The Freep Film Festival  showcases films that are about or relevant to Detroit, the region and Michigan in the hopes of fostering engagement and discussion about the issues and challenges we face while at the same time celebrating what makes us unique. The Festival kicks off today and runs through the weekend in Detroit.

The Freep Film Festival is being presented by the Detroit Free Press and, which manages the newspaper’s business operations. The event’s venue partners are the Fillmore Detroit, the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Cinema Detroit, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the Elizabeth Theater at the Park Bar.

‘N’kisi Concorde’


Detroit artists Olayami Dabls, owner of the MBAD African Bead Museum, and Dmytro Szylak, the Ukrainian emigre behind the backyard installation that’s been called Hamtramck Disneyland, create very different types of art, yet they are connected by the passion and zeal with which they make their neighborhoods brighter. Director Nikki Sass jumps back and forth between their captivating back stories while presenting gorgeously composed images of their art in a tribute to Detroit’s do-it-yourself aesthetic. Directed by Nikki Sass. Not rated; nothing objectionable.

**Stay tuned for an additional screening date for this film at The Carr Center on Thursday, April 23, 3015.  PLAYGROUND DETROIT is also thrilled to be screening this film in NYC at the Wythe Hotel. **

‘Being: Kem’


Although R&B crooner Kem (Kim Owens) sings songs with incredible warmth and positivity, his days as a teenager growing up in Detroit were anything but warm and positive. In this concise documentary, produced for the Centric/BET cable television channel, Kem himself discusses how he had to overcome drugs, alcohol and homelessness before he could pursue a career in music. Directed by Jon Marc Sandifer. Unrated; nothing objectionable. 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 20, at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

‘The Jitterbugs: Pioneers of the Jit’


Hardcore Detroit dance troupe founder Haleem Rasul is the perfect person to helm a film about the Jitterbugs, creators of the athletic, frenetic Detroit dance known as the Jit. Find out what the Jit is (a ball-of-energy, hip-hop dance style loaded with intricate footwork, elastic hip movements and complex arm gyrations) and isn’t (it’s not directly related to the 1920s Jitterbug swing dance). Featuring vintage film clips and stills from the ’70s and ’80s, the documentary traces how brothers Tracey, Johnny and James McGhee developed the Jit and pursued a career in dance and music. Directed by Haleem Rasul. Unrated; some language and drug references.

‘Internal Combustion’



An introspective and expansive exploration of the collapse of a once-great city, this film is a good reminder that Detroit’s problems – and Detroit’s optimism – go back much further than the whammy-laden recent past. Using archival footage, it effectively portrays a complicated city so often at war with itself. Modern-day testimony around the 1969 violence between Republic of New Africa members and Detroit police is especially compelling. Directed by Steve Faigenbaum. Not yet rated. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

‘Detroit Dog City’


“Detroit Dog City” tackles a tough subject, but an important one to anybody with half a heart. The film follows the Detroit Dog Rescue crew as they rescue abused animals – using good-natured gallows humor and a refusal to give up despite long odds. Directed by Candace Barbot. Not yet rated; graphic images, language. 1 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

‘Packard: The Last Shift’


This encore film from the 2014 Freep Film Festival chronicles the storied past and unknown future of the iconic Packard Plant, from its automotive beginnings in 1903 to its more recent reputation as Ground Zero for Rust Belt blight. The film uses historic footage, photographs and new images by director Brian Kaufman, who finds surprising patches of beauty and hope in the decay. In this phone-on screening, attendees will be permitted – encouraged actually – to use their devices during the film to access bonus content, share their thoughts or … do just about anything but make calls. Directed by Brian Kaufman. Unrated; some language. 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at the Marvin and Betty Danto Lecture Hall at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“One Piano, Two Broken Dreams”:

A musical brother and sister who interacted with a young Stevie Wonder struggle to get by in modern-day Detroit.

“3 Acres in Detroit”:

Donnie and Fred knew nothing about urban farming when they picked up shovels and adopted a plot of land. But the two unlikely characters are determined to turn one of Detroit’s many abandoned properties into a three-level greenhouse.

“Hip Hop Carnival”:

Combining the pulse of hip-hop culture, a do-it-yourself ethos and the energy of a Mardi Gras parade, the Hip Hop Carnival was a signature event of the 2014 Dlectricity festival in Midtown Detroit. This short goes behind the scenes as inventive spirits bring it to life.