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12th and Clairmount
Fifty years ago, in the heat of July, the city of Detroit was irrevocably shaken by five of the most pivotal and divisive days in its history. The turmoil of that summer left 43 dead, hundreds injured, and more than a thousand buildings destroyed. Drawing from over 400 reels of donated home movies, this important and carefully crafted documentary delves into the complex causes and effects of the 1967 Race Riots. Weaving together found footage with newly recorded oral histories and powerful illustrations, Brian Kaufman showcases his adroit storytelling skills in a debut feature that is at once complicated and seamless. Produced by the Detroit Free Press in collaboration with Bridge Magazine, WXYZ-TV, and a group of metro Detroit cultural institutions led by the Detroit Institute of the Arts, this is the perfect companion piece to Kathryn Bigelow’s new film, “Detroit,” capturing the full spectrum of life in Detroit and the explosive tensions that are still alive today.
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500 Years
How could genocide occur in a country without its citizens ever knowing? In this sweeping documentary, filmmaker Pamela Yates gives a powerful new voice to the previously silenced Mayan people of Guatemala, who suffered the slaughter of entire villages in the 1980s under former president Rios Montt. The murders committed by Montt and his army, backed by the Reagan administration, went mostly unnoticed by the Mayans’ fellow countrymen, many of whom still do not believe a genocide ever occurred. Yates juxtaposes moving interviews with Mayan survivors and footage of Montt’s 2013 trial, which culminated in a fierce citizen uprising that flooded the streets of Guatemala with protestors demanding long-overdue justice. “500 Years” is an important and inspiring film that bears witness to the stories and strength of Guatemala’s indigenous people.
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Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
After the 2008 financial crisis, only one bank was targeted for mortgage fraud in the US. It wasn’t Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, JP Morgan Chase, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac; instead, the feds targeted a small immigrant-run enterprise called Abacus Federal Savings Bank. After one of the bank’s employees was caught taking bribes, the Manhattan DA’s office accused Abacus of corruption. In this searing documentary, as riveting as any legal thriller, Oscar-nominated director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) unravels the judicial witch hunt that Abacus owner and Chinese immigrant Thomas Sung and his family endured over the next three years. James asks the crucial question: Why did federal investigators target a small, family-run business instead of any of the large corporations responsible for the Great Recession? Amid our current climate of suspected government corruption and regulation rollbacks, this is a vital reminder of all that is at stake when profits and not people come first.
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ACORN and the Firestorm
An essential part of documentary filmmaking’s DNA is the capacity for nuance, a trait the world of 24-hour cable news does not share. This is demonstrated all too clearly in this riveting look at a heated scandal of the 2000s, the explosive political collapse of the longstanding nonprofit ACORN. The community organizing group that played a critical role in the 2008 election of Barack Obama, once boasting over 500,000 members worldwide, was taken down by a pair of undercover conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp. The carefully staged operation, orchestrated by Andrew Breitbart, led to ACORN’s eventual bankruptcy, setting the stage for today’s polarized political climate and the rise of Breitbart News. A compelling cautionary tale, this true-life political thriller shines an unquestionably fascinating light on our troubled present.
