Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship partners with local film festivals on riveting looks back at history

City Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship partners with local film festivals on riveting looks back at history

  • Freep Film Festival and Detroit Black Film Festival to offer more than 100 films and special events in their April and September runs
  • The Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) is proud to join the Detroit Black Film Festival (DetBff) and Freep Film Festival in celebrating great documentary and narrative filmmaking this year

DETROIT - Media is invited to a press event 4PM Tuesday, April 26, at Cinema Detroit, 4126 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI 48201, to hear details of the Freep Film Festival, now in its ninth year, and DetBFF, now in its third year. The event will be live-streamed to YouTube and the City of Detroit Facebook page.

“Detroit has so much to be proud of with our growing film industry, and these two festivals reflect that,” said Rochelle Riley, the City’s Director of Arts and Culture. FreepFilmFest will open on April 27 with the first public screening of “Gradually, Then Suddenly: The Bankruptcy of Detroit,” a documentary that explores the city’s historic bankruptcy and its path forward. The film, which will premiere at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts, tells the dramatic story of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. It frames the city’s dire financial situation as a canary in the coal mine for municipalities nationwide. From the controversial appointing of an emergency manager to the enactment of the so-called Grand Bargain — which helped protect the imperiled collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts and preserve city pensions — the film offers new insights and behind-the-scenes details of the critical juncture in the city’s history. 

The fest also will host the world premiere Daniel Land’s “America, You Kill Me” about pioneering Detroit gay-rights activist Jeffrey Montgomery, who will attend the press conference. The film screens on Thursday, April 28 at the Redford Theatre.

The Detroit Black Film Festival (DetBFF) will host its opening night on September 21, 2022, by celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film, “Lady Sings the Blues.” The collaboration with the Motown Museum features an opening night gala at the Garden Theatre.

"Lady Sings the Blues" is a 1972 American biographical drama film directed by Sidney J. Furie about jazz singer Billie Holiday. The film stars Detroit's own Diana Ross along with Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, and Scatman Crothers. Ross debuted as Billie Holiday in the film while under contract with Motown Founder Berry Gordy. At the time, she was emerging as a solo artist after years with The Supremes. The film was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures. Ross was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. And the soundtrack, which featured Ross singing Holiday's songs, was a hit. Both Ross and Williams won NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Motion Picture for their performances.

Co-founder Marshalle Favors said she and her husband, Lazar, chose the iconic film because “it’s a renowned classic, and the brilliant performance by made it to the big screen because of Motown.” The duo plans to announce special guests in September.

Motown Museum CEO Robin Terry said, “Motown Museum is delighted to partner with the Detroit Black Film Festival to recognize the contributions of Black independent filmmakers. We are particularly excited to co-host the festival’s opening event and special viewing of the iconic film, “Lady Sings the Blues”, a Motown Productions film produced by Berry Gordy starring Diana Ross in her feature film debut, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.”

DetBFF co-founder Lazar Favors said the film also fits DetBFF’s other goal to uplift fashion and music. “It is a natural fit that aligns with our film, fashion, and music theme for this year's festival,” he said. “And it gives a chance to support the Motown museum as it begins a new chapter in American history.”

The museum, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of music and history fans a year, is currently undergoing a major, $55 million expansion that will double its size, and host a permanent stage offer scheduled performances and pop-up music sets.  The museum has already connected the three houses where Gordy nurtured young local talent into global stars — the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, and Marvin Gaye among them.

The DetBFF team is reviewing films and touring venues to prepare for the festival, which in its first two years gave Detroit audiences 87 films and 20 workshops and panel discussions with vital Hollywood insiders. Among them was Detroit native Qasim Basir, director of the landmark film A Boy, A Girl, A Dream starring Omari Hardwick and Meagan Good.




The Freep Film Festival is a documentary-focused festival produced by the Detroit Free Press, Michigan’s largest news organization, in cooperation with its business arm, The festival is centered in downtown Detroit and held at venues that include the Detroit Film Theatre, Cinema Detroit, the Redford Theatre, and the Michigan Science Center. Suburban venues include the Birmingham 8 Powered by Emagine – and Frame in Hazel Park. The festival’s focus is on documentaries with strong connections to Detroit or Michigan – though it also books great films without specific local ties. Freep Film Festival also presents parties and educational experiences for the filmmaking community and embraces the journalistic mission of the Detroit Free Press, hosting in-depth, issue-based conversations after many of its films. The full schedule of films is available at Festival passes and tickets are on sale now at the website. A new addition to the festival this year is the “4 Nights. 4 Films. 4 Chefs” series, in which the fest is partnering with Frame restaurant in Hazel Park to present film screenings in tandem with meals prepared by some of metro Detroit's top chefs. Other highlights include:

“2nd Chance”: In 1969, a bankrupt Detroit pizzeria owner, Richard Davis, invented the modern-day bulletproof vest. Charming and brash — even shooting himself 192 times — Davis directed sensational marketing films, earning him celebrity status among police and gun owners. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021.

  • “America, You Kill Me”: This world premiere looks at the life and legacy of local gay-rights icon and Triangle Foundation cofounder Jeffrey Montgomery, who became a powerful voice against violence and discrimination after his boyfriend was murdered outside a Detroit bar in the 1980s.
  • “Bad Axe”: An Asian-American family in rural Michigan fights to keep its restaurant and the American dream alive in the face of a pandemic and more. It premiered at South by Southwest in Austin.

Images for key festival films are available here. For all inquiries, please contact Dawn Kelley, Expand Marketing Group, 734-765-1429,  [email protected]





Presented by the Ford Foundation, the 3rd annual Detroit Black Film Festival (DetBFF), which was founded in 2020, continues to showcase the voices and stories of Black independent filmmakers nationwide. DetBff is dedicated to screening excellent, high-quality films from seasoned and emerging filmmakers that highlight a spectrum of stories reflecting African American experiences, narratives, and culture. In addition to screening great films, the festival will offer masterclasses, networking with industry professionals, Q&A with the filmmakers, and a closing night awards ceremony.

The festival co-directors, Lazar and Marshalle Favors are the founders of Trinity Films Entertainment Group (TFEG), an umbrella company for the Detroit Black Film Festival. The couple is committed to working purposefully to contribute to the sustainability and economic growth of the film community in metro Detroit. “We strive to support filmmakers as artists and to provide an exceptional platform for their work,” Marshalle Favors said. For more information about the Detroit Black Film Festival visit: