The documentary films at the 2014 Traverse City Film Festival, held July 29th to August 3rd in Traverse City, hit on themes of equality, struggle and confession. Follow an American gospel choir in Palestine, hear the first confessions of some Vietnam-era protestors, travel with a wedding photographer as he visits eight couples many years later and much more. Tickets for most films at the Traverse City Film Festival go on sale July 13, so mark the date!

Documentary Films at the 2014 Traverse City Film Festival

112 WEDDING – Friday 12 pm City Opera House and Sunday 9 pm Bijou by the Bay | 2014 | USA | NR | 95 min.

For the last two decades, Doug Block has supported his documentary filmmaking career by moonlighting as a wedding videographer. 112 Weddings later, he has amassed hundreds of hours of footage of couples on their big day when their love was new and energetic. But what are their marriages like years later? Who has kept the spark and who has lost it? Block revisits nine couples to see how their marriages are (or aren’t) working out, asking the difficult questions about what it takes to make a relationship work. From ecstatic celebrations to intimate and candid present-day interviews, “112 Weddings” explores love and the true meaning of commitment with curiosity, humor, and heart.

1971 – Wednesday 12 pm City Opera House | 2014 | USA | NR | 80 min.

Joining the great genre of improbable heist movies is the true story of government protestors who used the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden as cover to handily defeat J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI at the height of the Vietnam War. Meet the members of the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, who used crowbars instead of computers to expose government records to the media in March, 1971. Retold by the participants, confessing on camera for the first time, and through archival footage combined with compelling reenactments, we see the fascinating parallels between Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and this small group of dedicated academic activists who exposed thousands of files from a regional FBI office.

AL HELM: MARTIN LUTHER KING IN PALESTINE – Thursday 3 pm Milliken Auditorium and Sunday 3 pm Bijou by the Bay | 2013 | USA | NR | 96 min.

Offering a fresh perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Al Helm” (Arabic for “The Dream”) follows an African-American Christian gospel choir as they team up with a troupe from the Palestinian National Theater to perform a play about Martin Luther King, Jr., and spread the concept of equality through non-violence to the people of the West Bank. Filmmaker Connie Field captures the power of art to change the way people think as both the Americans and Palestinians find they have much to learn from each other in this unique cultural exchange, providing new insight into life in Palestine under occupation and how a young generation is changing the political conversation through non-violent acts of protest.

BENDING THE LIGHT – Sunday 12 pm Old Town Playhouse | 2014 | USA | NR | 60 min.

From renowned director and TCFF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Michael Apted (“56 Up,” TCFF ’13) comes a revealing and marvelous look at the heart and science of image making. Taking you on a passionate journey, “Bending the Light” explores the divinely harmonious relationship between the artisans who craft camera lenses and the masters who use lenses to reflect humanity’s hopes, fears, and dreams. Whether peering into the infinite vastness of the solar system, freezing a beautiful moment in time, or creating indelible moving images that live within our hearts and minds, they paint with light in an attempt to create transcendent understanding. A must-see for anyone with an interest in the photographic arts, this poetic and soulful film will astound you with its breathtakingly beautiful imagery.

BRONX OBAMA – Friday 3 pm City Opera House | 2013 | USA | NR | 92 min.

Louis Ortiz was an unemployed single father living in the Bronx when his fate changed for the better: after shaving off his goatee, people noticed he was a dead ringer for President Barack Obama. Capitalizing on his resemblance to the POTUS, Ortiz honed his Obama act with the help of a casting agent who manages a group of political impersonators (including Mitt Romney and a sleazy Bill Clinton), and hit the road in pursuit of an unlikely version of the American Dream. First time director Ryan Murdock follows Ortiz’s story with humor and heart, charting his transformation and the obstacles he overcomes alongside the changes taking place in America during Obama’s first two terms in office. Along the way, we discover something interesting about what it means to be someone you’re not.

THE CASE AGAINST 8 – Thursday 12 pm City Opera House | 2014 | USA | NR | 109 min.

