festival is hosting a variety of free events geared toward the local filmmaking community at this year’s event, scheduled for April 27-May 1. The gatherings are designed to share knowledge about documentary filmmaking and provide networking opportunities for up-and-coming moviemakers.
‘The Pez Outlaw’
Michigan resident Steve Glew spent the 1990s smuggling rare Pez dispensers into the USA from Eastern Europe, making millions of dollars. It was all magical until his arch-nemesis, The Pezident – aka the president of the Pez company – decided to put a stop to him. Said Film Threat in its review: “The narrative takes so many absurd, implausible twists and turns that one would logically presume it was made up. But, the film is a documentary, one that will appeal to everyone.” Michigan premiere.
Welcome to Riotsville, a fictional town built by the U.S. military. Using footage shot by the media and the government, the film explores the militarization of the police and the reaction of a nation to the uprisings of the late ’60s, creating a counter-narrative to a critical moment in the country’s history. While it has no actual connection to the film, many Detroiters might find this documentary a spiritual relative of “12th and Clairmount” due to its reliance on archival footage and frequent visits to the Motor City. Michigan premiere.
‘Shorts Program #4: Southern Foodways Alliance’
SPECIAL FOOD-AND-FILM EVENT
A collection of five short films that align with the mission of the SFA, which explores the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. The films’ subjects range from an oyster farmer to a seed preservationist to a food justice activist.
‘Taste of Desire’
SPECIAL FOOD-AND-FILM EVENT
In this poetic trip around the world, the oyster – with its sensual and lavish associations – acts as metaphor to explore human desires and drives, linking stories of a New York burlesque dancer, French Michelin-starred chefs, a Swedish oyster diver, a Japanese pearl hunter and a terminally ill English psychologist. The protagonists have their own special connection to the oyster, revealing their hopes, ambitions, and existential fears. Metro Detroit premiere.
‘They Call Me Magic’
“They Call Me Magic” offers an illuminating, holistic look into the life and career of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, from his humble beginnings in Lansing to global superstardom on the basketball court and beyond. The new four-part documentary series on Apple TV+ features intimate, never-before-seen interviews with Magic, his family, and an all-star lineup. Freep Film Festival will be showing the first hour of the series, which focuses on his early years as one of the best high school basketball players the state of Michigan has ever seen and his time at Michigan State, where he led MSU to its first-ever NCAA basketball championship.