6 reasons to get excited for the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival
Though home to a faltering public transportation system, the Bronze Fonz, and the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee truly is a first-class city. Need proof? Look no further than the third-annual Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs Sept. 22-Oct. 2 at four area theaters. The fest will feature films from both around the world and close to home, special guests, and plenty of chances to mix it up with your fellow Brew City cineastes. Before the action gets underway next week, we offer up a short preview and look at six highlights that will lure even the most Netflix-hardened shut-ins from their darkened apartments.
Opening night party
No festival worth its weight in celluloid and/or digital projectors would be complete without a swank opening night party. The MFF kicks things off Sept. 22 at Discovery World with a shindig that runs from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Be seen, have some drinks, and hobnob with the hobnobbers!) Music will be provided by Sex & Cigarettes, a Serge Gainsbourg-inspired band that features members of Juniper Tar and the late Decibully. And if you can find a better Serge Gainsbourg-inspired band playing that same night, more power to you.
Not content with celebrating national and international filmmakers, the Milwaukee Film Festival has always showered plenty of love on local talent. This year, “The Milwaukee Show” (Thursday, Sept. 29, 7:00 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre) rounds up nine short films from local filmmakers, including Anima Mundi by Kate Balsley and Missed Connections, a short from Gal Friday Films that was shot at The Gobbler supper club. Other local highlights include Valley Maker, a film that documents Sean Kafer’s trek down the Mississippi River on a homemade raft; and the première of Points Of Interest, an impressionistic tour documentary featuring Juniper Tar.
Two words: Vilmos Zsigmond
The MFF typically brings an interesting mix of industry luminaries to town, and this year is no different. While not as recognizable or as busty as 2010 celebrity guest Susan Sarandon, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, The Deer Hunter) has left an unmistakable mark on modern film. In honor of Zsigmond’s appearance, the fest will screen two of his films: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Zsigmond’s personal selection, The Rose. Come for the UFOs, stay for the young and bawdy Bette Midler.
Politically charged panel discussions
For better or worse, Wisconsin has become a political hotbed in the past seven months, thanks to Gov. Scott Walker and his rootin’, tootin’, labor-unfriendly ways. And while the Milwaukee Film Festival has always offered dozens of film-related panel discussions, at least one will have a special resonance this year. “Representing Labor” will convene Saturday, Oct. 1 at Kenilworth Square East, and will tie into two labor-related documentaries from the ’80s, The Last Pullman Car and Taylor Chain II. And why not? Watching some films and having a levelheaded discussion sure beats rallying in the cold, or continually posting on the “Scott Walker is a mean jerk!” Facebook page.
Salute your shorts
One of the most criminally underrated aspects of any film festival are the shorts. Bite-sized, compact, and always unexpected, these films make for the perfect snacks before the cinematic main courses. The Milwaukee Film Festival has a host of stellar shorts programs this year, including ones focusing on animation and television commercials. Then there’s the delightfully titled “Shorts: The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t.” (We’re sponsoring that one, natch.) Looking for prostitutes, robots, and a good old-fashioned horror musical? Look no further.
Oh, and the movies
Did we mention there’s going to be an awful lot of feature films at this year’s film festival? Things kick off Sept. 22 with the terrific Natural Selection, and only get better from there. Nearly 100 films will be screened at the Landmark Oriental Theater, the Marcus North Shore Cinema, the Marcus Ridge Cinema, and, for the first time, the Landmark Downer Theater. The “Passport: India” program will keep fans of foreign films happy, and a gonzo lineup of midnight movies is sure to keep that crowd more than entertained. Just how gonzo is the lineup? Make sure to check out the Transformers-meets-Mighty Morphin Power Rangers flick Karate-Robo Zaborgar (Saturday, Oct. 1, midnight at the Oriental Theater) and find out for yourself.