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Ada for Mayor
Imagine Occupy Wall Street rising in Spain, and you’ll get a sense of the public movement that propelled unlikely folk hero Ada Colau from street raconteur to Barcelona’s first female mayor in 2015. Along for the whirlwind ride was director Pau Faus, who had an exclusive front-row seat to document Colau’s journey from a housing rights activist repeatedly arrested for disruptive protesting, to an unlikely seat of political power in the course of a few short years. Through a combination of first-person video confessionals and up-close coverage of Colau’s public campaign appearances, Faus focuses an intimate lens on Colau’s initial self-doubt and discomfort with being in the public eye, and the eventual aplomb with which she took office. “Ada for Mayor” is a rousing tribute to the power of everyday activists and the ability of one individual to change the system from within by speaking out in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds
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After the Storm
For Ryota Shinoda—a failed writer, third-rate private detective, and luckless gambler estranged from his family—a massive incoming typhoon is just the latest in a series of disasters to hit his life. But the storm may also be Ryota’s last shot at redemption. Forced to find shelter with his ex-wife, their young son, and his recently widowed mother, Ryota struggles to regain his family’s trust during the long night as the storm rages around them. Funny, rueful, and wistfully melancholic, acclaimed Japanese auteur Hirokazu Koreeda’s beautiful family saga is dotted with illuminating dialogue about the intertwined mysteries of family and personal destiny—and the unexpected moments that define us. “I really just can’t understand how things turned out like this,” says one character during the storm, reflecting the bittersweet truth of how easy it is to misunderstand each other and also—suddenly, wonderfully—find each other again.
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This angry, vivid, passionate biopic tells the story of committed avant garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski, who lived in Poland during the age of Stalin. After losing two limbs in World War I, he rose above his disability, creating art that challenged the pillars of Polish society. Strzeminski taught his students that art is about an individual way of seeing, and not rote reproduction of a collectively agreed-upon reality. “Afterimage” is the last film by Polish master Andrzej Wajda, who died last year at age 90. One of cinema’s great directors, with over 50 films to his credit, Wajda saved one of his most affecting films for last—a poignant reflection on how the pressures of society and personal challenges can inspire artistic greatness.

This film is part of our FREE Buzz movies series.
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All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone
Independent journalist I.F. Stone built a legacy uncovering the deception of the powers that be, inspiring generations of maverick journalists to do the same. Using archival footage and new interviews, this sobering documentary is less a portrait of the legendary news figure than it is a critique of the mainstream media and a call to arms for the necessarily adversarial relationship of journalists to government, particularly in times of crisis and war. Stone’s work through the latter half of the 20th century is portrayed as hugely influential and, in the context of the chaos of the 2016 presidential election, as the type of reporting needed now more than ever. Writers like John Carlos Frey, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman, and others are presented as following in Stone’s footsteps, which are traced backwards to McCarthyism and through the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. This debut documentary from TV news veteran Fred Peabody, which also features a talking head appearance from our own
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If scientists are lucky, the work they do in cloistered labs might get presented at a conference. But once in a while, science takes the world stage, as it did in this fascinating doc about scientists testing the limits of rapidly-evolving AI technology. The engaging, brilliant team at London-based intelligence think tank DeepMind try to program a computer to beat Lee Sedol, the charming world champion of the ancient Chinese board game Go, long considered the holy grail for artificial intelligence. With its near-infinite number of possible outcomes, Go is exponentially more complex than chess. Because mastery of the game requires creativity, expert players and the AI community long believed we were at least a decade away from computers beating human Go players. You won’t know who to cheer as DeepMind takes on Lee Sedol in a weeklong 2016 tournament in Seoul, with much more on the line than a million dollar prize
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At the End of the Tunnel
This smart, expertly paced, adrenaline-pumping, twisty, escape-from-reality thriller comes complete with a cute kid and a dog. Hunky paraplegic computer expert Joaquin (Leonardo Sbaraglia, “Wild Tales”) lives alone, grieving the deaths of his wife and child, working as a computer tech in his basement. Stuck with an empty house and in need of money, Joaquin rents a room to a beautiful woman and her daughter who turn up one rainy day. Soon thereafter, he overhears a team of hoods tunneling under his property to get into the vault at a nearby bank, which leads Joaquin to do some digging of his own. A box office hit in Argentina, “At the End of the Tunnel” is for everyone who enjoys films about people who think their way out of big problems, and who don’t mind a little action, violence, and gun play along the way.
