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Uptown Film Festival: Michigan’s Version Of Sundance And Cannes

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Courtesy Uptown Film Festival

Courtesy Uptown Film Festival

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BIRMINGHAM (WWJ) - It’s Michigan’s answer to the Sundance, Toronto, and Cannes Film Festivals. The Uptown Film Festival runs through Saturday night in Birmingham. The festival includes dozens of films, documentaries, and short subjects made by Michigan filmmakers, along with other entries from around the world.

“The Uptown Film Festival is really a community event,” said Co-executive Director Jeff Spilman. “We bring in the same quality films that larger film festivals do, just on a smaller scale. The festival was really established to promote Michigan film, and increase awareness of both the arts and the economic engine that the industry provides in the state of Michigan.”

Spilman says the primary purpose of other festivals is to give filmmakers a chance to market and distribute their films. But he says the primary mission of the Uptown Festival is to let people experience what a quality festival is all about, and rub shoulders with producers and directors, both local and national and international.

Some of the highlights of the festival include Michigan Basketball Star Jalen Rose’s documentary “Fab Five,” which was done for ESPN, and Rose and Jimmie King will be there in person to introduce the film, discuss the film, and have a question and answer session. There will also be a special community screening of “The Bully Chronicles,” which is a docudrama looking into the epidemic of bullying.

The festival concludes Saturday night with an awards ceremony that Spilman describes as Michigan’s version of the Oscars. “The Michigan Film Awards will recognize local filmmakers, and on that night, we will also honor the late Elmore Leonard with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to film, and doing a special screening of one of his most successful films “Get Shorty.”

Spilman says the festival also will remind people that Michigan’s film industry is still alive and well, even though the incentive for filmmakers is not as generous as it was a few years ago. Spilman says some big films are still being shot in Michigan, including the new Batman Versus Superman Movie, along with other small and medium budget movies.

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