Moore meets reel America

Filmmaker pays visit to Michigan fest

Michael Moore has a message for Hollywood, and no, it’s not about George W. Bush‘s handling of the war in Iraq.

He says the second edition of the Traverse City Film Festival, held in this tiny resort town on the shore of Lake Michigan, is proof that people still like to see good movies in theaters.

The seven-day fest sold out most of its nearly 100 showings of 68 films, an eclectic mix of classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” studio fare like 20th Century Fox’s “Borat” and indies such Iraqi war doc “The War Tapes,” as well as the Iranian-made “Men at Work.”

It’s a far-flung location for movie industry execs — Moore picked Traverse City because he owns a home outside of town — but he managed to attract quite a few Hollywood types. Attending are several Hollywood names, including Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel (who reps Moore), “Hotel Rwanda” helmer Terry George, “Borat” helmer Larry Charles and producer Lawrence Bender, whose “An Inconvenient Truth” sold out four shows.

“The continued decrease in attendance (for Hollywood films) is not because of piracy, videogames, or the Internet, it’s because the movies aren’t very good anymore,” Moore says. The fest sellouts, he says, show an aud demand for better fare.

If that sounds a bit apolitical for the filmmaker behind “Fahrenheit 9/11,” that’s intentional. Northwestern Michigan is largely Republican territory, and to sidestep local criticism that the town was giving Moore a political platform, he’s been insisting that the fest is about movies first.

Indeed, the slogan on the banners that festoon downtown says it all: “Just Good Movies.”