In 2008, the passing of Proposition 8 revoked marriage rights for same-sex couples in California just months after the state Supreme Court legalized it. Here’s your all-access pass behind the scenes of the five-year journey to overturn Proposition 8, a landmark legal battle over one of the most vital civil rights issues of our time. This rousing Sundance award winner by filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White follows history in the making from the very beginning of the battle to the climactic moment when two LGBT activist couples and their larger-than-life lawyers from opposite sides of the political spectrum (who had previously butted heads in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case) team up together to beat the right wing, in front of a right wing Supreme Court.

CASTING BY – Friday 9 am Milliken Auditorium | 2012 | USA | NR | 89 min.

If you love the movies, you will love this documentary, end of story. A look into one of the most critical, most unsung, and most misunderstood roles in filmmaking, the amazing story of casting director Marion Dougherty takes center stage in this illuminating behind-the-scenes doc. An iconoclast who changed the face of Hollywood with her impeccable taste and incomparable instincts, she brought a different kind of actor into the movies, making choices based not on looks but rather on the ability to create compelling characters. Among her discoveries were James Dean, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman. Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Jeff Bridges, and other filmmaking luminaries weigh in on the crucial role casting directors play in the creative process and the destiny-changing career-launching power they possess.

DANGEROUS ACTS STARRING THE UNSTABLE ELEMENTS OF BELARUS – Thursday 9 am Bijou by the Bay | 2013 | Belarus | NR | 76 min.

Belarus is home to the last surviving dictatorship in Europe. Following the dubious reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko in 2010, a new voice of protest against the regime emerges in the form of the Belarus Free Theatre, a world-renowned performance group that defies the censors at home through underground performances. But as the resistance movement in the country gains steam on stage and in the streets, the government’s increased crackdown on dissenters means the troupe risks exile, imprisonment, or worse each time they perform. Director Madeleine Sackler captures a country fighting for historic change in this rousing documentary, a brave and provocative look at art as a weapon against oppression.

DINOSAUR 13 – Thursday 12 pm State Theatre and Saturday 3 pm Lars Hockstad Auditorium | 2014 | USA | PG | 95 min.

In the Badlands of South Dakota in the summer of 1990, a team of amateur paleontologists led by Peter Larson made the discovery of a lifetime: the world’s largest and most complete T. Rex fossil, which the team named “Sue” after the volunteer who first spotted the dinosaur. But Larson’s joy was short lived- an epic legal battle soon began over the rights to Sue, with Larson’s team, the US government, and Native American tribes each claiming ownership of the fossil. Director Todd Douglas Miller’s compelling documentary follows this stranger-than-fiction David vs. Goliath story over the course of a decade, as working class dreams are attacked by governmental and corporate powers.

DON’T LEAVE ME (NE ME QUITTE PAS) – Wednesday 9 am Old Town Playhouse and Thursday 6 pm City Opera House | 2013 | Belgium | NR | 107 min.

Give this film a chance and you’ll learn something new about men (the species), laugh yourself silly, and find your American sensibilities being assaulted in the most thought-provoking ways. It’s hard to believe this deadpan movie by two Dutch filmmakers is a documentary—it doesn’t seem like any filmmaker could get such intimate access into the life of a bitter yet impossibly likable man living in the forests of isolated southern Belgium, much less two such men who have pitch-perfect chemistry as they stumble through life drowning their sorrows in booze. An infectiously lighthearted portrait of alcoholic friends who want to commit suicide, “Don’t Leave Me” plays like an upbeat “Waiting for Godot” set to a bouncy rockabilly soundtrack; it’s the ultimate absurdist buddy comedy with brains. Do not miss this film.

FED UP – Wednesday 3:00 pm Lars Hockstad | 2014 | USA | PG | 92 min.

Katie Couric narrates this surprising exposé of the food industry, offering a unique take on a story that, as she recalls, began many years ago as a small sidebar about increasing obesity among Americans. Now a huge story that she and her fellow TV journalists cover constantly, Couric and filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig set out to uncover the reasons why the next generations of American kids are likely to have shorter life spans than their parents, despite media attention, the public’s fascination with appearance, and government policies to combat childhood obesity. By following the battles of three obese children to lose weight, through interviews with top experts in the field, and by using sharp examination of data gathered over the course of 30 years, “Fed Up” aims to change the way you think about sugar and the way you eat.

