TRAVERSE CITY, MI - Michael Moore says he will quit Traverse City and its renowned Traverse City Film Festival – now in its 12th year – if local merchants continue “gouging” patrons who attend the increasingly popular fest. “If this becomes an Aspen, I’m leaving,” he said. The famous and controversial documentarian was speaking before an audience at the festival’s opening night screening of Infinitely Polar Bear (Maya Forbes, 2014). Fearing the small resort city in northern Michigan could “turn into Aspen” with its notoriously high prices, “where only those with money can live here and be here,” Moore castigated merchants who were charging as much as several hundred dollars for accommodation. “Now when I learned this year that some of those motels and hotels are charging $600 and $700 a night gouging people who come here I have to really kind of seriously reassess,” he said. “Because I did not create this for (people) to become greedy.” Moore has thrown equity and sweat into the festival, including the restoration of Front Street’s stately old State Theatre – now in its 100th year – and the creation of the Bijou by the Bay a few blocks away. Moore said he was at a meeting with community business types earlier in the day and when he complained, was told “it’s a matter of supply and demand.” That, in essence, is capitalism and the free market, something that Moore’s personal political views are, shall we say, somewhat at odds with. “I get that,” he said. Then he turned around the question. “So how about this, how about I start charging $50 to $100 a head to see a movie here (at the TCFF)? Then we’ll see how many of your $700 rooms you’re going to sell.” …..This year’s festival is dedicated to films by women directors, for which festival staff over the past year scoured the planet. Movies, Moore said, over the decades, overwhelmingly have been made “by the same damn white guys over and over.” Yet in Europe as many as 40 per cent of films are made by women in Scandinavia, 14 per cent in the UK, but in America only “two per cent,” despite Hollywood’s well known “liberal” bonafides. Moore said in their search for films made by women, by April, festival staff got “way over what we needed” so female directors are front and centre at the event, which Moore hopes will help change the dynamic for women and get their films regularly up on the silver screen…..Appropriately enough, a short film before last night’s main screening featured several of this year’s festival’s women directors dancing with attitude to Aretha Franklin’s Respect….The Traverse City festival’s popularity is attested by the fact that, before it had even begun, most of the screenings were sold out, a far cry from when I last attended the event in 2011…… TCFF runs through the weekend.