About this program

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.

At-home viewing: This program is available for streaming in all locations.

After the program

On Thursday and Saturday, Freep Film Festival Shorts Program Director Inney Prakash talks with some of the filmmakers.
Buy Tickets


Sept. 23, 2021
7:00 p.m.

Sept. 25, 2021
1:30 p.m.

Sept. 22-29, 2021


‘Ashura in Detroit’ 

Large numbers of refugee Iraqi Shias have arrived in metro Detroit as a result of the ongoing turmoil in Iraq and surrounding regions. “Ashura in Detroit” explores the stunning Ashura holiday rituals of the Iraqi Shias of metro Detroit, which bring together their formerly dispersed communities through the collective series of acts, including choreography, percussion and self-flagellation.

Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Producer: Razi Jafri, Producer: Sally Howell, Second Camera and Editor: Mohamad Jaafar, Year: 2021


When a quiet suburb of Detroit is sued by the Department of Justice, a long history of racial tensions is unearthed and an historic election takes place, as both parties agree to allow ranked choice voting to be the remedy, a first for a Voting Rights Act case.

Director: Grace McNally, Cinematographer: Nick Ramey, Editor: Marcus Taylor, Composer: Matthew Atticus Berger, Producer: Colin Cole and Grace McNally, Year: 2020, Runtime: 28 minutes 

‘Smelly Little Town’

“Smelly Little Town” details a Rust Belt city’s decades-long drama over whether to capitalize on the celebrity of its most famous native. Madonna was born in Bay City on August 16, 1958, and her connection to the town has been a hot button issue there since her rise to stardom. The mayor used it as a wedge issue during his 1985 re-election campaign. Then in 1987, local media turned public opinion against Madonna after comments she made about Bay City on national TV. By 2008, attitudes had shifted as the town fell on hard times and there was renewed interest in using Madonna’s fame for municipal gain. But with a shrinking population and cash-strapped government, is it too late to do anything?

Director: Zach Neumeyer, Cinematographer: Matt Bockelman, Editor: Zach Neumeyer, Composer: Shaun Hettinger, Producer: Zach Neumeyer, Year: 2021, Runtime: 25 minutes, Twitter: @zachneumeyer