While movies have been a source of entertainment for decades, true film connoisseurs know that they can offer so much more than amusement. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than Traverse City Film Festival founder and president, Michael Moore.

“We bring you this year’s festival in a time where millions find themselves full of anxiety, stress, despair, and an uncertain trepidation of what lies ahead,” said Michael Moore in a recent press release. “So there’s no better time or place than right here, right now, for us to turn to art, to the movies, to find much-needed inspiration, ideas, tears, joy, hope, and a way forward.”

It’s clear the films on the docket for this year’s festival, July 31–August 5, have been carefully curated to open eyes, hearts and minds. From racial inequality and gender discrimination to questions of immigration, these movies are tackling some of the most intrinsic and prevalent issues facing our country—and the world—today. Friends of the Film Festival ticketing began July 15, and public ticketing starts July 21 at 10 a.m. at the Main Box Office (121 E Front St. in ECCO Event Space) and 6 p.m. online.

With that said, here are the 10 movies I’m looking forward to seeing at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival:

1. Boasting a Golden Globe win for Best Foreign Language film, In the Fade tackles white nationalism and the failures of the justice system with authenticity and timeliness. Diane Kruger won Best Actress at Cannes for her performance as Katja, a German native who loses her Middle Eastern immigrant husband and young son to an act of terrorism. Follow along on her journey of despair, outrage and forgiveness.

2. Last Men in Aleppo takes you into the heart of war-torn Syria, following the White Helmets, a group of regular civilians who risk their lives to locate survivors after bombings. This documentary will root you in the visceral tragedy of the ongoing war, all while opening your eyes to the hope and grace that humankind is capable of.

3. You can’t have a movie recommendation list without including a good, old-fashioned western. Hostiles is Christian Bale’s introduction to the genre, following the story of a racist U.S. officer ordered to safely escort a Cheyenne chief through hostile territory. Their intertwining histories of contentious relations will make reconciliation nearly impossible to achieve.

4. It’s likely you’ve already seen Black Panther. But if you haven’t, now’s the time to find out why Marvel’s biggest blockbuster brought in over $1.25 billion worldwide. Featuring an outstanding cast, top-notch special effects and star-studded soundtrack, this is a celebration of pride and identity unlike anything to hit the big screen. When this movie hit theaters in February it was a revolutionary moment in the industry and it’s sure to impress here in Traverse City.

5. Stranger Fruit is a compelling narrative following the investigation into the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Not only does this documentary explore the actual shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old African American by a white police officer, but it follows along with the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, as it became one of the most contentious protests to spread across the country.

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6. Coming to Traverse City as Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award winner, Burden presents the powerful true story of Mike Burden. Though he’s been indoctrinated by the KKK since childhood, Mike is driven to eliminate the hatred from his life following the start of a blossoming relationship. With a supporting cast including Tom Wilkinson, Forest Whitaker and Usher, this film offers both hope and inspiration.

7. Hillbilly confronts the stereotypes of one of the most dismissed regions in the country: Appalachia. Though negative media representations abound, this documentary aims to dismantle the toothless, destitute, coal miner figure that no doubt popped into your head. If nothing else, this documentary is a refreshing call for dialogue.

8. The 1980 classic comedy 9 to 5 confronts the reality of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace with outrageous humor and a comedic cast. Starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and TCFF 2018 Lifetime Achievement Honoree Jane Fonda, this film—radical for its time—is still painfully relevant today.

9. When Marina, the young transgender woman at the center of A Fantastic Woman, loses her much older lover to an aneurysm, she’s banished by his family for her age difference and gender identity. Winner of an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, this Spanish masterpiece evokes an overwhelming sense of loss and surprises audiences with the magical realism so fundamental to Latin American storytelling.

10. While many of the movies on this list have been burdened with heavy topics, Faces Places is the foreign language film to lift your spirits. Follow along as a filmmaker in her 80s and a graffiti artist in his 30s travel the French countryside, bringing street art to villages along the way. It’s a story of art, of collaboration, of community. And it will bring you overwhelming joy.

Photo(s) by Katie Dudlets