It's no secret that South Haven is one of Michigan's summer hotspots, and it has the perfect way to usher in its most popular season – the Waterfront Film Festival, running June 12-15. While the festival technically takes place the weekend before summer officially begins, there are still lots of beaches and boardwalks, as well as movies being shown at multiple locations.
“The Michigan Theater is a beautiful, historic theater, which we were really interested in, and it has multiple screens and a lot of seating,” said Patrick Revere, media coordinator for WFF. “The other places that were available were just easily converted and made for very nice venues as well.”
Originally held in Saugatuck, organizers decided to move to South Haven in 2013 to adapt to a growing audience, and to make the festival more accessible to travelers. It was a major success, though they did have their share of trials and tribulations.
“Last year on the opening day, we had the added hurdle of a windstorm the night before and it knocked out power to the whole area, so we had to have generators brought in from the other side of the state,” Revere said. “It was quite an endeavor, but we were able to pull it off. We're hoping things go a little more smoothly this year.”
Granted there aren't any major storms on opening day, this year's festival will kick off with a beach party on Thursday and will feature live music from Tony Ferrari, as well as a 50-foot inflatable movie screen outside.
On Friday, it's going to be time to get down to business – movies will be shown all across town, so it's best to have a schedule worked out for optimum viewing pleasure. While the festival is particularly well-known for its documentaries (past years' films include Black Fish, Man on Wire and March of the Penguins, to name a few), it also boasts an impressive selection of feature-length narrative films, each one preceded by a short, proving this is one fest that truly does run the film fanatic gamut.
“We really try to pick a wide variety of genres within films, so that there's a little bit to choose from for our wide audience,” Revere said. “You know, family friendly all the way to late-night slasher films.”
2014's lineup is especially impressive. There are, of course, plenty of documentaries covering a vast array of topics, from Whitey, a film about the conviction of organized crime figure James “Whitey” Bulger, to Love Child, a film about the first fatality attributed to Internet addiction. Narrative films abound as well. The Sublime and the Beautiful follows a married couple's struggling relationship after the sudden death of their children, and the less serious I Put a Hit On You, a comedy about what happens when you accidentally hire a hitman to kill your ex-boyfriend. And this is only a small taste of the films showing.
It takes a lot of work to curate a group of cinematic offerings as diverse as this, but WFF has a dedicated staff devoted to doing what they love most – seeking out, watching and critiquing movies.
“We have a nationwide programming committee that works on this pretty much year round,” Revere said. “They look at about 500 movies, and then we end up paring it down and showing about 90 movies total.”
If that's not enough, WFF also has multiple film panels with directors and industry professionals. One thing the they won't have, however, is any juried prizes. That's because organizers purposefully create a competition-free environment to enable audiences to just sit back, enjoy the movies and make their own decisions. Besides, with so many good movies all in one place, how could you go wrong?
“From my perspective of watching these films, the programmers do such a good job that I've never been disappointed,” Revere said. “They do such a good job of picking high-quality films that it would be a nightmare to try and give awards.”
For a complete list of films, events, ticket prices and showtimes visit waterfrontfilm.org