A Showcase of 'Real' Film

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Listen up, movie buffs! The 2020 Real to Reel Film Festival, put on by the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, should be on your radar.

Real to Reel, taking place March 21, 27 and 28, 2020, will feature 65 films at three venues across the twin hamlets of Saugatuck and Douglas. The festival is a showcase of films dedicated to broadening the way we engage with the outdoors and humanity at large, while deepening our understanding and respect for new ideas and the world we live in. The films specifically connect with SCA's 2020 theme of Identity, as each explores the ways in which the natural world can hold up a mirror to the human condition.

The festival also includes outdoor adventures, live music, a pop-up shop, local food, craft brews, art exhibitions and artist talks.

Real to Reel kicks off Saturday, March 21, with Mountainfilm On Tour, Saugatuck's "Films for Families" collection of shorts. Three separate viewings feature films appropriate for ages 1 to 14, with each bolstered by an opportunity for kids to create hands-on crafts and visit with animals from Grand Rapid's John Ball Zoo.

Real to Reel HQ—at SCA—opens officially Friday, March 27 with the Midwest debut of By Hand, a feature-length documentary by Kellen Keene about twin brothers Casey and Ryan Higginbotham, who prone-paddled 2,200 miles from Alaska to Mexico, without support. Theirs was a never-before-attempted feat that drove them to the edge in a quest to "reconnect with the natural world and set a new bar for ocean adventure." The film will be introduced by Kellen, Casey and Ryan, followed by a spirited party at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts with music by the Mark Lavengood Band.

"The film is coming to Saugatuck directly from the Sundance Festival," said Kristin Armstrong, SCA Executive Director. "We're incredibly excited to welcome the By Hand team to the community. Ryan, Casey and Kellen are doing several days of outreach at area schools, sharing their journey with students. Community members will also have opportunities to meet them, even hearing behind the scenes stories during their Director's Conversation on Saturday."

Friday also sees the opening of SCA exhibitions Sonder, by artist Megan Altieri, and A Pursuit to Stay Wild, by photographer Cam McLeod. Festival HQ will feature a pop-up shop for official merchandise, including Megan Altieri's Sonder coffee table book and photographic prints by Cam McLeod.

Saturday, March 28, Real to Reel opens with a duo of morning screenings at 9:30 a.m. At the Saugatuck Woman's Club, the "Moving Mountains" playlist is a taste of Mountainfilm's annual festival theme of equity, with a focus on adventure and the outdoors. Featured films include Brotherhood of Skiing and The Litas. Viewers will be treated to live music as they arrive, along with coffee and breakfast nibbles from local roastery Uncommon Coffee.

Also at 9:30 a.m., at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, the "Equity" playlist is on tap. This incredibly thought-provoking playlist of films, meant to confront systemic problems facing our global society, will include The Wild Inside and R.A.W. Tuba.

Feeling adventurous? Want to explore the local terrain? Yearning to feel the crisp air on your cheeks and a little burn in your thighs? In between film screenings and lunch on Saturday, Real to Reel challenges attendees to a mid-day trek up 302 steps to the beautiful views at the peak of Mount Baldhead. Learn more about local history, sip some cocoa and then make your way down the side of an epic sand dune, where the Saugatuck-Douglas Interurban will take you back to your vehicle.

Beginning at 3 p.m. at the Woman's Club, the "Indomitable Spirit" playlist will be screened. These films celebrate culture and tenacious characters with appetites for adventure. The playlist will include Broken and The San Juan Dance Club, among many other inspiring character studies.

Meanwhile, at the History Center, the "Big Green World" playlist features environmental films exploring ecology, oceans, rivers, wetlands, volcanoes and more including Every Nine Minutes and the Valley of the Moon, among other globally green shorts.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, join Real to Reel for a behind the scenes conversation with Casey and Ryan Higginbotham, stars of By Hand, and film director Kellen Keene (National Geographic, Patagonia, Yeti). They'll share details about what their unprecedented expedition demanded—physically, mentally and from a cinematic standpoint—and how the journey put their bond of brotherhood to the test. The brothers will be available to autograph copies of their coffee table book documenting the expedition and including never before seen photos, journal entries, maps, and more.

Prior to the conversation, attendees could browse outdoor apparel vendors and demo new equipment in the SCA parking lot.

At 6 p.m. in the SCA lobby, join Real to Reel for a special cocktail hour with music provided by the Michigan Academy of Folk Music students. Grab a drink, enjoy folk melodies, and meet 2020 Real to Reel selected artists Megan Altieri and Anthony Zart, who will be signing books and posters. Plus, there will be live screen printing.

Closing out Real to Reel is "Mountainfilm's Evening of Shorts," an eclectic and engaging medley of awe-inspiring short films pulled from the Telluride festival's past classics. Immediately following will be time for casual drinks and conversation at SCA, where viewers can mingle with filmmakers, artists, and Mountainfilm representatives and discuss the events and films of the past week.

The Saugatuck Center for the Arts is dedicated to creating a vibrant arts community in West Michigan by hosting professional theater, exhibitions, films, concerts and educational programming year-round. Less than one hour from Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and South Haven, the SCA will serve 30,000 children, families, and adults during 2020.

For additional information about the Real to Reel Film Festival and other Saugatuck Center for the Arts exhibits and performances, visit Saugatuck Center for the Arts or contact Scott Meivogel at 269.857.2399, ext. 126, or email [email protected].

Courtesy of West Michigan Woman.

Photo courtesy of Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

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