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER – Saturday 12 pm State Theatre and Sunday 9 am  Milliken Auditorium | 2013 | USA | NR | 83 min.

One of the year’s great films, “Finding Vivian Maier” tells the story of a working class woman who photographed life on the street as she saw it. A nanny by trade, Vivian Maier secretly held a passion for photography, leaving behind a legacy of over 100,000 photos that may have vanished into obscurity had they not caught the eye of amateur historian John Maloof (one of the film’s co-directors). Teaming up with filmmaker Charlie Siskel, Maloof sets out on a journey across New York, France, and Chicago to uncover the mysteries of one of the 20th century’s great unknown photographers.

A GOAT FOR A VOTE  – Saturday 3 pm Bijou by the Bay | 2014 | Netherlands | NR | 50 min.

What does democracy look like through the eyes of a teenager in rural Kenya? This charming and enlightening documentary follows three students through their campaigns to become class president, which will not only earn them respect of their peers but could also be a stepping stone to greater things in Kenyan society. On the ballot are the popular and well-to-do Said, who writes a catchy rap song for his campaign; Harry, who tries to bribe his classmates with goat meat; and Magdalene, who rallies her fellow female students in an attempt to become the first girl president of her school. Expertly directed by filmmaker Jeroen van Velzen, “A Goat for a Vote” is a thoughtful and entertaining look at the democratic process.

HAPPY VALLEY – Friday 9 am Bijou by the Bay | 2014 | USA | NR | 100 min.

For many of the citizens of State College, home to Penn State University, college football is a religion, and for four decades, Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was their patron saint—until November 2011, when longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with over 40 counts of child sex abuse, shattering Paterno’s legacy under allegations that he turned a blind eye to immoral behavior. Director Amir Bar-Lev (“The Tillman Story,” TCFF ’10 and “12-12-12,” TCFF ‘14) delves beyond the public perception of the controversy to show how it affected lives in Penn State and the surrounding community, and asks bigger questions about how we choose our heroes and what happens when college football becomes a way of life.

THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ – Thursday 3 pm Old Town Playhouse | 2014 | USA | NR | 105 min.

As a teenage programming prodigy, Aaron Swartz emerged on the tech scene at the tender age of 14 when he helped author the now-ubiquitous blogging technology RSS. Just a few short years later, he became a major voice for an open internet by helping to create the alternate-copy right platform Creative Commons, and co-founding Reddit. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge and passion for freedom of information set him on a path to become one of the pioneers of internet activism. But shortly after being prosecuted by the FBI for his efforts in making millions of academic articles publicly available, Swartz tragically took his life at the age of 26. Director Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists,”TCFF, ‘12) pays tribute to Swartz’s life in this timely, powerful documentary, a must-see for anyone invested in the future of a free and open internet.

IVORY TOWER – Wednesday 3 pm Milliken Aud. and Sunday 9 am Lars Hockstead Aud. | 2014 | USA | PG-13 | 97 min.

With college tuition fees skyrocketing, student loan debt passing the trillion dollar mark, and recent graduates struggling to find employment, where are the young adults of
today to turn for a worthwhile higher education? Filmmaker Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside the New York Times”) traverses the country to provide a panoramic view of edu cation in America during a period of monumental change, profiling traditional universities as well as online courses, free schools, and other alternatives to the standard model. A must-see for anyone with an interest in our country’s education system, “Ivory Tower” questions the increasingly outrageous costs of college education and the burden that business-driven university administrations place on our society.

LETTERS TO JACKIE: REMEMBERING PRESIDENT KENNEDY – Wednesday Noon Milliken Aud. and Friday Noon Bijou by the Bay | 2013 | USA | NR | 88 min.

Fifty years after the country was brought to its knees following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “Letters to Jackie” pays timely tribute to the president’s life, revisiting America in the 60s and the enduring legacy of a beloved presidency. In the two months following the assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy received over 800,000 letters from average American citizens offering condolences to the First Lady and mourning the loss of a great leader. Oscar-winning filmmaker Bill Couturié artfully combines archival footage with Kennedy family home movies, set to vivid readings of the letters by an all-star cast of actors, to create a portrait of the hopes, dreams, and promise for a better future that Kennedy signified to many in our nation. Bring Kleenex.

