Nostalgia is real at the Freep Film Festival opening night


On Wednesday night, on the opening night of the five-day Freep Film Festival, 800 moviegoers flocked to Detroit’s historic Redford Theater for a trip down memory lane.

Director Aaron Schillinger has said the sold-out world premiere of “Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale” will touch the hearts of the Detroiters. And he was right.

Julie Owens went to Boblo Island as a child with her family and loved it all. She said she was always excited when she saw the boat approaching, and fondly remembers dancing on the deck to the music of the DJ on the way home.

People come in for the film screening

“There was no way I was not coming to see this documentary,” Owens said. “It warms my heart because (my grandparents) are no longer with us, so it keeps us connected.”

The documentary tells the story of preservationist groups on mission to restore two very large steamboats, the SS Columbia and the Ste. Claire, who took passengers from Detroit to Boblo Island, a beloved and now closed Canadian amusement park, from its opening in 1898 until its closure in 1993.

“The nostalgia is really at the heart of the movie, and then you peel back the layers of that nostalgia to see what other stories are behind it,” Schillinger said. “If you built a new boat instead, you wouldn’t step on it and feel the whole story of this one.”

Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale Director Aaron Schillinger speaks during the City of Detroit press conference highlighting the Freep Film Festival and the Detroit Black Film Festival at the Garden Theater in Detroit on September 22, 2021.

The film is about more than just rebuilding abandoned boats, Schillinger said: It’s about perseverance through obstacles, it’s about Detroit and the people.

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Boblo Island and its boats weren’t all fun memories, however, and were once filled with segregation and racism – Schillinger previously made a short documentary about Sarah Elizabeth Ray, who was kicked off one of the boats at steam in 1945 because it was black. She took her case to the Supreme Court and won.

“I feel like it’s part of the nostalgia because, when you have all these people and these happy memories, there’s a bleaching effect and so people sort of pass these other elements. was kind of like walking a tightrope: how can we have all the happy memories while celebrating people like Sarah Elizabeth Ray. “

Jim Petersen (right) of Grosse Pointe Park and Darren Brim of Grosse Pointe Park await the start of the film screening

The screening is the first of more than 35 in-person and virtual events taking place Wednesday through Sunday during the festival’s eighth year.

Inside the premiere, event-lovers ready to relive their childhood waited patiently.

Michigan-born Keith Mixter and his wife Carol, who fondly remember their hundreds of trips to Boblo Island as children with their family and on school trips, came to the premiere as a date night. -you.

“(The boats) were a lot of fun,” Mixter said. “We were kids back then, so just the crowds sitting on the old folding chairs, going downstairs and watching the engines … all day.”

Steve Bannatyne, producer of

To ensure events are safe for COVID-19, the capacity of large theaters is reduced, proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test is required, and masking is required at indoor events.

The Freep Film Festival is in partnership with Detroit Black Film Festival, Dlectricity and Hell’s Half Mile Music and Film Festival in Bay City. All three events are taking place this weekend.

You can still buy tickets for the screenings at freepfilmfestival.com. Tickets for in-person screenings are $ 12; tickets for virtual screenings are $ 10.

Contact Emma Stein: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_emmastein.


Darcy J. Skinner

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