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Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies
In the tradition of great TCFF zomcoms like “Zombeavers” comes “Attack of the Lederhozen Zombies,” because nothing says Saturday night at TCFF like flesh-starved Austrians dressed in silly suspenders and short pants. The plot goes a little something like this: two pro snowboarders and their girlfriends find themselves stuck on an Alpine mountain the same night an overzealous resort owner unleashes his new, and, as it turns out, highly toxic artificial snow (there’s an environmental message here somewhere), spawning the titular army of sartorially-challenged undead. Striking a tone somewhere between an 80s ski comedy and “Dead Snow,” it’s safe to say the chills you feel won’t just be from the snow on screen. And there’s a lot of transferable survival skills to be found here, like using slope skis to sever attackers. Come for the education, stay for the company.
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Why would a young man wake up and put on a shirt that says “Cool Story, Bro” before heading out for a day trip to Austerlitz? What happens when a historic site of unimaginable suffering becomes a pit stop for family vacationers? This ingeniously simple, mesmerizing documentary—a vital entry in the growing chapter of cinema evaluating the Holocaust’s present-day legacy—arrests and unsettles us from its opening images. Capturing a typical day at the site of a concentration camp turned tourist attraction, we watch throngs of tourists pour into the gates, pausing briefly to snap a shot. Some pose, laughing and smiling alongside signs. Sergei Lotznitsa’s camera simply observes these scenes in stark black-and-white, and it becomes increasingly clear just how little connection many of the daytrippers feel to the atrocities they’re looking in on, viewing sites of unconscionable human suffering with only a cursory interest in, or understanding of, the history on which they tread.
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Awake, a Dream from Standing Rock
Moving from summer 2016, when demonstrations over the Dakota Access Pipeline’s demolishing of sacred Native burial grounds began, to the current and disheartening pipeline status, “Awake” is a powerful visual poem, uncovering complex hidden truths with simplicity. The grand, sweeping plains at Standing Rock are a bittersweet backdrop for images of peaceful protesters barraged by water cannons and choked by tear gas that—until now—had reached the outside world only as jittery iPhone video. A shaky voice reports an attack on unarmed civilians. The 911 operator offers to send police, but the caller explains it’s the police doing the attacking. The operator can’t do anything if the police are already on the scene. “Who protects the people from the police?” the caller asks. Protester Floris White Bull narrates: “I am not dreaming. I’m awake. I have been woken by the spirit inside me that demanded I open my eyes and see the world.” Presented by the Grand Traverse Band with filmmakers and gue
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Before he was Barack, he was Barry—an intelligent, handsome, charismatic bit of a square, who struggled with questions of identity, purpose, and belonging. It’s hard to imagine a time when the coolest commander-in-chief on record wasn’t quite as cool, but this stellar biopic about the future 44th president’s college years at Columbia University in New York reconstructs how the biracial brainiac stepped outside his comfort zone to explore black culture while also navigating relationships with his white girlfriend (Anya Taylor-Joy) and mother (Ashley Judd). Dancing to the B-52s, reading “Invisible Man,” shooting hoops, and debating democracy via the ancient Greeks, the man we know now didn’t yet exist—but the future was calling. Led by Devon Terrell’s winsome lead performance, director Vikram Gandhi’s poignant charmer may reveal the events and relationships that shaped the man who would become the leader of the free world, but it also stands on its own as a tender and true coming-of-age
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Beats of the Antonov
This dynamic, emotional, even jubilant debut documentary proves that the human need for music prevails even in the throes of war. Returning to his homeland, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka spent two years capturing the vibrant music and rituals that unify refugees in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions through a shared heritage. Despite living each day in fear of bombings and the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by North Sudan’s government, Kuka captures farmers and herders expressing happiness and joy through laughter, songs signalling the conclusion of raids, and ceremonial dances. This Toronto International Film Festival Audience Award winner seeks to preserve and celebrate a musical tradition and cultural identity threatened with annihilation, and reminds us that the optimism and resilient spirit that beats in the hearts of a courageous people cannot be squashed.