LIFE ITSELF – Thursday 3 pm State Theatre and Sunday noon City Opera House | 2014 | USA | NR | 112 min.

Told largely in his own words, Roger Ebert’s legendary life spent at the movies now has the big-screen treatment it so richly deserves. Combining the reminisces of family, friends,and the filmmakers whose careers he touched, “Life Itself” takes you from Ebert’s days as a college newspaperman, to his gin-soaked newsman era at the Sun-Times and life as a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and populist TV pundit, to regaining his voice online after losing it to cancer. Director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) was given considerable access to Ebert in the final months of his life, and while Ebert’s death looms large over the film, so does his unwavering passion for the movies, a love that inspired us all. Imbued with the same wit, honesty, and empathetic revelations his reviews were famous for, this is a movie of such devastatingly beautiful emotion, we can’t help but think he would have given it a thumbs up.

LOVE AND TERROR ON THE HOWLING PLAINS OF NOWHERE – Friday 9 pm Bijou and Saturday 6 pm Old Town Playhouse | 2014 | USA | NR | 95 min.

In 2006, Dr. Steven Haataja had just settled into his new post as a math professor at the local college in the sleepy town of Chadron, population 5,600, in the far western plains of Nebraska. Later that year, he would disappear without a trace—until his body was discovered three months later, burned beyond recognition. The gruesome discovery sets the town reeling, with conspiracy theories running rampant and locals eager to weigh in with their suspicions. Following the lead of author Poe Ballantine—whose acclaimed memoir inspired the film—filmmaker Dave Jannetta smartly leads us through the “Twin Peaks”-like community of Chadron and the unsolved mystery of Haataja’s bizarre death, with morbid humor and a keen eye for eccentric characters.

MEET THE PATELS – Friday 6 pm Lars Hockstead and Saturday 3 pm at State Theater | 2014 | USA | PG | 88 min.

Fresh off a breakup that leaves his heart and head spinning, first-generation Indian-American Ravi Patel has had enough of contemporary courtship and starts to consider finding a wife the old-fashioned way—by enlisting the help of his matchmaking parents. As he embarks on a cross-country dating odyssey, Ravi’s sister joins him
to document the matrimonial conventions, awkward setups, and surprising twists along the way. Without a doubt one of the most laugh-out-loud and joyous documentaries we’ve seen this year, Ravi’s sweetly-meddling,advice-spouting, larger-than-life parents (who upon first arriving in the US landed in Houghton, MI) will delight you with their bighearted embrace. But behind its light tone, the film is not only a testament to the travails of modern love, but also a universal look at the struggle between upholding tradition and forging our own paths.

MISSION BLUE – Friday 6 pm at Milliken and Sunday 3:30 pm at Lars Hockstead | 2014 | USA | G | 95 min.

Majestic underwater photography and an essential environmental message make this compelling portrait of a true American pioneer one of the most enlightening, stunning,
and inspiring documentaries we’ve seen this year. Dr. Sylvia Earle is a living legend; as an oceanographer, explorer, and eco-activist, she broke barriers as a scientist in a community that had a hard time seeing her as more than a pretty girl in a swim suit. Feeling most at home underwater, Earle’s exuberant exploration of the deep seas has led to unprecedented discoveries. And now nearing 80 years old, with 7,000+ hours spent underwater, Earle is one of the foremost advocates for our imperiled oceans, whose poor conditions portend potentially disastrous implications for human life. Join Dr. Earle on her globetrotting mission to create “Hope Spots” protected from human interference, and her infectious passion will leap off the screen and into your heart.

MITT – Wednesday 9 am State Theatre and Sunday 6 pm at Bijou | 2014 | USA | NR | 92 min.

