Politics & Policy

Traverse City Showdown

Michael Moore meets his competition.

A funny thing happened as I was planning a trip to my family reunion in Michigan, and decided to stop and see my friend Genie Bakale Aldrirch in Traverse City, Mich.: I realized that Michael Moore was going to be there, too. Now, the infamous director wasn’t actually going to come to my family gathering, nor was he going to visit Genie’s house. He was, in fact, going to be just across town for his summer movie festival, which is being held July 28-31.

Perhaps in image-repair mode after having Fahrenheit 9/11 snubbed at the Oscars, Moore’s hoping to recapture national exposure and artistic credibility. And how better to rekindle that pre-election glory than to turn a lovely bay-area community, described as the Martha’s Vineyard of Michigan, into another Sundance Film Festival?

What Moore didn’t count on was that a local Traverse Bay resident, my friend Genie, would take him on–and that she would happen to have a conservative actress friend (me) who would help round up the troops for her. The stage was quickly set: After a few conference calls, the “Traverse Bay Freedom Film Fest . . . Celebrating Faith, Family, and Freedom” was born.

Our celebration coincides with Moore’s four-day festival for only two days, but it has created a groundswell of support–and a bit of controversy. As word spread that our little resistance band was gathering momentum, Moore had to take note. He defensively responded in the Detroit Free Press, insisting that his own event is just presenting classics like Casablanca and Jaws; no political films, he claims, are included on his bill of fare. To be sure, Moore is sponsoring some great films, but much of his schedule is peppered with agenda-driven films. He is Michael Moore, after all, so what else would one expect?

In Land of Plenty–which is about a “security-obsessed vigilante” who “drives around downtown L.A anxiously looking for terrorists”–the notion is planted that it is paranoid to worry about terrorism. Moore has often asserted that terrorist threats are exaggerated, and that somehow hysteria over that concern is aided and abetted by the Bush administration. (Perhaps he should tell that to Londoners?)

Moore will also sponsor the usual drumbeat of class warfare, as in Human Resources and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Again, there’s an implication that corporate wrongdoing is representative of an intrinsic flaw in the character of America and somehow the fault of George W. Bush. And of course, the boring hopelessness of Iraq will be highlighted in another one of Moore’s offerings, Gunner Palace.

Perhaps the most revealing film included, however, is The Woodsman, a movie that insidiously tries to normalize the abnormal by telling the story of a pedophile–sympathetically. The general spin of the script is that the world just isn’t giving a sporting second chance to sex offenders. There’s subtle indoctrination here, and in the end, it seems, it could change the minds of those who support measures to alert local communities to the presence of child molesters. In deliberately choosing to stage his film festival in the heartland, Moore yearns to moderate himself in the eyes of ordinary Americans, and in doing so, to conceal what most people would consider an extremely radical agenda. The Woodsman is a case in point, and is precisely why we set up shop.

My cohort–which includes many who were instrumental in the September, 2004, American Film Renaissance in Texas–hopes that the Traverse Bay Freedom Film Fest will serve as a positive response to Moore’s self-sanitization and, on top of that, a celebration–an uplifting message to personify the American spirit. In addition to showcasing classics like Elia Kazan’s On the Watefront, we will have children’s movies like Charlotte’s Web. There will also be inspiring documentaries like Confronting Iraq and In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War.

On a lighter note, the thought-provoking <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/leigh200409210824.asp"Michael Moore Hates America will also be included. This final film reflects a larger point: It warns us all that “creative” truth-telling is a very human trait, and not the sole province of the Left or the Right.

No matter what one’s political beliefs, it is important to at least try to tell the truth to the best of one’s ability. So, unlike Michael Moore, we will be upfront and say that though a couple of the offerings on our bill are intended to uplift the spirits of conservative-minded folks, all of the films we present are meant to uplift the human spirit. As far as our event in Traverse City is concerned, we won’t be promoting angst and despair in America, or moral relativity. We’ll leave that agenda to the other film festival across town.

Cheryl Rhoads is an actress and writer in Hollywood. For information on The Traverse Bay Freedom Film Festival, please call 231-271-1121 or visit the official website.

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