Michael Moore, George & Beth Gage


The Traverse City Film Festival is a charitable and educational non-profit organization founded by filmmaker and local resident Michael Moore, also a regular at the Telluride Film Festival.

Michael Moore, George & Beth Gage

Michael Moore with George & Beth Gage following a softball game. (Their team won.)

The Traverse City Film Festival has grown to become one of the largest film festivals in the Midwest, and one of the most respected in the country. In 2011, there were over 128,000 admissions to 156 screenings. A special emphasis is given to foreign films, American independents, documentaries, and films which have been overlooked but deserve the attention of a public starved to see a good movie. This year, at the 8th annual Traverse City Film Fest, one of those movies was homegrown: local filmmakers George & Beth Gage’s
“Bidder 7o.”

For those who may have missed “Bidder 70” at its triumphant Mountainfilm in Telluride premiere in May, the film tells the story of environmental activist Tim De Christopher.

Tim De Christopher was moved to activism after attending the Stegner Symposium in 2008 and then speaking with Terry Root, PhD, one of the lead scientists on the International Panel on Climate Change and winner (with Al Gore) of a Nobel Peace Prize. Months after meeting Dr. Root, a little over three years ago, in December 2008, in the waning days of the Bush administration, a then 27-year-old Tim put it all on the line.

In the face of failing protests, Tim made an 11th-hour decision to halt a midnight sale by Bureau of Land Management of thousands of acres of pristine Utah land surrounding major national parks. Tim was ultimately escorted out of the auction by guards, because, once inside, he had made another life-changing decision: he would do much more than simply raise a red flag. By raising his paddle, Bidder 70 “won” over 14 parcels or about 22,500 acres of wilderness, with no intention – nor the means – of ever sealing the deal with a check for $1.8 million.

Despite the fact the Obama administration ultimately invalidated the auction, Tim was subsequently convicted by a federal court of making false bids on energy leases. He is now serving a two-year sentence.

The following is what the judges had to say after awarding “Bidder 70” “Best American Film”:

“’Bidder 70,’ a well-made and affecting documentary about one man’s decision to side track imprudent environmental deeds by the US Government, is the Jury’s choice for Best US Film at the 8th Traverse City Film Festival. ‘Bidder 70’ is about this man’s political action and the movement that it grew. The main subject of the film, Tim DeChristopher, made this statement as he faced possible jail time for his environmental activism: ‘At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like …[civil disobedience] is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.’ In an excellent field of non-fiction (documentary) and feature-length fiction films, ‘Bidder 70’ distinguished itself as a beautifully told story of a hero’s journey filled with passion and sacrifice that tugs at the head and heart to the final scene.”

Congratulations George and Beth. You did yourselves and Telluride proud.


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