Allowed unprecedented access to Michigan-native Mitt Romney on the campaign trail—and complete creative control over the resulting documentary, provided no
footage was released until after the 2012 presidential election—filmmaker Greg Whiteley delivers an amazingly candid portrait of the life of a major presidential hopeful. With a fly-on-the-wall approach, this fascinating documentary downplays the politics in favor of showing the man behind the public figure, capturing small moments between Romney and his close-knit family with home movie-like intimacy over the course of six years and two failed campaigns—from his besting at the primaries by John McCain in 2008 to the eventual loss to Barack Obama in 2012. Both revelatory and humanizing, this absorbing documentary will show you Mitt in a whole new light.

THE NEWBURGH STING – Thursday Noon at Bijou | 2014 | USA | NR | 80 min.

If you like outrageously unbelievable true stories, documented by seemingly irrefutable footage, this movie will blow your mind. In 2009, a Pakistani FBI informant posing as a rich business man secretly recorded hours of incriminating conversations in his BMW and Mercedes with four black Muslim men from poverty-stricken Newburgh, as he helped coerce them into bombing synagogues and a National Guard Air Base by promising a big payday. Using shocking FBI surveillance footage, directors David Heilbroner and Kate Davis carefully reconstruct the evidence that points increasingly to a government set-up, mounting a strong counter-argument against the media’s portrayal of the men as cold, calculating terrorists. A stunning exposé on the lengths the American government will go in the name of the “War on Terror,” “The Newburgh Sting” is an impassioned look at a perceived miscarriage of justice.

RICH HILL – Saturday 3 pm City Opera House and Sunday 3 pm at Old Town Playhouse | 2014 | USA | NR | 91 min.

Winner of the US Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, “Rich Hill” is a quintessential portrait of America in 2014 told through the eyes of three teenage boys in Rich Hill, MO—a town with a population of just under 1,400 and a poverty rate of 19%; a place like many others in our country where the middle class has been destroyed and the working class is fighting to stay above the poverty line. Through the skillful and sensitive lenses of filmmaking cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palmero, we are introduced to the lives of Harley, Andrew, and Appachey, and the stubborn optimism with which they navigate the difficult road through adolescence and bravely confront their circumstances. “Rich Hill” is truly stunning achievement of cinema and an ode to the resilient spirit that is alive and well in rural America, in spite of grim economic conditions.

THE OVERNIGHTERS – Saturday Noon Milliken and Sunday 3 pm Old Town Playhouse | 2013 | USA | NR | 100 min.

The limits of “Love Thy Neighbor” and the American Dream are tested in this superior, richly layered, searingly American documentary about a small town turned boomtown after hydraulic fracturing uncovers a rich oil field in North Dakota. Tens of thousands of unemployed men descend on the state, only to find slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep. Meanwhile, in the nearby small town of Williston, Pastor Reinke believes it is his duty to turn his Lutheran Church into a makeshift dorm and counseling center for the migrants each night. Much of the community opposes his approach, and even want to deny the homeless any services. Filmmaker Jesse Moss spent two years embedded in Williston to make this devastating masterpiece, complete with a twist ending you probably won’t see coming.

POINT AND SHOOT – Wednesday Noon Bijou | 2014 | USA | NR | 83 min.

This year’s winner of the award for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Point and Shoot” tells the engrossing story of Matthew VanDyke, a timid young American with OCD who traveled across the Middle East for a self-described “crash course in manhood,” filming every step of the way. His journey eventually led him to Libya, where he became perhaps the most unlikely member of the revolution against Gadhafi. Camera in one hand, gun in the other, Matthew captured the fight on the front lines—until being taken prisoner and held in solitary confinement for six months. A remarkably gifted storyteller, director Marshall Curry (“If a Tree Falls,” winner of the Founders Award for Best Documentary at TCFF ‘11) skillfully combines VanDyke’s footage with interviews that offer insight into his personal transformation, and examine ideas of masculinity and what drives people to take part in war.

PRINT THE LEGEND – Friday 6 pm Bijou | 2014 | USA | NR | 100 min.

The emerging field of 3D printing has been described as “the next Industrial Revolution;” a uniquely disruptive technology that is poised to change the world’s commerce by enabling people to manufacture objects in their homes. This engrossing documentary follows two companies vying for position on the cusp of history as they race to bring 3D printing to the home user, with everything from the print-your-own-gun controversy to the ability to print human organs. Filmmakers Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel offer an early behind-the-scenes look at this fascinating emerging technology, capturing a compelling tale about what it takes to live the American Dream in the modern world.

