Film Fest is back July 26–31 in Traverse City! For the first time since the pandemic started, the Traverse City Film Festival will share the art and joy of cinema with showings of must-see new releases, beloved classics and more. Grab some popcorn and dive in to learn more about the festivities.

All About the Traverse City Film Festival

A proud part of Traverse City summers since 2005, the Traverse City Film Festival is finally bringing movie magic back to the big screen after facing pandemic postponements for the past two years. This is also the first year under the direction of the new festival head, Johanna Evans, who is bringing her experience at the Telluride Film Festival and on the staff of Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts to reintroduce Traverse City to the summer staple.

At the energized return, visitors can expect showings of more than 40 movies during the week at four beautiful venues, plus appearances by nearly two dozen filmmakers and stars. Other than screenings, guests are invited to attend panels, workshops and parties to learn and celebrate the wonders of film. Visit TCFF’s website for the full schedule and more information so you don’t miss a moment.

Traverse City Film Festival executive director

Photo by Traverse City Film Festival

TCFF Special Events & Feature Films

Beyond movie showings, there are plenty of exciting can’t-miss events at this year’s festival. Kick off Film Fest at the Opening Night Party in Clinch Park on July 26, where there will be live music by The Burney Sisters and catering from local restaurants in the backdrop of the stunning Bijou by the Bay theater. On Saturday, the Filmmaker Party will honor the winning filmmakers and celebrate all the films featured at the festival with drinks, desserts and a live musical performance by The Accidentals. For free special programming, check out Clinch Park each day to attend discussion panels with filmmakers, local artists and activists on the art of film and its connection to Traverse City.

Like previous years, feature films will be screened at the State Theater, with the addition of the insightful Opening Night Film, The American Dream & Other Fairy Tales, also being shown at the Bijou. Ranging from the dark comedy of Centerpiece Film winner Bo Burnham: Inside to the revealing thriller of Founder’s Prize winner God’s Country, this year’s feature films are about thought-provoking topics that made headlines during the pandemic and continue to be integral to conversations today.

Look at the full schedule to learn more about these showings and to buy tickets.

Can’t-Miss Community Showings at the Open Space

Bring a blanket and friends to the Open Space in Downtown Traverse City each night at dusk for free outdoor film showings! From The Wizard of Oz on Tuesday to Star Wars: A New Hope on Sunday, the lineup features fantasy films that transport viewers to new and historical worlds while holding relevance to modern day. Other popular picks include Alien and The Princess Bride, offering an adventure-filled flick for everyone to enjoy.

Explore the full schedule of FREE community movies on TCFF’s website.

peoples choice night traverse city film festival

Photo by Traverse City Film Festival

Michigan-Made Movies to See this Year

In addition to the award-winning films featured from across the globe, four films being shown at this year’s TCFF were made in Michigan!

Documentary Eli: A Dog In Prison takes viewers inside Michigan’s Macomb Correctional Facility as three inmates train the feisty pup, Eli, to become a guide dog, revealing the institutional problems of the American prison system and the hope that manages to bloom within it. Following the showing on Tuesday will be a Q&A panel with director and TCFF alum Jason Kohl and additional guests. For more details and ticket information, head to the film’s page on TCFF’s website.

In a compelling documentary, Bad Axe chronicles the true accounts of an Asian-American family, the Sievs, from 2020 struggling to operate their restaurant in conservative Michigan. As they face the fears of an international pandemic, the Sievs are also confronted with the radicalization of COVID-19, xenophobic bigotry and reminders of their ancestors’ involvement in the Cambodian Killing Fields. Director David Siev will be present at the showings, which you can find more information about at the film’s page on TCFF’s website.

Discover the true story of a man from Michigan smuggling and selling rare PEZ candy dispensers for thousands of dollars in The PEZ Outlaw. Compelling beyond its initial shock-factor, The PEZ Outlaw is a light-hearted crime documentary that invites viewers to rethink how they give their life meaning. After the showings will be Q&A and discussion panels with the directors Bryan Storkel and Amy Brandlien. Find more information at the film’s page on TCFF’s website.

An adventure comedy that explores the questions of life and love millennials face, Quicksand was filmed in Traverse City and follows two friends as they go on a life-or-death mission to retrieve the missing wedding ring of their best friend in time for the big day. A Q&A will be hosted with director John Paul Morris and producers Chris Loud and Nick Loud after the viewings. To learn more, visit the film’s page on TCFF’s website.

traverse city film festival parties

Photo by Jordan Oster