FRIDAY, MARCH 31
5:00 p.m. — Meet Me At The Lindell: The Story of America’s First Sports Bar (2017)
44 minutes. Directed by Jason Danielewicz.
For more than 50 years, the Lindell AC was the place to see and be seen in Detroit. Thanks to hosts Jimmy and Johnny Butsicaris, on any given night, a beer at the Lindell could be your ticket to an evening with a who’s who of famous athletes, entertainers, politicians and media figures. The film tells the story of the legendary downtown watering hole that launched a million stories.
7:00 p.m — The Force (2017)
1 hour 20 minutes. Directed by Peter Nicks. Michigan premiere
The Force presents a cinema vérité look deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson and an explosive scandal. A young chief, hailed as a reformer, is brought in to complete the turnaround at the very moment the #BlackLivesMatter movement emerges to demand police accountability and racial justice both in Oakland and across the nation. Meanwhile, out on the street, the camera gets up close as rookie and veteran officers alike face an increasingly hostile public where dueling narratives surround each use of force. But just as the department is on the verge of a breakthrough, the man charged with turning the department around faces the greatest challenge of his career – one that could threaten not only the progress that has been made, but the authority of the institution itself. Debuting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Force landed the fest’s U.S documentary directing award for Peter Nicks.
9:30 p.m — Uncle Jessie White – Portrait of a Delta Blues Man in Detroit (2016)
57 minutes. Directed by Anne Marie Graham-Hudak and Stashu Kybartas.
Uncle Jessie White – Portrait of a Delta Bluesman in Detroit tells the story of the late Jessie White, an influential blues artist who had a profound effect on multiple generations of musicians in the Detroit region. An allegory of survival and redemption this film traces Jessie White’s story from his impoverished rural youth in Mississippi to his migration to Detroit where his charismatic personality and musical integrity kept the spirit of the original Delta blues alive during some of Detroit’s darkest days.
SATURDAY, APRIL 1
1:00 p.m. — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future (2016)
1 hour, 10 minutes. Directed by Peter Rosen.
Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future explores the life and visionary work of Finnish-American modernist architectural giant Eero Saarinen (1910-1961). Best known for designing National Historic Landmarks such as St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch and the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Saarinen also designed New York’s TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Yale University’s Ingalls Rink, Virginia’s Dulles Airport and modernist pedestal furniture like the Tulip chair. Saarinen spent much of his life based at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills before his sudden death at age 51 cut short one of the most influential careers in American architecture. The exploration of his professional output is interwoven with stories from his sometimes difficult family life, particularly through the eyes of his son Eric Saarinen, who is the film’s director of photography.
3:00 p.m. — Last Men Standing (2015)
1 hour, 5 minutes. Directed by Erin Brethauer and Tim Hussin. Michigan premiere.
Rich and distinguished stories unfold among the lives of long-term survivors who have learned how to celebrate, heal, love and thrive after the devastation of the early AIDS crisis. In this cathartic and intimate documentary, eight men look back on their experiences and then toward the future with the strength and resiliency they have cultivated over the past 30 years. Produced by the San Francisco Chronicle, the film was booked as part of Freep Film Festival’s outreach to other traditional media who, like the Free Press, are producing feature-length documentaries.
5:30 p.m. — On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone (2017)
1 hour, 47 minutes. Directed by Michael Rubenstone.
University of Michigan graduate Michael Rubenstone, a first-time filmmaker and Sly and the Family Stone super fan, sets out to find the band’s leader: the reclusive funk legend Sly Stone. In doing so, he makes the most comprehensive documentary on the band to date, while also bringing Sly out of hiding for the first time since his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1993. A world premiere at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, “On the Sly” is part road movie, part rock doc, and follows Rubenstone over the course of 10 years as he travels across the U.S. unearthing the true story of the band and chronicling how a musical icon fell from grace. But will he ever get the chance to meet his hero? Is he still the man he set out to find in the first place? Hit the road and join the search!
8:00 p.m. — Field Guide to Sponsored Films (2017)
1 hour, 30 minutes. Michigan premiere.
Self-described meta-archivist Rick Prelinger has spent years collecting, cataloguing and digitizing tens of thousands of ephemeral films that span the spectrum of genre and purpose but together speak volumes about America through its audio-visual past. San Francisco-based Prelinger has become something of a fixture on the Detroit scene in recent years, visiting the city with archival projects such as “No More Road Trips!” and “Lost Landscapes.” This latest program draws on his book “The Field Guide to Sponsored Films,” which details 465 U.S. films “made to sell, train, promote, advocate and convince.” On the occasion of their partial release for free and unlimited use by Prelinger and the Internet Archive, this program features a handful of entertaining selections from that trove. It arrives in Detroit just following its premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco.
SUNDAY, April 2
12:30 p.m. — Dinner in Abruzzo: A Journey Home with My Culinary Godfather (2017)
1 hour, 15 minutes. Directed by Kurlyandchik. World premiere.
Take a culinary journey to the real Italy with two of the Detroit area’s best chefs. James Rigato and his culinary godfather Luciano Del Signore travel to Luciano’s parents’ hometown in Abruzzo, Italy, to attend Luciano’s cousin’s wedding and to seriously cook for much of his Italian family for the first time. Rigato, an Italian-American, has never been to Italy before and learns a lot about his mentor and his own heritage in one whirlwind cooking adventure. This short film by Detroit Free Press restaurant critic Mark Kurlyandchik will be followed by an in-depth conversation between Kurlyandchik, Rigato (Mabel Gray, the Root) and Del Signore (Bigalora, Bacco Ristorante). They’ll discuss the trip, the film, the Detroit restaurant scene and more.
2:30 p.m. — Connections and Identity: Shorts Program #4 (2017)
A selection of documentary shorts focused on people searching for personal connections and self-identity.
5:00 p.m. — Dolores (2017)
1 hour 35 minutes. Directed by Peter Bratt. Michigan premiere.
History tells us that Cesar Chavez transformed the U.S. labor movement by leading the first farm workers’ union. But often missing from this narrative is his equally influential co-founder, Dolores Huerta, who fought tirelessly alongside Chavez for racial and labor justice and became one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th Century. The documentary, which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, has a historical approach, but also arrives decidedly of the moment as the nation debates issues of immigration, environment, labor and women’s rights.