RETURN TO HOMS – Wednesday 9 pm Bijou | 2013 | Germany, Syria | NR | 87 min.

In the western Syria city of Homs lives Basset, a charismatic, 19-year-old goalkeeper for the Syrian national soccer team and talented singer/songwriter. His friend
Ossama, a 24-year-old media activist and pacifist, works with Basset for peaceful libration from their country’s brutal regime. For two years starting in 2011, filmmaker
Talal Derki followed the two friends as they navigated lively protest parties, panicking citizens on the run, grim battles in a deserted city, and rising numbers of fallen
loved ones, while their beloved home city crumbled around them. Meanwhile, they turn from peaceful protest to become rebel insurgents. With no narration or
soundtrack other than Basset’s songs, Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner “Return to Homs” is a shockingly visceral look at the excitement of protest, the painful
dilemma of duty, and, most of all, the horror of war. In Arabic with subtitles.

SLOW FOOD STORY – Wednesday 6 pm Old Town Playhouse | 2013 | Ireland, Italy | NR | 74 min.

The tale of a revolution more than 25 years in the making, “Slow Food Story” charts the titular anti-fast food movement led by Carlo Petrini from its inception in 1986, spurred by the opening of a McDonald’s in the heart of historic Rome, to its current global status with members in over 150 countries. This charming documentary follows the slow food movement’s growth under the charismatic leadership of Petrini from his picturesque hometown in Piedmont, Italy, as his lively and vibrant brand of environmental activism earns the cause high-profile supporters, including Alice Waters and Michael Pollen. Sure to speak to the hearts, minds, and stomachs of Michigan foodies, and anyone with a passion for eating well. In Italian with subtitles.

RUNNING FROM CRAZY – Wednesday 3 pm Bijou by the Bay | 2013 | USA | NR | 100 min.

Behind the literary prowess at the heart of Ernest Hemingway’s legacy also lies the “terrible curse” of suicide that continues to haunt the family to this day. Mariel Hemingway, Ernest’s granddaughter, looks back on the more than seven suicides in her immediate family, with special attention paid to the untimely death of her supermodel sister Margaux. Revealing hidden family secrets, Mariel strives to understand how, in spite of having experienced depression and suicidal thoughts firsthand,
she can keep herself and her daughters from surrendering to the same fate. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County USA”) crafts an open-hearted and wise film that uses home movies and rare archival footage to offer unique insights into a famously troubled family, as Mariel breaks down taboos
about mental health issues while advocating for suicide prevention.

SILENCED – Thursday 6 pm Old Town Playhouse | 2014 | USA | NR | 103 min.

”I’m fighting to have my September 10 country back,” says Jesselyn Radack, one of the three government whistleblowers to speak out for the first time in this
film by Academy Award-nominee James Spione. Muscled out of the Justice Department after releasing emails regarding John Walker Lindh, Radack now works on
whistleblower cases like those of Thomas Drake, who exposed illegal spying on American citizens, and John Kiriakou, the first CIA agent to publicly confirm the use of torture in terrorism interrogations. Only 11 Americans have ever been charged under the Espionage Act of 1917; eight of those charges have been filed since President Obama took office. Particularly resonant in the post-Snowden era, “Silenced” is an impassioned defense of whistleblowers as an essential part of a healthy democracy.

SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON – Thursday 9 pm Boat, Saturday 3 pm Milliken Auditorium and Sunday 6 pm City Opera House | 2013 | USA | R | 84 min.

Mike Myers’ directorial debut is a fascinating portrait of one of the most well-known managers in Hollywood, yet a man few outside show business know—the legendary Shep Gordon. He’s managed great bands, produced movies, and even invented the “celebrity chef.” Myers’ documentary is a fascinating look at both the wheeling and dealing of the entertainment industry and the concept of what constitutes a friend or mentor in show business. You’ll especially like the part covering his time in Detroit, including the story of how Detroit made Alice Cooper famous. Told by his friends Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Emeril Lagasse, and Steven Tyler, Gordon’s storied career is by turns funny, revealing, shocking, and, when covering his recent years in Hawaii, moving and profound.