This film is part of our FREE Buzz movies series.
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Bending the Arc
In the most remote regions of the world, battling the deadliest of diseases, three idealist advocates set out to change the world of healthcare. This gripping story begins some 30 years ago, when medical students Jim Yong Kim (now the maverick president of the World Bank) and Paul Farmer (who became the legendary founder of Partners in Health) teamed up with activist Ophelia Dahl to open a health clinic in Haiti. Given their collective experiences, they realized that real change could only come from systemic on-the-ground work and community efforts. And so they embarked on a stunning and often heartwarming journey battling outbreaks of tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, and Ebola around the world, and sharing the crazy idea that health care is a basic human right. Told through riveting interviews, archival material, and footage from their travels, this artfully-crafted film about revoluntionaires of the global health movement was produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in the hopes of inspiring an
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Bill Nye: Science Guy
For Bill Nye—yes, the Science Guy—having the eternal adulation of the 90s kids who grew up with his show and now rush to take selfies with him when he’s spotted in public—simply isn’t enough. For his second act, Nye has reinvented himself as a passionately vocal defender of scientific concepts like climate change that are under assault from a combination of willful ignorance and blatant political agendas. So the guy who taught a generation of Americans about the joys of the scientific method is back on the beat. These days, Creation “museums” are all the rage, and body-building TV weathermen challenge Nye to throw-down debates where he has to defend his credentials (don’t worry, Neil deGrasse Tyson has his back), and science itself. Pairing insight into Nye’s many projects—including his work with his old mentor Carl Sagan—with informative lessons on modern subjects that would do his old TV character proud, David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg give us riveting insight into the intellectual
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The Blood is at the Doorstep
On April 30th, 2014, Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed, schizophrenic black man dozing in a Milwaukee park, was shot 14 times in broad daylight by a police officer responding to a non-emergency complaint from a Starbuck’s employee. This emotionally and politically charged documentary traces the events surrounding his tragic death, focusing on the Hamilton family as they grieve and work for justice. When rising tensions in the the city’s black community led to large-scale protests, Dontre’s initially-reluctant brother and mother became committed activitists for police reform and mental health advocacy. Filmed over the course of three years, documentarian Erik Ljung intimately captures a family trying to put their lives back together, a police department under fire, and a community in crisis. Opening with a recreation of the event that captures the chaotic incident with shocking realism, “The Blood is at the Doorstep” is an essential document of the ongoing epidemic of police violence, and is
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Brigsby Bear
“The Truman Show” famously asked, “What if your life was created for TV?” Sundance sensation “Brigsby Bear” inverts that question: What if TV was created for your life? Enter James (SNL’s Kyle Mooney), whose life is built around his favorite show, “Brigsby Bear Adventures.” When James is forced from his isolated home and out into society, he learns that “Brigsby Bear” wasn’t a real show. To cope with the stress caused by this revelation, James resolves to complete the final episodes of the show himself, with a little help from some newfound friends. If none of this makes any sense to you yet, don’t worry, it doesn’t need to—the beauty of “Brigsby Bear” is the endlessly surprising joy that awaits you at every turn. Featuring a stellar cast including Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill, and Claire Danes, and produced by the people who brought you “The LEGO Movie,” the film’s off-the-wall concept wins you over with its disarming sweetness and aching sincerity. Playful, curious, and wildly imaginati
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Cause of Death: Unknown
When Norwegian director Anniken Hoel’s mentally ill but otherwise healthy sister died suddenly of a cardiac episode, she suspected that doctor-prescribed antipsychotic medications were at the root of her death. What she didn’t know was how many similar deaths have happened: as it turns out, tens of thousands of them. Hoel’s sister had been prescribed multiple medications, all with dangerous side effects. Why was no one informed? As Hoel investigates, she discovers that many prescribing physicians have no knowledge of the potentially deadly side effects. Treading carefully, she explores the way marketing masterminds at pharmaceutical companies control this information in the name of profit, and ignore or downplay the medications’ adverse effects—not to mention a broader implication of misdiagnoses of mental illnesses. In her debut film, Hoel’s investigation takes her around the world, where she interviews doctors, scientists, patients, and more to uncover the reasons why profit is value
