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by Eugene Hernandez
July 13, 2006 8:48 AM
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With a Popular Film Fest, And a New Movie In The Works, Michael Moore Remains in Spotlight

While Michael Moore works to complete his upcoming feature film, "Sicko," the director is also prepping the second annual edition of his Traverse City Film Festival in Northern Michigan, an event that has generated a tremendous amount of local attention in only its second year. The fest will take place from July 31 - August 6, with a focus on the complete works of Stanley Kubrick and a salute to Iranian cinema as well as a tribute to David O. Russell and the best films from the U.S. festival circuit. While working to manage the growing fest, Moore also plans to have his new movie in theaters next year.

With 75% of "Sicko" now shot, Moore describes the film as "a comedy about 45 million people with no health care in the richest country on earth." Prior to hosting a recent Manhattan showing of "Who Killed The Electric Car?," which will screen at the Traverse City fest, Moore told indieWIRE that he was half-way finished with the movie, and hoping to complete it by the end of the year. The Weinstein Company is expected to release the film in theaters in 2007.

In the letter to his email list, Moore noted that back in February he solicited messages describing individual experiences within the U.S. health care system. He received some 19,000 responses. "It was truly overwhelming as we literally took a month and read them all," Moore said in the email. "To read about the misery people are put through on a daily basis by our profit-based system was both moving and revolting. That's all I will say right now."

"Like my other movies, what we start with (General Motors, guns, 9/11) is not always what we end with," Moore continued in the personal message to his email list over the weekend. "Along the way, we discover new roads to go down, roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas -- and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with. That, I can say with certainty, is happening now as we shoot 'Sicko.'" Continuing he explained, "I don't think the country needs a movie that tells you that HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies suck. Everybody knows that. I'd like to show you some things you don't know. So stay tuned for where this movie has led me. I think you might enjoy it."

Back in Traverse City, MI, tickets for the second annual festival, which last year welcomed some 50,000 admissions for the four-day event, went through the roof according to organizers. This year the fest has been expanded to one full week and just hours after tickets went on sale over the weekend, more than 40% of the fest's tickets were quickly sold out. Promotion from the email, in which Moore invited those on his list to buy tickets, no doubt helped quite a bit. For example, of the dozen films screening in the fest's documentary section, all but one screening of one film is already sold out, according to the event's ticket site.

Festival president and artistic director Michael Moore founded the event last year as a way, in his words, "to bring some of the best independent films I've seen to a wider audience." His slogan for the event is simply: "Just Great Movies" and he personally selected the event's roster. The doc lineup includes such recent films as James Longley's "Iraq In Fragments," a big winner at Sundance this year and many other popular fest circuit docs including Kirby Dick's "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," Alexandra Lipsitz's "Air Guitar Nation" and Josh Gilbert's "a/k/a Tommy Chong."

Opening the event at the State Theater in downtown Traverse City will be Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache's "Pittsburgh," which also screened earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. Described by fest organizers as "part documentary, all comedy," the film follows actor Jeff Goldblum as he travels to Pittsburgh to join a local theater production of "The Music Man." Among those playing themselves are Ileana Douglas, Ed Begley Jr., Craig Kilborn, Moby, Alanis Morissette and Conan O'Brien.

Large outdoor screenings of films ranging from "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" to "The Wizard of Oz" and "Dr. Stangelove" are on tap, as are a salute to Tom Cruise with films such as Cameron Crowe's "Jerry Maguire" and Oliver Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July." Narrative titles will include Woody Allen's "Scoop," and Jeff Garlin's "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With," among others.

"If you don't hear much from me in the meantime, it's only 'cause I'm busy working," Moore added as he concluded his email message, and adding about the slate for his second annual film fest, "I've personally selected 60 or so movies that I love, many of which did not get the notice or distribution they deserved. Others are brand new independent movies and documentaries that I hope will find a large audience when they are released."

[For more information, please visit the Traverse City Film Festival website.]

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