TO BE TAKEI – Wednesday 9 pm Boat and Thursday 9 pm Milliken Auditorium | 2014 | USA | NR | 90 min.

“Star Trek” icon. LGBT activist. Internet sensation. The remarkable life and career of George Takei is chronicled in this crowd-pleasing documentary of camp and conviction. Boldly going from stock player to beloved pop culture figure and gay rights advocate, today Takei is perhaps best known not for his groundbreaking work as Sulu on “Star Trek,” but for regaling his millions of social media followers with his candor and wicked wit. With a contagious optimism, despite a childhood spent in WWII Japanese-American internment camps, Takei’s inspiring second act also finds him and his husband Brad (their playful bickering is a sitcom waiting to happen) as the unlikely poster couple for marriage equality. Touching and hilarious, Takei’s tireless crusade for equal rights is an exhilarating quest for liberty and love.

TWO RAGING GRANNIES – Saturday Noon City Opera House and Sunday 6 pm Milliken Auditorium | 2013 | Denmark, Italy, Norway | NR | 78 min.

Who would have thought that one of the best explanations of modern day capitalism would come from two women who grew up during the Great Depression? Armed with
curious minds, common sense, and the audacity to ask straightforward questions, Shirley (90) and Hinda (84) set out on their scooters to journey across the USA from
Seattle to Wall Street, aiming to figure out how we got into the current financial crisis and just how messed up our economy really is. With humor, heart, and a fair amount of friendly bickering, “Two Raging Grannies” follows their search for answers (in plain English!) as they meet everyone from economists to homeless people to investment bankers, asking whether our current model of perpetual economic growth is sustainable.

THE UNKNOWN KNOWN – Saturday 9 am Bijou by the Bay | 2013 | USA | PG-13 | 102 min.

With a typically unconventional approach, Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris offers a thoroughly fascinating look at the life of Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush who left a lasting legacy as the principal architect of the Iraq War. Comprised largely of extended interviews with Rumsfeld himself, “The Unknown Known” charts Rumsfeld’s long history in Washington, from his roles as ambassador under Nixon and Secretary of State under Ford to his return to politics during
the Bush years, allowing Rumsfeld to explain his decisions and philosophies. The result is less a political commentary than it is an examination of the dual-edged power of language, which can be used as a tool for diplomacy or for evil.

VIRUNGA – Thursday Noon Milliken Auditorium and Friday 3 pm Bijou by the Bay | 2014 | UK | NR | 97 min.

The home to the world’s only remaining population of wild mountain gorillas lies in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site deep in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this most precious of places, it’s no surprise that corruption and greed threaten destruction and death, as many forces vie for control over the lucrative natural resources underground. The last line of defense against these devastating forces is a group of fiercely dedicated park rangers and journalists who stand guard over the park and its inhabitants, wielding guns, hidden cameras, and the mighty pen to protect the park’s precious and delicate ecosystem. Director Orlando von Einsiedel shows us the park when Congo’s largest rebel group declares war on the government, just one of the dangers posed by the ongoing political and environmental crisis in Congo. In English, French, and Swahili with subtitles.

WALKING UNDER WATER – Thursday 9 am Milliken Auditorium | 2014 | Germany, Poland, UK | NR | 76 min.

Some of the most beautiful cinematography ever to hit TCFF screens awaits you in this remarkable portrait of an endearing uncle and his nephew, who live in a culture so foreign to us that it’s both enlightening and bewildering to enter their world. Alexan (the uncle) happens to be the only remaining Badjao compressor diver on Mabul Island near Borneo—and as we find out, there’s more than one reason why he’s the last of his kind. As his nephew Sari struggles to choose between his uncle’s traditional life at harmony with the sea and working in the nearby resort, you’ll find it hard to believe that anyone ever made a living this way. Meanwhile, back in his home perched on the edge of the ocean, Alexan’s wife is a whole other kettle of amusing trouble. Made to be viewed on the big screen with contemplative moments and deep thoughts throughout, “Walking Under Water” is a unique opportunity to go someplace beautiful and extremely “other.” In Badjao with subtitles.

More 2014 Traverse City Film Festival