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The Challenge
Ever wondered what Qatari sheikhs do in their downtime? In this dazzling debut doc, Italian visual artist Yuri Ancarani finds out, and you won’t soon get the surreal images of the amateur falconry world out of your mind. Wealthy sheikhs spare no expense in their enthusiastic pursuit of this eccentric hobby. Fights between falcons and pigeons have (perhaps unsurprisingly) wild results, but it’s the dreamy juxtaposition of an ancient tradition playing out in a modern, ultra-rich arena that proves most jaw-dropping. “The Challenge” offers a vivid portrait of what recreation looks like when you’re living a life of excess, speeding through the desert in your supercar with a pet cheetah beside you— things most of us will never see, except on film
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Chasing Coral
In the last 30 years, we have lost 50 percent of the world’s corals—the psychedelically colored, imaginatively shaped, majestic species living on our ocean floors that remain as mysterious as the cosmos. So when filmmaker Jeff Orlowski sought to document the effects of climate change in destroying and “bleaching” coral reefs, the process was so unprecedented that his team actually had to create the technology for it. But necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s truly necessary to inform the world about the ongoing oceanic catastrophe that’s killing the phosphorescent splendor of the reefs and leaving “rock formation” corpses. Orlowski’s previous film, the Academy Award-nominated “Chasing Ice,” powerfully and irrefutably captured the melting of the polar ice caps. While the global danger of our disappearing coral reefs has far less public awareness attached to it right now, this Audience Award winner at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival proves, in spectacular fashion, that the reefs
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The Chocolate Case
If you consider yourself a hopeless chocoholic, this eye-opening, funny yet sobering documentary might just change your buying habits. After first exposing the cocoa industry’s reliance on child slavery in 2003, a group of Dutch journalists set out on a decade-long campaign to combat the mega-industry. Because suing a major corporation is just about impossible, they took a decidedly rebellious approach and tried to get one of their unmarried members prosecuted for knowingly purchasing goods produced through child labor and slavery. Their goal was to set a legal precedent that would impact future chocolate sales, making it illegal to buy anything but slave-free chocolate. With a large dose of humor and unrelenting perseverance, the journalists also endeavored to create the world’s first slave-free chocolate bar. This was much more difficult than they ever imagined, though the product eventually became one of the top-selling brands in the Netherlands. “The Chocolate Case” fascinatingly d
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City of Ghosts
It is not easy to follow the overwhelming tragedy going on right now in Syria. But if you only watch one thing, make it this definitive Syria documentary about the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS). These brave Syrian journalists are capturing the everyday horror of living under ISIS in the city of Raqqa through photos, videos, and written testimonies. They do so at great personal risk to themselves and their families, and many have paid the ultimate price. Oscar nominee Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land”) trains an unflinching eye on RBSS’ heroic actions and the trauma its members experience as a result, whether they remain at home, or continue to face persecution abroad from both ISIS loyalists and anti-refugee protestors. “City of Ghosts” reveals the harsh truth of ISIS’ impact in the Middle East and the deadliness of daring to rise against them. This remarkable film about true heroes is absolutely necessary viewing
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CMU Presents: Ithaca: The Climb
The story of Ithaca football’s 69-game winning streak, which put them on the national stage, and the community that supported them is told in “Ithaca: The Climb.” The film explains how the Ithaca High School Yellowjackets were able to get themselves to the top of the mountain of Michigan high school football—and how their unstoppable streak eventually came to an end. Featuring in-depth interviews with members of the media, players, coaches, and community members, the journey is told through the eyes of those who have experienced some of the best high school football in the country over the past 20 years. This “30 for 30”-esque film is directed by Central Michigan University graduate student Mason Flick, and School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts production students filled out the rest of the crew’s roster. In Person: Director Mason Flick and other CMU Student Filmmakers.

