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Freep Film Festival brings Detroit to the big screen.
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New documentaries and Detroit are in the spotlight at this month’s third annual Detroit Freep Film Festival.

The festival’s executive director Steve Byrne says this year there are more film screenings and community engagement activities, as well as new venues, including the Detroit Historical Society and Emagine Royal Oak. Actor and director Kevin Smith was set to bring his Fatman on Batman podcast live to the Fillmore Detroit on March 31. Also set for March 31 was the screening of T-rex, which follows Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old Flint boxer pursuing the 2012 Olympic gold medal while facing financial hardships.

The festival aims to foster discussion on relevant issues. Watch out for films with strong local links, Byrne says. “The backbone of the festival is documentaries with a heavy connection to Detroit and Michigan,” he says.

Each film shown will be paired with an activity that reflects its energy and content. “Many will have some fun kind of element,” Byrne says. “We might not have a panel conversation, but instead something that’s playing off the theme of the movie.”

Last year, Byrne says after showing a documentary that profiled a local group of Detroit street dancers, DJs played music so the audience could try out some of the moves. At the minimum, he says, the film’s director or a guest speaker will be there to answer questions from the audience.

Audience participation is key. Jerry White attended last year when his 20 Years of Madness was featured. “The audience was really engaged and there were a lot of people asking questions,” he says.

Paula Guthat, owner of Cinema Detroit, looks forward to hosting the festival in her new building, which opened in October. She expects this year to be just as busy as last year, when the theater featured the Detroit-made horror film It Follows.

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