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The East Lansing Film Festival returns with documentaries, shorts and more

Stan Zuray (pictured) and director
Courtesy photo
East Lansing Film Festival
Stan Zuray (pictured) and director Ryan Walsh will discuss The Stan Project at the East Lansing Film Festival.

The slogan for the 26th East Lansing Film Festivalis “dam the stream, ditch the couch, dig the big screen.”

Founder and director Susan Woods said she doesn’t care if your screen is 500 feet wide, streaming a movie at home isn’t the same as going to the movies.

"There is nothing like the experience of being in a theater with fellow film lovers and seeing a beautiful film," Woods said.

This year’s lineup features an array of documentaries, foreign movies with subtitles and programs made up of short films.

The film festival opens with the documentary The Stan Project, which follows an outdoorsman in the wilds of Alaska. He was featured in the Discovery Channel series Yukon Men. It’s titular subject, Stan Zuray, lives a subsistence lifestyle off the grid, in a place where temperatures can get as cold as 50 degrees below zero.

Woods said the documentary explores how one man found salvation in the wilderness.

“He did this all to escape drug abuse and city life in Boston,” she explained.

Zuray will attend the screening, along with director Ryan Walsh, a Michigan native.

Other nights will showcase a co-production from France and Spain called The Beasts, which had its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. It’s a story of a French couple that goes to northern Spain to start an organic farm. Woods calls it an “edge of your seat thriller.”

The documentary Holy Frit is also on the lineup, focusing on a talented but unknown glass artisan who, despite his inexperience, wins a contract to build the largest stained-glass window in the world.

Woods said Holy Frit, which will play twice during the festival, is her “great discovery” for this year’s event.

"He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s out of his league, but he gets the help from a master, and we follow him through this crazy, crazy journey," she explained.

The German movie Afire is about a family vacationing by the Baltic Sea. Their interpersonal drama takes a turn when ash appears in the sky.

“It’s about three people who are stuck in a cabin,” Woods explained. “It bounces from one to the other, and then [they] are threatened by a wildfire.”

There are several other feature-length films and three programs of short films, including animation, on the schedule. All the East Lansing Film Festival movies will be at the Studio C Theaters in Okemos.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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