This film is part of our FREE Buzz movies series.
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Cool Hand Luke
It’s hard not to use words like “iconic” when talking about a film as seminal as “Cool Hand Luke,” the 1967 prison drama that made Paul Newman a household name and helped spearhead a movement of anti-establishment art. The Academy Award-winning classic captures life on a chain gang in the early 1950s and focuses on Lucas “Luke” Jackson (Newman), a war vet turned inmate determined to escape the confines of the Florida prison that holds him. Watching “Cool Hand Luke” 50 years after its release is still striking—from the lyrical script to the visceral emotion and bravado put forth by Newman and George Kennedy, who won an Oscar for his performance as Dragline.

This film is part of our FREE Buzz movies series.
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The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
In 1992, the body of a transgender woman was found floating in New York City’s Hudson River. The NYPD ruled trans activist and local gay icon Marsha P. Johnson’s death a suicide, but decades later, Johnson’s supporters still maintain that the authorities were wrong. Oscar nominee David France movingly depicts the ongoing fight for justice in Johnson’s case, shining the spotlight on activist Victoria Cruz, who tenaciously keeps the cause alive after all these years. Part tribute to Johnson and other trans activists who have been lost under tragic circumstances, and part amateur investigation of past crimes against the LGBT community, this captivating story serves as a salute to the community’s resilience and a memorial for those gone too soon.
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On the night of July 25, 1967, amidst the bloody turmoil of the Detroit uprising, a group of young men and women decided to duck into the Algiers Motel for the night in hopes of staying out of trouble. When their night of partying and playing around led to one of them jokingly firing a starter pistol, trouble came blasting through the windows and doors in the form of local and state police and National Guardsmen, all looking for a sniper. A horrifying and brutal chain of events followed, including several beatings and the death of three black teenagers. Piecing together the unbelievable but all-true events of that evening and its aftermath, Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Hurt Locker”) proves yet again that she is one of the greatest directors working today, delivering another riveting powerhouse of a film that still resonates strongly 50 years after the incident. “Detroit’s” tour de force cast includes Anthony Mackie, John Krasinski, and John Boyega as a securit
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Dinner in Abruzzo / Knife Skills

Course One: Dinner in Abruzzo
Take a culinary journey through the Abruzzo region of Italy, known as the “greenest region of Europe,” with two of Detroit’s finest chefs. When Luciano DelSignore of Southfield’s Bacco Ristorante returns home for his cousin’s wedding and to cook for his family, he recalls what made him fall in love with the farm-to-table simplicity of Abruzzo culture. Along for the ride is James Rigato, DelSignore’s mentee and chef at renowned eateries The Root and Mabel Gray. As an Italian-American in Italy for the first time, Rigato learns as much about his own heritage as he does about cooking. In every way, “Dinner in Abruzzo” is a feast for the senses.

Course Two: Knife Skills
Edwin’s Restaurant is determined to become one of America’s top French restaurants, with a staff unlike any other in the country. Brandon Edwin Chrostowski prepares to open his Cleveland, Ohio fine dining establishment with a staff composed nearl

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The Distinguished Citizen
This Venice Film Festival award-winning crowd pleaser tells the story of a Nobel Prize-winning novelist who lives in Barcelona, but writes exclusively about his hometown in Argentina, a place he hasn’t visited in 40 years. Invited to receive the “Distinguished Citizen” award in his small hometown, he surprises his assistant at first by accepting, and shocks her when he says he will go alone. The people and places on which his novels are based are there to greet him when he arrives, including several citizens who became characters in his books, and are none too happy to see him. Darkly comedic, deeply relatable, and artfully crafted, “The Distinguished Citizen” reminds us that you really never can go home again.
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